By evicting HARBEL, city shows disregard for its...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

June 13, 1999

By evicting HARBEL, city shows disregard for its neighborhoods

The only conclusion one can draw from the city's decision to evict the successful HARBEL Community Organization Inc. from its Harford Road site is that city government is destroying its neighborhoods ("City tells group to leave building," June 8).

HARBEL is a centerpiece of northeast Baltimore. Its professional, committed staff provides alcohol and drug treatment, neighborhood dispute mediation, and an invaluable resource for community service and information.

Northeast Baltimore is an eclectic, racially and economically diverse community. The area is home to Hamilton Middle-Elementary School, Herring Run Park, Lake Montebello, numerous businesses and well-kept, tree-lined streets.

But the conversion of many large residential homes to rental properties in Northeast Baltimore has allowed an influx of unruly teenagers, transient neighbors and an increase of petty crime.

On a recent Sunday morning, police found a man murdered behind the bowling alley in the 6100 block of Harford Road, not three blocks away from HARBEL's site. "For Sale" signs dominate the landscape on some streets, which further destabilizes the neighborhood.

The perception of increased crime and grime results in a vicious cycle of an eroding tax base, followed by the necessary escalation of tax rates.

In evicting HARBEL, City Hall (whether intentionally or not) is saying that it does not care about children's schools, about providing safe and clean streets or about preserving independent support networks for its citizens.

Charles Martin Fitzpatrick

Baltimore

The writer is a candidate for the Baltimore City Council from the 3rd District.

New home for HARBEL across the county line?

I was once on the board of HARBEL Community Organization Inc. and was dismayed to read that the city and Housing Commissioner Daniel Henson do not want to renew HARBEL's lease.

HARBEL is an umbrella organization for community groups in northeast Baltimore City and parts of Baltimore County. For years, it has done a great job helping to reduce drug addiction, promote homeownership and conduct other projects.

If the city insists on being so shortsighted as to evict HARBEL, maybe Baltimore County can find it a home -- and expand HARBEL's operation there.

Walter Hayes

Parkville

Invest in public schools, not in voucher programs

Clarence Page makes an important point in his Opinion Commentary column: Social class does make a difference in how one views the world ("Cracks developing in black resistance to school v0uchers," June 4).

However, the reality for African Americans is that 94 percent of our children will receive their education from public schools, regardless of our income.

The truth is that vouchers are a distraction from the real, tough problems we must confront if we want all of our children to get a first-class education. All they do is increase the divide between the haves and have-nots.

We know from reports on the two voucher experiments in Milwaukee and Cleveland that vouchers do not significantly improve student achievement. Smaller classes, parental involvement, equitable funding and better administration do that.

I agree with Mr. Page that if we really care about a better education for our children, we've got to roll up our sleeves and get to work and put our money where it matters most: in the public schools.

The Rev. Sidney Daniels

Baltimore

The writer is secretary of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.

Recognize great students as well as great athletes

The Sun's All-Metro special section devoted to the best high school athletes of the spring season was very impressive (June 7). Lots of big pictures of smiling, confident, successful young people.

An idea for The Sun to consider: Why not do the same for kids who have excelled as students? How about some recognition for those who have worked hard for many years to get high grades and SAT scores?

Recognizing outstanding athletes as the paper did, but not good students, sends a strong message: Great athletes are heroes; great students are just nerds.

Why doesn't the paper give awards for what is actually important?

I look forward to the first "All-Metro Top-of-Their-Class" academic awards.

Kirk S. Nevin

White Hall

Don't push kids into early schooling

I have taught students in grades one through eight for the past 21 years and, after reading Michael Olesker's column "At age 5, bright pupil can't make the grade" (June 3), I think the only thing the Key School is doing wrong is that it doesn't have a policy for the age of first-graders.

There will always be an oldest and youngest in every class, but no child should start formal education before turning 6. Children not yet 6 may appear and test intellectually and socially equal to 6-year-olds. But they are less mature and less able to express initiative and leadership than other first-graders.

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