Razing the west side would be morally and financially...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 22, 2000

Razing the west side would be morally and financially wrong

I applaud the courage of Sen. Barbara A. Hoffman in holding firm for preservation of the west side of downtown Baltimore ("Key west-side developer balks at demands for preservation," March 11).

I have lived in Baltimore my entire life, and have witnessed the revitalization of neighborhoods such as Federal Hill, Fells Point and Mt. Vernon.

These business and residential communities have a uniqueness that stems from their historic significance and architectural beauty.

But it seems corporate development interests are more concerned with their bottom-line profit margins than with the historic value of the Howard Street corridor and Baltimore's west side.

Young urban professionals, like myself, are the key to the city's redevelopment and revitalization.

We want to live and work in communities that offer architectural history that cannot be found in modern suburbia -- as well as locally-run businesses, shops and restaurants that are not in suburban strip malls.

Once lost, these historic buildings can never be re-created.

Leslie Hebb

Baltimore

In the 1950s and 1960s, Baltimore declared Mt. Vernon Place blighted and made plans to tear down three of the four blocks facing the Washington Monument to make room for, among other things, an expansion of The Walters Art Gallery. Preservationists fought the city.

In the 1960s and 1970s, Baltimore declared Fells Point and Federal Hill blighted and made plans to run a highway through those neighborhoods. Preservationists fought the city.

Today, Baltimore has declared the west side of downtown blighted and is backing plans by a nonprofit foundation with approximately $2 billion in assets to evict the existing immigrant and minority shop-owners, tear down dozens of historic buildings and build a shopping mall. Preservationists are fighting the city.

Preservationists are not inflexible. But what the city and the Weinberg Foundation are proposing to do with taxpayer money is wrong -- morally and financially.

James C. Hunt

Baltimore

Help the mentally ill, before they commit a crime

We are concerned about the charges against the Crofton teen-ager who allegedly helped his 15-year-old girlfriend kill herself.

The Anne Arundel County state's attorney has been quoted as saying the teen-ager is being charged, "Because he needs help" ("Ban on suicide tested," March 1).

This is another example of the increasing criminalization of mental illness.

The young man had a history including suicide attempts, depression, violence and three psychiatric hospital admissions.

If officials feared he'd try to kill himself, a more appropriate course of action would be civil commitment.

Unfortunately, in Maryland the only way to order monitoring in the community of someone with such severe symptoms is through the criminal justice system.

Some other states have civil commitment laws that allow assisted treatment and monitoring in the community of individuals with a history of hospitalization for presenting a danger to themselves or to others.

A sick person should not have to be charged with a crime to get help from the state.

Rita Tate

Baltimore

The writer is president of the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill, Maryland.

Statistics show guns don't kill many kids

Jon S. Vernick really missed the mark in his column "State's chance for safer guns" (Opinion Commentary, March 15). The number of children killed accidentally with guns is very small.

According to the National Safety Council, in 1998 accidental deaths at home claimed 1,900 children's lives nationwide.

Falls killed 60 kids, firearms 80, poison 80, drowning 440, suffocation 530, fire 550 and "other" 160.

Yet we would never guess that startling distribution from what we hear from the news media.

How many people would think that the family bathtub kills more kids accidentally than guns?

Perhaps we should push for mandatory use by all kids of childproof life-vests in the bathtub ?

As for so-called "smart" guns, when the police are required to use them, then I'll know for sure that smart gun technology has arrived. Until then, don't bet your life on that technology.

Any accidental death of a child is tragic. But let's address the major causes first, where solutions will have the greatest payoff in lives saved.

Earl P. Weaver

Havre de Grace

It's the NRA that tolerates gun violence

Wayne LaPierre and the National Rifle Association (NRA) have, as usual, turned reality on its head in accusing President Clinton of tolerating gun crime for political advantage ("Clinton, NRA clash over gun control," March 13).

In fact, it is the NRA that has, through its lobbying efforts, that has shaped our gun laws so as to forestall any prevention of gun violence.

Their only solution is to punish, after the fact, "criminals" like the six-year-old boy who shot six-year-old Kayla Rolland.

It is the NRA that tolerates thousands of shootings and suicides with guns every year.

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