Candidate forum was successful despite turnoutGady A...

LETTERS

July 19, 1998

Candidate forum was successful despite turnout

Gady A. Epstein missed the most important aspect of the recent African Americans in Howard County forum for political candidates ("Black PAC assails absent Feaga," June 28). Although a few candidates failed to attend, substantial candidate and public turnout made it an informative and successful event.

Improving academic achievement, particularly of African-American and poor children, is a high priority in the African-American community. However, more than one-third of recent African-American male high school graduates in the Howard County school system had less than a "C" average. Not only is this a deep concern in itself, but how will candidates address the growing need for tutorial and remedial services for students? Also important to AAIHC is class-size reduction as an alternative to vouchers, especially in the early grades. We need a nonpartisan stance by the county executive and council on adequate funding of an effective school system budget that serves all students.

Recently, local schools filled a key security investigative position with a former police officer who was reprimanded for having displayed, and shown to a black officer, a racist slave ship cartoon. Many students who will be investigated by this person will be minorities. We don't believe this person can be sensitive ,, or objective. We want to know if school board candidates will more closely monitor school system employment.

Low- and moderate-income housing and the housing needs of the working poor are important to AAIHC. We are relieved that all candidates who participated in the forum support moderately priced development units, which will enable county teachers, police, firefighters and others to find affordable housing.

Finally, with Gov. Parris N. Glendening and President Clinton expanding black participation in the billion-dollar government contracting market, we want to know the extent of support for that initiative in Howard, a county with a dismal record of involving African-American firms in government contracting.

Failure of a candidate to participate in an important African-American community political event is more of a problem for the candidates than for AAIHC. We are now moving ahead to the next candidate event, which will include candidates for governor, state's attorney, state Senate, House of Delegates and Congress, at 8 a.m. Aug. 15 in the board room of the county's Board of Education.

Rev. Robert A. F. Turner

Columbia

Criticism of Feaga was inappropriate

In the June 28 article about the candidates' forum sponsored by African Americans in Howard County, Charlie Feaga, a Republican candidate for county executive, was raked over the coals by AAIHC leaders Sherman Howell and Bob Turner for not attending. Statements that Mr. Feaga didn't attend because issues of the African-American community are not important to him were inappropriate and appalling.

As a former county and state president of the League of Women Voters, I was involved with numerous pre-election debates and forums involving candidates for everything from school board to U.S. Senate. One guideline we used was to schedule debates several months ahead of time so key candidates could plan to attend.

Sending out a general notice one month before the forum and sending an invitation to candidates one week before, as AAIHC did, is asking for nonattendance. Maybe AAIHC leaders should meet one-on-one with candidates who could not attend to discern whether the candidates are concerned about minority issues.

Priscilla M. Hart

Columbia

Parents are paying attention to teens

Today's teen-agers must have it so much tougher than previous post-pubescent generations.

As reported by Peter Jensen on July 8, author Patricia Hersch has observed that middle-class American teens are having sex, taking drugs and drinking alcohol . . .

. . . And, by the way, it's all their parents' fault.

Pardon me if I roll my eyes. But this simplistic conclusion differs radically from my own anecdotal observations on the parental front lines of suburbia. For every misguided parent who offers to go get the beer for their teen's party, there are 10 other parents who struggle day and night, trying every strategy possible to communicate values and connect with their rebellious adolescent children.

I don't dispute Ms. Hersch's reported observations.

It's just that she seems to fully buy into the standard naive adolescent lament that they make self-destructive lifestyle choices because their parents don't pay any attention to them.

Actually, it's much scarier than that.

Most middle-class parents know pretty well what their teens are up to amid today's increasingly self-indulgent and decidedly less-civil culture. They try hard to strike an effective balance between being too strict and too permissive. And most parents I bTC know put "self-responsibility" at the top of the list of values they try to impart to their teens.

Parents aren't perfect. We make many honest mistakes in raising our children.

But today's middle-class teens aren't having sex, taking drugs and drinking alcohol because of parental indifference. They're doing it despite most parents' best efforts.

Gene Bracken

Ellicott City

Pub Date: 7/19/98

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