Controversy continues over killing by officerWhile I...

LETTERS

March 11, 1997

Controversy continues over killing by officer

While I usually do not agree with Michael Olesker's views, I found the March 4 column extremely well-written and very heart-felt.

It is a sad day in Baltimore when city cops are found to be victims of the very system that they put their lives on the line for to preserve. I cannot stop thinking about Sgt. Stephen Pagotto's family and how the next three years will be for them.

Hats off to Mr. Olesker for writing the truth.

Greg Little

Hampstead

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I was outraged by Michael Olesker's column supporting Sergeant Pagotto.

It is pretty much public knowledge that the sergeant shot and killed Preston Barnes in the streets of Baltimore City. It is also a well-known fact that Preston Barnes had a prior arrest record and that he was armed with crack cocaine. However, those circumstances do not warrant his murder.

Preston Barnes made mistakes in his life. So do most Americans. But hopefully, they live another day in an effort to right the wrongs of their lives. The murder of Preston Barnes, Simmont Thomas and many more young black youth in the streets of this city will not be validated by the majority community of this city.

I am glad that a jury representative of the feelings of this community sent a message that the value of citizens' lives is important to us all.

Zachary McDaniels

Baltimore

Double standard for citizens and president

Let me get it straight:

It is all right for me to have friends stay at my house and ask them for money, but President Clinton cannot do the same thing with his friends at his residence.

Is this a great country, or what?

Mel Tansill

Catonsville

We need public campaign financing

The headlines from Washington these days play like a scene out of "Casablanca."

Republicans are shocked -- shocked! -- to see that the White House sold access for campaign contributions, even as they pocket their own winnings in our high-stakes, hopelessly corrupt, and perfectly legal campaign finance system.

The Republicans perfected the money-for-access system in the 1980s. The Democrats are just playing catch-up -- and still can't touch Republican fund-raising totals.

Sadly, not one thing will change until the public catches on to a basic fact of government: whoever pays for the politics owns the politicians.

The other Western democracies all practice one form or another taxpayer-financed democracy, where election campaigns and advertising are paid for by the taxpayers.

As a result wealthy private interests have to stand in line for access just like everyone else, and taxpayers are more likely to get their money's worth out of government.

Perhaps these most recent outrages will persuade the public to trade in its squeamishness about public campaign financing for a more pragmatic understanding of the real alternative.

Matthew Weinstein

Baltimore

Open library board meetings to public

As a regular user of the Enoch Pratt Free Library, I wish to voice support for the effort of the Coalition for the Pratt to be present at the restructuring discussions being held by the library board.

Legal arguments aside, I feel the public is better served when it can watch and listen as policy is being formulated, rather than one day simply being presented with a fait accompli.

Such a dramatic change as trading the 28 community-based branches for four 20,000-square-foot ''mega-branches'' with parking lots (a la Baltimore County, maybe?) -- which, according to The Sun, is what the board is contemplating -- certainly warrants early and continuous feedback from as many interested library users as possible.

Herman M. Heyn

Baltimore

Baltimore needs fewer houses

Over the past few years I have come to the conclusion that the most serious housing challenge in Baltimore is the growing number of ''empty'' houses, of which the vacant, boarded-up units are the most visible symbol.

I cringe every time I hear that public money is being used to build ''new'' houses when there are so many empty units scattered throughout our neighborhoods.

The fact is that no one knows how many empty units exist or what their condition is. Two people, however, could answer the first question quite easily: the postmaster general and the head of BGE.

Until we find out for sure I will guess that we have or will soon have over 50,000 empty housing units (out of 310,000).

The majority of the empty units in our poorest neighborhoods are probably in deplorable shape, while the majority of the empty units in our more stable neighborhoods are in fairly decent shape.

If this is so, we may indeed need a totally new strategy for addressing not only vacant, abandoned houses but entire neighborhoods.

While this at first might seem almost heretical, we should at least acknowledge that we are a much smaller populace than 30 years ago. Why do we need as many neighborhoods?

Moreover, if the governor's anti-sprawl initiative succeeds, think of what job-enhancing opportunities we might create on the newly cleared land?

Vincent P. Quayle

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of St. Ambrose Housing Aid Center.

Pub Date: 3/11/97

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