City needs to look at Richmond's way of fighting...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

January 31, 1999

City needs to look at Richmond's way of fighting crime

Baltimore's murder rate shows no sign of abating in this new year. We clearly need a new approach. I strongly urge the governor, the mayor and the police chief to meet with Gov. James Gilmore of Virginia and with the mayor of Richmond.

Unlike Maryland, Virginia realizes that more shortsighted, anti-gun laws will do little to reduce crime. Instead, Virginia strictly enforces anti-crime laws. It has abolished parole for violent criminals and has reformed the juvenile justice system. Richmond has initiated Project Exile; if you are a convicted felon and are caught carrying a gun, you get five years in prison -- no exceptions. Its murder rate? Down 65 percent, and robberies are down by a third. A 65-percent drop in Baltimore's murder rate would move us from more than 300 to well below 120 murders for the year.

On Jan. 25, Mayor Ed Rendell of Philadelphia, which has also been suffering a high murder rate, announced that that city, too, will be launching Project Exile. The project is being implemented with the financial and administrative assistance of the National Rifle Association and with a $1.5 million appropriation procured by Sen. Arlen Specter.

How many more grieving families in Baltimore will have to suffer before we, too, do something decisive?

Donald Keefer, Lutherville

Student seeking assistance for school without a library

I am 11 years old and a sixth-grader at Francis Scott Key Elementary/Middle School.

Because the mayor, your newspaper and many other businesses in "the city that reads" are vigorously promoting "Reading by 9," don't you think it is ironic that a Baltimore public school is without a library?

I feel it is terrible that the students, especially the younger ones, do not have the opportunity to visit a library in their school. It would be much more convenient for students to borrow a book from their school library.

Francis Scott Key's PTA is engaged in finding ways to promote fund-raisers to purchase books to create an essential and critical part of our learning experience, but we need assistance to accomplish our goal. It is not going to be a quick or easy endeavor.

Lauren Iser, Baltimore

Parents, not teachers, are at root of schools' crisis

As a teacher in Baltimore City, I was encouraged to read Gregory Kane's column ("Teachers facing children who don't listen urge discipline, but does North Ave. listen?" Jan. 24) regarding the disrespect of students in our schools. Like the teachers he quoted, I am constantly appalled by the things I hear coming from the mouths of my 11-year-old sixth-graders.

However, the thing that surprises and discourages me most is not the lack of respect my students have for me but that what Baltimore students show the greatest disdain for is often education itself.

This problem again stems from the lack of parental involvement that is so prevalent in the city students' lives. There is no value placed in their homes and society on education; therefore, the 55 minutes I spend with each class makes little headway in breaking down that attitude.

In spite of this, I am constantly hearing that poor test scores, bad behavior, negative attitudes and dislike of school are somehow my fault. Administrators, the media, parents, higher-ups -- the message is very clear to us.

Yes, there are parents who are responsible and work with their children to help them succeed. But these parents are few and far between, and we as teachers are desperate for some support. If those in charge down at North Avenue don't seriously take a look at the realities of the Baltimore City school system, they are going to find themselves with many fine, dedicated teachers bailing out of a swiftly sinking ship.

Jennifer Hamilton, Catonsville

How are bribes and incentives different?

Since the Lewinsky affair is gasping its last breath, it appears the press has hit on something else to fill the time on the air and pages in the press -- the Utah Olympics scandal.

What is so special about the Salt Lake City fiasco that makes it different from the way cities, Baltimore included, go out of their way to lure sports teams?

Can't the offer of a stadium and other concessions also be called a bribe? Or the way one state offers incentives to lure a business to relocate?

Today, money talks and money rules.

R. L. Lelonek, Baltimore

To end suffering, sanctions against Iraq should be lifted

The recent ice storms left a crystal glaze and, for us, a silver lining when we had the privilege of providing overnight housing for 12 folks who are walking from Washington, D.C., to New York City to publicize the impact of sanctions on Iraqis.

Three of the walkers are college professors, current or retired. Four work with homeless men. One came from England. Another is a retired school teacher. One is blind. Three have been to Iraq.

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