Downtown partners working for a cleaner and safer...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 13, 1999

Downtown partners working for a cleaner and safer Baltimore

The Sun's article on burned-out ornamental bulbs downtown, "Howard Street left in the dark," (July 8) requires some correction.

During the first six months of 1999, Downtown Partnership received no complaints from merchants about broken light bulbs in the arches along Howard Street. But we are aware that the city Department of Public Works (DPW) has been working to correct the problem.

DPW has undertaken many initiatives to improve cleanliness and safety along Howard Street and throughout downtown. These include streetscape improvements to make the area more pedestrian-friendly, new lights to brighten buildings and landmarks, installation of "Video Patrol" cameras along Howard and Charles streets and deployment of new cleaning equipment.

The Sun's article did not mention these important activities.

In addition, to portray the creation of downtown's "clean and safe" team as a response to public dissatisfaction with current city services, as the article did, is inaccurate. Downtown's 45 Public Safety Guides and 30 Clean Sweep Ambassadors supplement the work of the police and public works departments.

In more than 700 cities across the country, from Philadelphia to Portland, property owners are similarly supplementing city services. In each case, the idea is to provide business with targeted maintenance and safety services on top of regular city services, during a time in which city governments are facing greater demands and less funding.

Downtown Partnership is proud to be a junior partner to DPW and the police department. We will continue to work together for a cleaner and safer downtown.

Laurie B. Schwartz, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Downtown Partnership of Baltimore.

Choosing between principle and other policy priorities

I must respond to the letter "Rep. Gilchrest, others should push for vote on campaign finance reform" (July 2).

Rep. Wayne Gilchrest co-sponsored the same campaign finance reform legislation last year and signed the successful discharge petition last summer. Subsequently, the House easily passed the Shays-Meehan reform bill.

So what is different this summer?

Perhaps it is that Mr. Gilchrest has important pending legislation concerning the environment and the bay.

Although the public often doesn't realize this, defying the party's leadership can cost a legislator his or her most important legislation.

Legislators at both the state and federal level thus often must chose between upholding a matter of principle, such as supporting campaign finance reform, and towing the party line to keep other compelling legislation alive.

The seemingly simple act of signing the discharge petition can actually be a monumental act of courage. Mr. Gilchrest has demonstrated such courage in the past and needs to do so again now.

Kathleen Skullney, Annapolis

The writer is executive director of Common Cause of Maryland.

Don't discharge oil into the bay

The Sun's article "Bilge Pill helps save aquatic life" (July 6) refers to "the common -- and some argue illegal -- practice of purging into the water the oil that builds up" in the bilge of a boat.

As far as I know there is nothing to argue. The Federal Water Pollution Control Act "prohibits the discharge of oil or oily waste into or upon the navigable waters and contiguous zone of the United States if such discharge causes a film or sheen upon or discoloration of the surface of the water or causes a sludge or emulsion beneath the surface of the water."

That's a mouthful of government-ese, but every boater should know that the discharge of oil from any vessel is illegal, and for good reason: It is terribly destructive to aquatic habitat.

Here on the Chesapeake Bay each of us who owns or operates a boat has the responsibility to do what we can to protect the waters we claim to value so dearly.

I hope that the new Bilge Pill is everything it claims to be. If so I would encourage every skipper to spend a few bucks and give it a shot.

Don Jackson, Sharptown

The people want their flag protected

So cherished an institution is the flag of the United States that for 200 years its desecration was tolerated neither by the people nor the courts. Although the Supreme Court, in a 5-4 ruling in 1989, decided that flag desecration is free speech, the American people and the states believe our flag must be protected.

Unfortunately, the high court's rulings make a constitutional amendment the only way to restore its protection. Forty-nine state legislatures have passed resolutions calling for such an amendment.

Blind to history, Linda R. Monk offered statutory alternatives to protecting the flag in her Opinion Commentary article "Flag-burning amendment an unnecessary addition" (June 14). But she must know that nothing less than a constitutional amendment will pass the Supreme Court's scrutiny.

The amendment would not protect the flag; rather, it would empower Congress to do so.

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