City-backed subsidies for downtown parking are a losing...


January 20, 2000

City-backed subsidies for downtown parking are a losing idea

The mayor's "full court press" to keep 350 CareFirst dignitaries in Baltimore with the promise of subsidized parking deserves public scrutiny ("CareFirst to tell city that its staying," Jan. 6).

The city claims that subsidizing CareFirst will retain $320,000 in tax revenues, while the subsidy will cost only $48,000 annually.

But $48,000 seems a low figure for 400 parking spaces downtown, particularly since the same article announced that The City That Parks is spending $47 million to build 1,600 parking spaces downtown. That's about $29,000 per space.

Even if it will only cost the city $48,000 to cede or upgrade 400 spaces already in existence, those 400 parking spaces on the open market could bring the city much more money.

As a city taxpayer I'd like to know where that $48,000 figure came from. Who is Mayor Martin O'Malley's bean counter and is anybody checking him?

The recent history of subsidized parking in Baltimore suggests otherwise.

In November 1998, The Sun reported that subsidized parking spaces near the Baltimore Arena went unused. In 1999 it reported shenanigans involving a quick re-sale of an office building on Water St. to the city -- for a $900,000 profit -- for conversion to a parking garage.

Equipping the CareFirst crowd instead with free monthly transit passes would cost less and result in fewer serious injuries and deaths from commuting.

Mass transit is often characterized as a financial loser, but a public good. Subsidized parking is a loser all round.

Paul R. Schlitz Jr.


Middle River development: an idea that's long overdue

After reading the recent letter "Transforming Middle River could hurt the area's poor" (Jan. 13), I just had to respond.

As a long-time resident of the area in question who grew up in Essex, I feel justified saying to the writer, "butt out."

I have watched for years, decades really, as money has flowed to all the other parts of Baltimore County with hardly a trickle coming eastward.

The reason boaters have to drive past sex workers and drug addicts on their way to idle enjoyment is that our wonderful social engineers decided to send Section 8 housing recipients our way, housing them in World War II-era tenements.

These slums were meant to be torn down after the war, but somehow they never were.

Finally County Executive C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger has the intelligence and vision to create a plan to tear down this suburban blight and develop the overlooked waterfront area. It's an idea long overdue.

But, alas, no good deed goes unpunished or uncriticized.

Apparently, the letter writer thinks keeping the status quo in these neo-ghettoes would better serve the poor. God forbid we develop the area and create jobs to help them become self-sufficient.

How about a little empathy for the people still in the area who work for a living?

David Rupkey


Rededicate ourselves to helping those in need

Robert C. Embry Jr.'s column, "Making poor men whole again" (Opinion Commentary, Jan. 9) was on the mark: insightful, interesting and thought-provoking.

Mr. Embry is correct to point out the need for a change in society's attitudes to eliminate poverty.

We must spend less time and energy punishing the poor, and more effort seeking and applying answers that work.

We could really honor the memory of Martin Luther King Jr. if in a time of unprecedented prosperity we rededicate ourselves to helping those in need.

Ralph E. Moore


The writer is vice president and director of community services for the Center for Poverty Solutions.

Presidential hopefuls should avoid `litmus tests'

Special interest groups and those who feel strongly about a single issue may find political "litmus tests" for appointees seductive, but they're a bad idea for presidential candidates, who should be focusing on who would best serve the nation.

An abortion litmus test for Supreme Court nominees is a poor substitute for identifying the most capable jurists.

And any gays-in-the-military litmus test is a ridiculous way to select military leaders ("Gore reverses on requiring generals to back gay policy," Jan. 8).

The president of the United States needs to have the very best military advice possible. But once the commander-in-chief makes a decision, the military must implement his orders.

Thus, whether the Joint Chiefs of Staff personally agree with such a policy is constitutionally irrelevant.

Roger C. Kostmayer


City museums offer a window to our past

The column "City museums tell us much we need to know" (Opinion Commentary, Jan. 12) was an eloquent, if unintended, epitaph for the late Baltimore City Life Museums, nee Peale Museum (1931-1997), which told the stories of Baltimore and Baltimoreans.

I wish the authors -- directors of city museums in Boston, Philadelphia and Washington, D.C. -- smooth sailing.

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