Would Bush pardon other '28-year-olds'?Over the past few...

LETTERS

September 05, 1999

Would Bush pardon other '28-year-olds'?

Over the past few weeks, there has been a lot of talk about George W. Bush's past "lifestyle" and alleged cocaine use. Using cocaine is a felony and there are no statute of limitations on cocaine as a federal crime. I believe that the media should stop asking him about his cocaine use in the past, as it is very clear he does not plan to answer that question.

Instead, I suggest that the question for Mr. Bush should be: If elected president, will he issue pardons to the tens of thousands of men and women currently in prison as a result of cocaine-use prior to their 28th birthday? If not, why is his situation any different than theirs?

Melody Higgins

Ellicott City

Howard's `conversation about race' is hardly tiptoeing around the issue

We are writing in response to your article, "Race difficult issue for panels" (Aug. 18), which reported on a meeting of "Howard County: A United Vision," held on Aug. 17.

Communication about this collaborative effort taking place between all segments of the Howard County community is critical to the entire process, as it encourages additional voices to join the conversion. We are grateful for The Sun's coverage, and believe strongly that the process be open and available for scrutiny by any and all parties.

That being said, we must disagree with the characterization that the group tiptoed around the issue of race and could not talk about it comfortably.

The reporter attended the meeting during which there was discussion about a Sun article that concerned the issue of racial balance in Columbia schools ("Columbia faces segregation problem," Aug. 2).

He sat in on work group sessions of the education and diversity committees, both of which addressed perceptions the article may have created as well as the issue itself of racial balance in education.

Many of the group's members have been dismayed by the tone of the first article's headline and lead-in which seemed intended to paint the worst picture possible.

The article itself presented a balanced view of the issue, but the opening language was unnecessarily inflammatory, and not an accurate reflection of the content. The second article took a very similar approach -- a negative, perhaps somewhat sensational lead, followed by an unbiased report.

In fact, the issue of race is one "Howard County: A United Vision" is making every effort to address candidly.

The beauty of this project is the diversity of participants and the inclusion of people who normally are not involved in policy-level decision-making.

As a result, opinions are quite varied and there is frequent disagreement that menbers of the group must resolve in order to build consensus.

This would not be possible without the level of trust they have built during the past six months, and the commitment they have to respecting the wide range of viewpoints expressed.

The diversity committee in particular takes exception to the portrayal that it is hesitant to confront this emotionally charged and very complex issue. Members of the committee include an Ethiopian, a Russian Jew, an Asian, a Pakistani and head of the Howard County chapter of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, Jenkins Odoms.

After reading the second article, Mr. Odoms echoed a female committee member's description that, "We are a most gentle, caring and sincere group."

Indeed, each person speaks, and most importantly listens, disagreeing freely, but working hard to reach conclusions acceptable to all.

This is what makes the process itself so positive: People are forming new alliances to address problems that they now see as belonging to everyone, not to just one constituency.

These alliances will continue, and benefit the community long after the group has presented the vision and accompanying plans to the county.

Words are never neutral, especially when they appear in the press. The participants of "Howard County: A United Vision" are committed to finding new ways to address issues, and sometimes that starts with finding new definitions that may in turn open the door to new solutions.

We hope those who perform the very critical service of keeping our community informed will join us by communicating in a new language that doesn't rely on old buzzwords and ideas that no longer apply.

There is no doubt such communication is a very influential and necessary part of this process.

Sandra Trice Gray

Charles I. Ecker

Columbia

The writers co-chair `Howard County: A United Vision.'

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