Economic scenario has contradictionsI just don't get it.We...

LETTERS

February 20, 1997

Economic scenario has contradictions

I just don't get it.

We are repeatedly told by the governor's office that the economic climate of Maryland has improved greatly during the last two years.

On the other hand, our U.S. senators are proposing that we increase the number of judges in order to handle the growing number of bankruptcy cases in Maryland.

As I talk to many of our citizens who are either unemployed or who have been forced to take jobs quite below their qualifications and experience, I tend to believe the latter scenario. The script must change.

Eve Lallas

Kingsville

Kane makes sense to NRA members

I must be dreaming. I can't believe Gregory Kane's column dealing with the mayor's gun buyback program was actually printed (Feb. 8, "Hoods keep guns, others pay price"). This guy is actually making sense of late.

For the record, we do need more law-abiding citizens carrying guns. Here's my personal invitation for Mr. Kane to join the National Rifle Association. We need more people like him.

Jeff Adamson

Essex

Make City Hall a decorator house

After reading of the plight of City Hall, why not invite our local interior designers to use their expertise in the refurbishing? Then open City Hall for a few days of tours for a nominal fee.

It works for the symphony.

Mitzi Wilkerson

Baltimore

Talking and driving have never mixed

After reading the article regarding the use of cellular telephones while driving (Feb. 13, "Talking on car phone quadruples crash risk"), I am reminded of a sign that would be placed behind the motorman on the street cars I rode 75 years ago.

It read: ''Please do not talk to the operator -- traffic demands his full attention.''

I am sure our predecessors did not require a ''study'' to realize the danger of distractions while operating a vehicle on the streets. And just think, he did not even have to steer.

S. Ward Tiernan

Woodlawn

A reminder of our heritage

I do hope Sen. Larry Young, who was so dreadfully offended by the Confederate symbol that appeared on a few Maryland license plates, won't be offended by yet another reminder of history and heritage.

That is the recent, more than generous bequeathment for the restoration of the Union warship, Constellation.

Perhaps, to his utter amazement, the senator will find that it was given by the granddaughter of a Confederate major general.

Virginia H. Sollers-Hoffmaster

Baltimore

More thinking needed before razing houses

In response to the recent editorial page pieces on the problems of Baltimore's vacant houses as well as an article on the Alley House Project, I would like to draw attention to a piece that appeared in The Sun on June 20, 1866.

The Sun cried out for help in the cause of decent housing for the working man, bemoaning the fact that not enough small houses were being built. Now the city housing commissioner wants to get rid of small street houses because "today's families don't want to live in a space that small."

In fact, many people in Baltimore do enjoy living in "spaces that small," and, as was true in 1866, can only afford "spaces that small."

In meeting with small street dwellers in East Baltimore over the past six months, we have established several salient points: Many homeowners and renters appreciate the architectural quality and finish details of the historic houses in which they live.

Owning a small house makes it possible to fix up and maintain affordable, yet comfortable living spaces.

The small street environment, which cuts down on through or fast-moving city traffic, encourages a sense of place and neighborhood in encapsulated environments which have traditionally fostered important feelings of community -- the basis of health in any city.

For a look at what Baltimore's future might hold if the "demolition derby" has its way, I urge readers to attend the powerful photographic show, "The New American Ghetto," which is running at Maryland Art Place, 218 W. Saratoga Street, until this Saturday.

In the 1950s "progressive" thinkers wiped out blocks of abandoned and dilapidated historic housing to build high-rise projects to provide "a better housing solution" for the urban poor. Then, last year, the projects came down -- to be replaced by small-scale groups of rowhousing, designed to provide the sense of community and neighborhood missing in the projects.

In the 1970s, under William Donald Schaefer and Robert Embry, the housing department's dollar-house program and auctions of city-owned houses (as well as an aggressive federal renovation tax credit program), saved Otterbein, Federal Hill and Fells Point, all neighborhoods that are now considered the linchpins of the city's renaissance.

Isn't it time to do some really creative thinking about how to save and help neighborhoods and communities that already exist -- places where good people live in well-constructed houses that, in most cases, can be fixed up to provide comfortable living spaces for a fraction of the $80,000-$100,000 price tag bandied about by city officials and developers as the cost of renovation?

We have much to learn from the lessons of history. Tearing down houses to get rid of crime and urban blight has not been a successful solution to the problem.

We can rescue our city from the fate of Detroit or Newark, with their as-yet-unfilled urban wastelands. We just need to think a little more deeply about solutions and project a little farther than our current planners seem to be doing.

Mary Ellen Hayward

Baltimore

The writer is the director of the Alley House Project.

Pub Date: 2/20/97

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