Privatization a tool for stateMaryland has already taken...

Letters

September 24, 1996

Privatization a tool for state

Maryland has already taken steps to improve the administration of public services through privatization and competitive bidding. In light of Douglas P. Munro's Sept. 17 letter ("Competitive bids for public union services") urging Baltimore City to pursue such cost-efficient means of providing services for its residents, we write to describe what the state is doing in this regard.

Under legislation enacted last year, child support enforcement in Baltimore City and Queen Anne's County will be run by a private company, effective Nov. 1. Only 14 percent of "deadbeat dads" in the city pay the money they owe. Flexibility in state personnel rules also will be provided for the child-support operation in Washington County to see if collections can be enhanced by this reform.

Competitive bidding for job training services, through a process open to state agencies, non-profits and for-profit companies, is being pursued by the Department of Human Resources in response to requirements in this year's budget bill. A pilot program would provide capitated payments to vendors willing to serve welfare recipients who are the hardest to place.

Finally, employees at each state agency would be challenged to restructure their operation to cut costs and improve performance or else be subject to competitive bidding with private companies, under a proposal from the Governor's Council on Management and Productivity that the General Assembly will consider next year.

The House Appropriations Committee will continue to play a leadership role in ensuring the responsible and efficient operation of state government.

Realizing the potential of privatization for enhancing that objective, we have embarked on a mission to allow state agencies to explore new means of delivering public services. The result will be, in Mr. Munro's words, both value for taxpayers and employment for government workers.

Howard P. Rawlings

Samuel I. Rosenberg

Annapolis

The writers, respectively, are chairman of the House Appropriations Committee and chairman of the House Subcommittee on Health and Human Resources.

Small-scale businesses need more support

Antero Pietila's Sept. 14 column justifiably lauds the accomplishments of Baltimore and USAID in applying here the "Lessons Without Borders" learned from experience in the Third World. But he fails to stress an important point.

People in Third World countries are migrating steadily into the cities in search of better lives. On the whole, they find opportunity even in conditions that we would still call poor-to-squalid. What we often see as chronic unemployment and unregulated health hazards can mask a thriving economy. Those in the international development trade term this the "informal sector;" tax-seeking government officials prefer "underground economy."

My own experience in Asia and Africa confirms that small-scale enterprise is a viable path not only for enhancing incomes but for learning the skills needed to thrive in our modern -- and increasingly global -- social environment.

Programs and policies that encourage such enterprise, nurture it and guide it toward formal permanence -- the "peer-lending" lesson transferred from Kenya is one -- deserve greater emphasis.

Making Baltimore a vital incubator for new enterprise of all sizes will make a crucial contribution to the city's future. Such activities as Baltimore's empowerment zone, the Greater Baltimore Committee's Technology Council and the centers for entrepreneurism developing in our local universities are key pieces in a puzzle that we all must work together to assemble.

The most important lesson, to paraphrase the old proverb, is that giving someone a fish feeds her for a day, but teaching her to fish feeds her for a lifetime.

Andrew C. Lemer

Baltimore

A plea for spousal abuse victims

The community response to Mrs. Walter Amprey's allegations that her husband has abused her, and The Sun's reporting of it, are unfortunate examples of why domestic violence remains the staggering problem that it does in this country.

On Aug. 31, The Sun informed us, ''Freda Amprey . . . has been in trouble with the law before,'' and went on to describe an accusation that was made against her two years ago (and subsequently dropped) and the fact that some of her employees are uncomfortable talking to her because of her husband's position. We are left with the impression that this is an unstable woman. Never mind that it is her husband who is in trouble and whose behavior should be scrutinized.

A week later, we are told that ''. . . ministers, city officials and many school board members have rallied around the superintendent . . .'' and that an ''expert'' in this area is hopeful that Mr. Amprey ''. . . could benefit from some rallying at this moment, giving him the benefit of the doubt.''

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