Tax hike just another shakedownRumor has it that the mayor...


April 29, 1996

Tax hike just another shakedown

Rumor has it that the mayor wants to raise my annual taxes by $75 or so to further subsidize his failing bureaucracy. Let me see if I've got this straight.

Last month, he says he wants to shake down the tourists a little more. Now, he says that's not good enough. He also wants to shake down city residents longer and harder, too. Geez, they don't call it the government racket for nothing.

I can't speak for every citizen in Baltimore, but that money has to come from somewhere. To me, $75 or so equals 5 percent of my transportation budget, 10 percent of my phone budget, 5 percent of my utilities budget, and so on. The more he takes, the less I have to make do in my own home.

And who's really kidding who? I'd lay heavy odds that we'll go from 55 percent to 60 percent a heck of a lot faster than we'd go from 50 percent to 55 percent.

To the mayor, I say, do a better job with what you already take from me. Make the city better in such a way that my property appreciates by 10 percent. Then you will earn your increase.

To the City Council, I say, when the mayor comes knocking to pitch his latest shakedown scheme, just say no.

Steven Hegg


Mandatory sentences cause prison crowding

As a result of mandatory sentences, the number of people in federal prison on drug charges rose from 2,300 to 13,000 between 1980 and 1990 and their average prison term tripled to 66 months.

It is very good that our country is concerned about drug abuse, but mandatory sentences are creating more problems than they solve. The most immediate problem is prison overcrowding. Where are all these small-time drug offenders going to serve their time if the suites they call prisons already have no vacancies?

While judges are forced to jail drug offenders, perpetrators of violent crimes, such as murder and rape, get lighter sentences. That is because these crimes do not always require mandatory sentences and with the already overcrowded, growing population of prisons, judges have to make room for those who do.

This means the perpetrators of some violent crimes may walk away with bail or parole or even scot-free after serving a small fraction of their original sentences, while drug offenders are made to serve 66 months at the least.

There is a solution. Instead of sending these small-time drug offenders to prison to serve hard time, only to be released in the same state of mind, why not send them to an institution of some kind where they can get the help they need and deserve?

Mandatory sentences would still be used, but more effectively. The convicts would have to spend 66 months in the hospital, instead of prison. This would leave more room for those perpetrators of violent crimes who now get off extremely easy.

Another approach would be to drop mandatory sentences altogether. Then judges would be forced to look at each case individually and issue the sentence deserved.

Yulanda S. Leach


Don't ask policy isn't equal treatment

Contrary to The Sun's April 11 editorial, "Still don't ask," the Fourth Circuit Court of Appeals decision in Thomasson vs. Perry was not wise and is no model for any future U.S. Supreme Court decision.

There is no military exception to the Constitution. Neither a majority in Congress nor a majority in the military can strip away the basic rights guaranteed to us by the Constitution. Our nation's founders established the federal judiciary as a separate branch of government to protect us against abusers of power by the legislative and executive branches.

Our federal courts must not give effect to the naked prejudice of the majority. This is precisely what the Fourth Circuit has done, sadly abdicating its role to ensure that people are treated the same under the law and that people are not punished for who they are or what they say.

The ''don't ask, don't tell, don't pursue'' policy continues to treat heterosexuals and homosexuals differently for saying and doing the same things. And it punishes gay people for telling anyone, including their mom, their doctor or a member of their church, the truth about themselves.

. Dixon Osburn

Kirk Childress


The writers are, respectively, co-executive director and staff attorney of the Servicemembers Legal Defense Network.

Enduring values of Mencken writings

Mencken-basher Ray Jenkins, who denigrates the Sage of Baltimore with niggling nit-picking (Opinion Commentary, April 19), is no slouch himself at sloppy journalism. Among other things, Mr. Jenkins says that ''the great body of his work . . . contains little of lasting value.''

Let me remind Mr. Jenkins that, besides ''The American Language,'' Mencken wrote the first serious study in America of George Bernard Shaw's plays, as well as such substantial works as: ''Treatise on the Gods,'' ''Treatise on Right and Wrong,'' ''Happy Days,'' ''Newspaper Days,'' ''Heathen Days,'' and ''A New Dictionary of Quotations on Historical Principles from Ancient and Historical Sources.''

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