Big money talksDr. Elizabeth Bell was right on the money...

the Forum

September 16, 1994

Big money talks

Dr. Elizabeth Bell was right on the money when she said the Disney craze fosters ''a faux innocence, betrayed by what we paid for it'' ("The Mouse King," Sept. 2).

As if it weren't bad enough we have to rely on corporations to provide us with nearly everything from overpriced food to inefficient transportation, now we are encouraging corporations like Disney to rip up enormous pieces of land in Virginia to make them even ''more'' historic.

Couple that with Disney's plans to create its own town with its own corporate-run school system near Orlando, Fla., and the picture is discouraging. We are a country that increasingly allows profit-hungry companies to dictate how we live our daily lives.

I am tired of watching government officials lay down every time a company like Disney waves a couple of dollar bills in their faces. When are we going to wake up?

Jacqueline V. Scott

Catonsville

Smoking law

My sympathies are with Jason D'Anna (''Student lights up in car,'' Sept. 10).

Two years ago my nephew's girlfriend related a similar story in upstate New York. We thought she was exaggerating. One winter morning when her car wouldn't start, she borrowed her aunt's and made it in time not to break her perfect attendance record of 12 years.

The school had a policy requiring all car keys be left in the office -- ostensibly so that students would remain on campus during lunch periods. In reality, the officials were legally allowed to search each vehicle for drugs, alcohol and -- yes -- tobacco products.

Because her aunt was a smoker (the young lady was not), the vice-principal found butts in the ashtray and an open pack of cigarettes in the glove compartment. The student was suspended for three days, breaking her record and losing her position on a leadership council.

Yes, smoking is bad for you -- I stopped long ago -- but as parents, teachers and friends, I feel that all we can do is our best in informing young people of the dangers.

Do we need the over-worked police force regulating yet another aspect of our hectic, complicated modern lives? I think not.

Fay A. Carmichael

Baltimore

City home festival

Tom Jaudon, chief of Baltimore City's Homeownership Institute, characterizes the Baltimore Home Festival as a success despite the fact that the vacant houses that were sold at auction remain unoccupied five months later and the purchasers have been largely ignored by city officials (''Buyers of vacant homes complain of red tape, delays,'' Sept. 13).

Here are some facts about the Baltimore Home Festival based upon our inquiries prior to the event:

Under the rules of the auction, all prospective bidders had to go through a pre-screening process to establish their qualifications to bid. Although under the rules of the auction current homeowners were not qualified to bid, there was no mechanism by the city to enforce this regulation.

At the time of the auction, the city had no mechanism for verifying that the homeowners of record were actually occupying the homes after renovation.

According to Baltimore housing authorities and the Georgia-based auctioneers prior to the festival, no renovation plans were available and no contractors had been hired.

It would appear that the housing festival was better equipped to provide unscrupulous investors with a means of acquiring rental property than to create opportunities for new homeowners and restore neighborhoods.

It is unfortunate that the Department of Housing and Community Development has done such a poor job of coordinating the effort to bring homes and homeowners together. In a city where ''homeownership'' has become such a popular political theme, one would think city housing officials might better disguise their contempt for auction participants.

Townes C. Coates

Baltimore

The writer is president of Citizens United for the Revitalization of Baltimore.

Ports are hubs

As former deputy executive director and general counsel of the Virginia Port Authority, I want to commend you on your recent article ''Port of Baltimore Anchors Vast Economy'' (Aug. 28).

Certainly ocean-borne shipping has changed over the years. The excitement surrounding the arrival of the sailing ship and the weeks of shoreside activity have been replaced by the modern container vessel whose visit lasts only a few hours.

What has not changed are the vast benefits generated by ports -- benefits that ripple throughout their hinterlands. Ports not only serve as hubs of economic activity but as magnets for economic development.

Ports are worth of every bit of public support that can be mustered, lest cities suffer the tragedy of not fully realizing the benefits of geographical advantage.

A further word of about Rick Lidinsky, formerly of the Maryland Port Administration and now of Sea Containers, who is quoted in your story:

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