The opposition to Towson theatersYour news story's...

the Forum

July 14, 1995

The opposition to Towson theaters

Your news story's statement (July 2) that "It is the proposed 16-screen theater complex with 3,500 seats that has been the sticking point for several neighbors in the communities surrounding Towson Marketplace," seems to minimize the extent the opposition to these theaters.

In the conversation with me from which she quoted, I gave reporter Suzanne Loudermilk a brief background of our opposition, invited her to attend one of our organizational meetings and informed her that we had collected hundreds of signatures on petitions.

I made clear that we had people organizing volunteers, gathering signatures, and writing letters in each of the surrounding communities. For her story to characterize this range of activities and people as a "sticking point for several neighbors," is at least disingenuous.

To give the benefit of the doubt to The Sun, Ms. Loudermilk did inform me that the focus of her story was on the proposed security plan for the mall, and she commented that our opposition to the theaters sounded like "another whole story," so I can believe that much of the information that I provided was eliminated during the editorial process.

On the other hand, the use of the phrase "several neighbors" was someone's conscious choice, in spite of the fact that it flew in the face of even the limited facts about the opposition that were available.

For the record, I do not "fear that the movies, particularly late-night shows, will increase foot and vehicular traffic in the area." It would be absurd to think that the operation of a 16-screen theater complex wouldn't increase traffic.

What I am concerned about is that the developer is willing to go to such lengths to provide security within the confines of the mall property.

This is a clear indication that the potential for trouble is neither imaginary nor unrecognized by the developer, but all of his security measures are internal to the property.

There will be no powerful video cameras focused on our streets and alleys, and no patrol vehicles equipped with additional video cameras and radios roaming our streets.

The security officers provided will be monitoring the center as well as the theaters, but no one is monitoring the surrounding neighborhoods.

There will, however, be the people drawn to and exiting from 16 theaters, and of course all of those roving security patrols (is that really plural?) funded by the developer's $20,000 a year. I wonder exactly how many patrols $20,000 a year would provide in an area this size?

The assertions that "Towson Marketplace is not exactly a high-crime district" and "falls toward the bottom of the crime list" are misleading. They were based on 1994 figures, provided by the Baltimore County Police, that do not correlate incidents per $1,000,000 of sales, or per 100,000 square feet of leased retail space.

Yes, Towson Marketplace -- a half-empty, dying mall -- has not generated chart-topping crime statistics.

Rather than find that reassuring, I wonder why the numbers are as high as they are when compared with malls at which significant commerce is actually occurring.

It would be unwise for me to voice my opinion about the developer's assurances to the residents or the comments of an officer of a local organization who is enthusiastically endorsing this project while in the process of selling her house and moving away.

As Ms. Loudermilk noted, there is another whole story here. It involves community association intrigue, the denial of access to information, gag agreements and the refusal of some associations to poll their members.

Yes, indeed, there is another whole story here. I wonder where I can find reporters to cover it? They are welcome to attend our meetings, talk to our volunteers and meet several neighbors.

Mike Sarkin

Towson

Gains tax

According to the proposed budget balancing process, some income groups are to enjoy a cut in their income taxes.

It would make more sense to balance the budget first and then implement the tax reduction, but it seems the Republicans are adamant in their views.

Included in their many suggestions is the halving of the capital gains tax rate from a maximum of 28 percent to 14 percent.

If the reductions are to help the lower- and middle-income earners now, does a 1 percent reduction help those in the 15 percent bracket?

According to tax tables for 1995, taxable income up to $23,350 for individual filers and $39,000 for joint returns are taxable at 15 percent. It would be great folly to disregard the fact that there must be millions of people in this country who have capital gains whose earnings are at or below these figures.

It would truly give them a break if capital gains (that is, the dollar amount) would be cut in half and leave the tax rate alone.

Prior to the Reagan years, only 40 percent of the dollar amount was reported, and the tax rate was left alone. That helped everyone, which is what this new method is promised to do.

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