Free batteries supply won't prevent firesJan Seningen's...


February 26, 1996

Free batteries supply won't prevent fires

Jan Seningen's letter of Feb. 13 blames the fire-related deaths of Baltimore children on the Baltimore City Housing Authority, landlords and parents.

The writer calls for regular ''home health and safety inspections'' to ensure that smoke alarms are installed with functioning batteries, asserting that ''the state'' can prevent ''this problem.''

I disagree that landlords and the housing authority should have to be regularly inspecting every rental unit in Baltimore City to make sure that everyone is provided with free batteries (the smoke detectors already being free.)

For one thing, what is to prevent tenants from removing the batteries for use in other electronic devices as soon as the inspection is completed?

Secondly, children don't ''die due to smoke detector incompetence.'' They die by fire, all too often caused by unsafe situations perpetrated by the tenants: abandonment (young children left alone in a match-strewn house); illegally augmenting heat (kerosene heaters placed near flammables); allowing utilities to be cut off (using candles); kitchen hazards (walls, surface areas and stove interiors covered with grease from cooking and pans of grease left on stove); and illegal subleasing (rooms on every floor being used as bedrooms for persons not included in the lease).

While it is quite the vogue right now in Baltimore to bash landlords and housing inspectors, would the letter writer like to see city landlords work with inspectors to enforce already existing laws made for the safety and welfare of city residents and their children?

Parents arrested and evicted for leaving toddlers alone in a rental unit and the toddlers put into social services?

A $500 fine and subsequent eviction of anyone using a kerosene heater in a city rental and evicting any tenant who does not maintain their utilities?

Eviction of any tenant who doesn't pass an annual inspection by the landlord? And the court-ordered prompt eviction of tenants who illegally sublease rooms?

And don't forget making landlords bear the cost of implementing, regulating and performing ''regular home health and safety inspections'' so that the landlords can pass this and the cost of billions of new batteries on to tenants in the form of increased rents.

Georgia Corso


Truth-in-sentencing breeds respect for law

Your staff reporter, Peter Jensen, noted Gov. Parris N. Glendening's effort to require greater "truth in sentencing." The governor has proposed a 33-member commission to study Maryland's sentencing system.

This study is long overdue, and he is to be commended for making it a priority.

M. Albert Figinski, a former city judge, told legislators, "None of you should want what we wrought on the federal system . . . that is sentencing by slide rule."

He was referring to federal sentencing guidelines, the result of years of public criticism of "disparity in sentencing." As minority counsel to the 85th Congress's Senate subcommittee on Title 18 (Federal Criminal Code), I remember that our 1958 report noted, "There exists what is believed to be unnecessarily wide disparities in sentences -- some excessive and some short -- for identical criminal offenses, with persons of similar backgrounds."

In 1958, there were 94 U.S. districts courts and 330 district judges . . . Here in Maryland we have fewer circuit court and district judges, but it seems to me that Maryland has problems similar to those our subcommittee found in 1958.

As a youthful member of the House of Delegates, I voted for capital punishment and I still favor the death penalty, though I believe it should be exercised sparingly.

However, during the past two decades, [accused murderers] who should be subject to the death penalty have received lesser sentences, whether by the court or a jury. . .

I am particularly disturbed that there are far fewer homicide cases in Baltimore City calling for the death penalty, whereas across the line in Baltimore County there is a much greater number. . .

Gross disparity in the prosecution of and sentencing in capital cases must be corrected. Otherwise the even-handed administration of justice will suffer, resulting in disrespect for law.

Samuel A. Culotta


No reward for loyalty and hard work

The Feb. 3 newspaper article, "Public Works will lay off 9 managers," of which I was one, presented a distortion of facts and my character.

I am fully aware that my job had no guarantee and I have not written this in an attempt to save my job. . . .

Twenty-three years ago I began with the city as an engineer and advanced to my current position [deputy director of the Department of Public Works].

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