Tax land, not useThe coverage of the recent tornado damage...

the Forum

November 10, 1994

Tax land, not use

The coverage of the recent tornado damage in Baltimore wafascinating in that I kept hearing this repeated mantra from city officials and rescue workers: "Thank goodness that most of the homes hit were abandoned."

While I am all for low casualty figures in natural disasters, my tendency to read between the lines got the better of me.

The threat from storms having abated for the moment, I think we should be asking how we can consider whole blocks of abandoned buildings an acceptable state of affairs.

Perhaps we should face the fact that Baltimore, with the ninth highest property taxes in the nation (Source: "Facts and Figures on Government Finance," 1994 Edition, published by the Tax Foundation), needs to look at alternatives to the way the present property tax is directed.

taxing buildings and improvements, as is done now, the city offers no incentive to landowners or homeowners who want to better their property.

If Baltimore had a program of taxing land at a higher rate than buildings, then the city would reward those who improve their land with lower tax bills and, at the same time, get holders of vacant lots off the dime and into development mode.

No one should be proud that Baltimore's property taxes are right up there with other fun spots like Detroit, Newark, Bridgeport, Providence and Philadelphia. It's no accident that these cities are in as much trouble as Baltimore.

A city that logically should be as much of a mess is Pittsburgh. It lived through the collapse of the steel industry in the late '70s and early '80s. Yet it is often called one of the most livable cities in the U.S.

Is it a coincidence that it is one of the few places that taxes land at a higher rate than buildings? I don't think so.

Citizens in Baltimore and throughout Maryland should tell their local officials to explore the real benefit of taxing land and not buildings. Although not a cure-all for a city's ills, it is time to look for another way.

Joshua Vincent


Grain of heroism

I was pleased to read your article "New rice variety expected to boost yields 20 percent," Oct. 24).

Although some may refer to this "quiet news," it is actually an issue that will change the survival rate for many people living in the world today. So far, the The Baltimore Sun and the Washington Post are the only local news sources that have mentioned this report.

I would like to know what the news magazines and television stations consider important news. Since when is the ability to feed 500 million more people not considered newsworthy?

When someone like Gurdev S. Khush of the International Rice Research Institute uses technology to invent an entirely new kind of rice plant that can be grown in greater quantities on the same amount of land, where is the media?

Why can't this be given priority over the ongoing media blitz of the daily occurrences at the O.J. Simpson trial?

When a person finds a way to feed humanity, he or she is a true hero and should be given the recognition they deserve.

Aron Selnick

Ellicott City

Clinton in Israel

Reporter Doug Struck's news analysis regarding what a good friend President Clinton is to Israel was a real con job ("Clinton reinforces image of staunch friend of Israel," Oct. 31).

President Clinton couldn't even visit the holy sites in Jerusalem during his recent trip because, to quote your own editorial, "He did not want to make an unacceptable gesture of support to one territorial claimant to the detriment of U.S. standing with others" ("Souvenirs from the Middle East," Oct. 29).

This despite President Clinton's campaign promise to recognize Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.

So how does President Clinton get around this dilemma? He gives a speech to the Knesset about the time he and Mrs. Clinton visited Jerusalem 13 years ago -- 13 years ago! -- saying, "We visited the holy sites; I relived the history of the Bible, of your Scriptures and mine, and I formed a bond with my pastor."

Israel is the size of New Jersey. If you give away everything, naturally there's nothing to fight about. There just won't be an Israel.

President Clinton has a spin on everything. No wonder the country is disgusted.

Beatrice Davis


Weekend voting

In many democratic countries national elections are held on weekends. The recent election in Germany resulted in a high turnout, and it was held on a Sunday.

Many households require two breadwinners in order to make ends meet. Since parents often have to drop off children at school, ride long distances to work and engage in business travel, it is difficult for them to get to polling places on Tuesdays.

The concept of Sunday voting in national elections should be tested soon. The price of progress is change.

Joseph Lerner


City resident loses faith in Baltimore

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