Redwood St. buildings should be revived rather than...

November 25, 1999

Redwood St. buildings should be revived rather than razed

Donald J. Urgo & Associates of Bethesda is planning to destroy 17 Light St. and 101-109 E. Redwood St. to build a Marriott Residence Inn ("Brexton building for sale again," Nov. 11).

These are early 20th-century Beaux Arts-style buildings. Their materials and workmanship are irreplaceable. The city's financial district Urban Renewal Plan states, "It is important to respect the historic character of Redwood St. between Charles and South Sts."

Seventeen Light St. and 101-109 E. Redwood St. are buildings much too good to lose. They could be converted to apartments and retail space instead of razed. Their destruction would be an act of vandalism.

Was Marriott given financial incentives to stay in Maryland only to destroy our city? Will tourists come to new hotels if there are no historic buildings left to see?

When will Baltimore realize it must, in many instances, just say no to demolition for development?

America is newly valuing its architectural heritage as an economic asset. But Baltimore, on Redwood St. and elsewhere, is out of step with the times.

John Maclay, Baltimore

China, free trade and the closing of Hess Shoes

I read with great interest about the trade agreement between the United States and China ("U.S., China agree on trade," Nov. 16). I read with similar interest Michael Olesker's lament about a Baltimore-area, soon-to-be former Hess Shoes employee ("In the '90s, loyal worker has become afterthought," Nov. 16).

Are these two stories -- a world away from each other-- related? You bet they are.

In negotiating a deal with China, the United States has brought that country, with its human and labor rights violations, one step closer to membership in the World Trade Organization (WTO).

In its five-year existence, the WTO has developed an unelected, unaccountable supranational court system which can overrule national governments.

While the WTO presents enormous problems, perhaps the one most important to the loyal shoestore employee and all workers is the way unrestrained trade has caused falling real wages for workers. Beyond that, unbridled free trade adds to the callousness corporations show to workers and their communities.

Hess Shoes might have closed without trade liberalization.

But one need not be a conspiracy theorist to recognize that in an environment such as ours, that encourages unfettered corporate greed, it's a whole lot easier for this to happen.

Ellen Reich, Baltimore

Saving a few dollars costs state an old friend

I have worked for Hess Shoes for 38 years. It has been a great experience and an enjoyable place to work, with a great bunch of co-workers -- from the Hess family to the stock help.

I have always prided myself on providing courteous service to the customer, but generally this was the Hess way.

Now it's heartbreaking to see the liquidation of one of the finest retail shoe establishments in the country.

Maryland and Baltimore will sorely miss this old friend, but I guess saving a few dollars and sacrificing courteous, personal service is a sign of the times. What a shame.

Barry Ash, Owings Mills

Veneration of the past retards the local economy

Michael Olesker's profile of a Hess shoe salesman who places loyalty to a local dying retailer above his family's economic security failed to elicit my sympathy. The essence of this story is that his employer, Hess Shoes, a locally bred footwear retailer, could not compete with more efficiently run national chains ("In the 90s, loyal worker has become afterthought," Nov. 16.).

Mr. Olesker attaches a goodness to all things local, even poorly run businesses, that appears absurd to a non-native resident. Having recently relocated to Baltimore, I am amazed at local people's memory of a Baltimore economy that no longer exists.

Why celebrate those who shut their eyes to economic opportunity, in this case a job opening with a more secure employer (Nordstrom), as a badge of honor?

Indeed, someone who expects life-long employment in today's marketplace is profoundly naive.

Unconditional love for all things locally bred creates regional economic stagnation, just as unconditional loyalty to an employer leads to personal vulnerability. Glorifying an inbred economic past serves only to perpetuate a fear of change that is common to many Baltimoreans.

The region's economic vibrancy in the 21st century demands a more outward-looking, self-reliant workforce.

Douglas G. Kotelly, Baltimore

Trend to doctor-led care is good news for patients

Kaiser Permanente, the oldest and largest nonprofit health maintenance organization in the country, has put medical decision making in the hands of physicians for more than 50 years.

That's why, as a Baltimore resident, physician and president of the Kaiser Permanente physicians' organization in the mid-Atlantic region, I was so surprised to read the front-page news that another health maintenance organization has adopted this policy ("HMO to give doctors final say," Nov. 9).

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