Save Festival Hall and lots of money, tooLet me see if I...

the Forum

October 27, 1993

Save Festival Hall and lots of money, too

Let me see if I understand this correctly: Baltimore City plans to demolish a perfectly good building, Festival Hall, in order to expand the Convention Center. A study has determined that Festival Hall, which was conceived and designed as a temporary structure, is not.

Putting aside the question of whether Festival Hall architectural or construction contracts were properly fulfilled, how is is possible for Baltimore City to proceed with an estimated $151 million expansion project when there are more pressing needs in the city?

Your reporters state that both Festival Hall and the Convention Center are linked by an underground passageway, and that many events have used both buildings ("Festival Hall destined for the wrecker's ball," Oct. 22). Why not spend what would amount to only a fraction of the estimated cost of the expansion project to simply join the two buildings?

Will a newly constructed addition to the Convention Center bring in significantly greater revenue? One fact is clear: Baltimore City will suffer a revenue loss from the absence of Festival Hall.

The plans to replace it are tentative at best; future festivals will be forced outside -- Timonium Fairground is nearby and offers on-site parking as well as a light-rail stop -- or have to look elsewhere for indoor space.

Baltimore City needs to invest in long-term projects rather than seek short-term profits. The soundness of a tourism-based economy is debatable. The city could better serve its citizens by spending money on better schools, more police, increased home ownership and attracting businesses that pay decent wages.

Robert Humphreys


Bed and breakfast

One can only hope A. Robert Kaufman was joking when he suggested renting out bedrooms in private homes to "spread the wealth" (Forum, Oct. 20).

To begin with, BUILD has a leg up on nothing but manipulating economic and racial tensions to further its agenda in targeting the local hotel industry.

If BUILD is truly concerned with guaranteeing full-time, year-round employment to hotel workers, why block expansion of the Convention Center? Expanded capacity means more opportunity to bring business to the city during slow months, obviating the necessity of cutting payrolls as demand decreases.

The change "from factory town to exotic tourist attraction," as Kaufman calls it, need not be perceived as downgrading except by those who wish to see it that way. Williamsburg doesn't consider itself beneath Pittsburgh or Detroit.

If we all converted our spare bedrooms into tourist facilities, who would collect the 7 percent occupancy tax and the 5 percent state sales tax on every room -- as the hotels do now? Who would do the paperwork and verify collection?

Mr. Kaufman is apparently under the impression that city residents do not benefit from the money spent on hotel rooms here. Yet taxes collected by our hotels benefit "real Baltimoreans" from Roland Park to Brooklyn, Mr. Kaufman included.

Tourism in Baltimore can't match the hourly wages paid by Bethlehem Steel in its heyday. But it provides employment to thousands of people whose compensation must increase as business opportunities improve.

Susan E. Karr


The writer is reservations manager at the Harbor Court Hotel.

Cruel punishment?

The headline above Wiley A. Hall's Sept. 30 column read "Execution by lethal gas is antiquated and inhumane." Hall quoted Dr. Sylvan Shane saying he was scarred for life after witnessing an execution by lethal gas and that a person being executed struggles, coughs, and strains for life. But did Dr. Shane witness the struggles of the three teen-agers John Thanos murdered? Were those killings humane?

Does Dr. Shane know whether the 14-year-old, the 16-year-old and the 18-year-old coughed, strained or fought for their lives? Does he know whether they died instantly, or whether their agony was drawn out? . . . No one knows except the murderer. No one witnessed these terrible crimes except John Thanos.

Do I feel sorry for John Thanos if he goes to the gas chamber? Of course not. The only thing I regret is that his execution has not taken place sooner.

Vera McKeldin


Major crisis

In recent weeks there have been lots of negative reports coming out of Frederick Douglass High School. Douglass has a history that outshines most, if not all, of the other black schools in this area.

What has happened is that we are living in the midst of a major crisis with our young people, and the school system has not dealt effectively with the changing times.

First, when black children go to school they do not get an education. What they receive is a miseducation. Our children are not taught to respect themselves and therefore have no respect for the school system or anything else.

Second, the school system in the black community has been given the responsibility for teaching children everything they will ever learn. The family and church basically have no say in the development of our children in many families.

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