A cityscape that surprises, delights In 1970, I left...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

May 20, 2000

A cityscape that surprises, delights

In 1970, I left what is now big, beautiful Baltimore, but what was then big, blighted Baltimore, and did not see the city again for 30 years.

In April 2000, when my husband and I arrived from Charleston, S.C., for a reunion at the Johns Hopkins School of Hygiene and Public Health and drove through town, I was awed. What a transformation.

We had heard over the years about the harbor and how Baltimore had changed, but never had begun to imagine how much.

When we arrived in your city from California that first hot and humid day in 1965, I thought I had died and gone to hell.

The city was dismal and dirty with almost no green in sight. People sat on their white marble steps looking hot, sweaty and grim.

This time, the city's skyline lifted my gaze, the cityscape surprised and delighted me and there was some green almost everywhere.

After driving around much of the city and county that we had known well, I am convinced that Baltimore's leaders, architects and planners rank right up there with Michelangelo and other great visionaries who created great and difficult masterpieces.

Under their leadership, Baltimore has built, renovated, cleaned and planted - and created an architectural and cultural treasure for all of us.

From this teacher's perspective, Baltimore has become a beautiful, cosmopolitan city.

Academically talented people have come to Baltimore for many years to be students at its institutions of higher learning. But now all people can become students, just by living in or visiting the city.

Linda Miller Charleston, S.C.

Firehouses hold community together

I would like to thank Mayor Martin O'Malley for calling for the closing of seven firehouses.

Unlike Mr. O'Malley I have been unable to make "the tough calls upfront and early" ("Firehouse closings upset residents," May 11). I have, against the advice of friends and relatives, remained a city resident and homeowner.

I have had the city school system fail to give my children a proper education, so I pay for my children to attend private schools.

I have listened to the mayor declare that there will be a decline in crime; well, he has been in office six months and I believe the city's murder rate has increased.

Through all of this I have stayed in the city. However, I now realize that the last city department that I had confidence in may not be there when I need it.

If I can't depend on the Fire Department to be there when I have an emergency, why should I stay in the city?

So, thank you, Mr. O'Malley, for doing in one day what my friends and relatives could not do for years: Getting me to move out of this failing city.

August Pierson, Baltimore

The writer is a pump operator for the Baltimore City Fire Department.

I think that Mayor Martin O'Malley's decision to close seven fire stations, some of which are in the most depressed areas of the inner-city, will be a mistake.

The mayor should look at exactly how those communities perceive their local fire houses.

Firefighters probably know their neighborhood better than the police or social workers or politicians do.

They often know better than the police where the crack houses are - and serve as auxiliary police, health practitioners and social workers.

Indeed fire stations are the best example of community policing; firefighters live and work in the community 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Has anyone ever heard of a fire station being robbed or set on fire or of a firefighter being mugged or of someone purposely driving a vehicle into a fire truck?

Firefighters are highly respected. Residents will often go to the firehouse when they are in trouble more quickly than they will call the police.

Why? Because the firehouse is accessible and safe.

It's not a matter of economics, it's a matter human responsibility to our citizens. I am sure the city can find the money to balance the budget some other way.

Or maybe, just maybe, some philanthropic organization will donate funds to help save our fire stations.

Carolyn Brown, Baltimore

Diversity enriches all of us

Jeff Jacoby was right that educators such as myself have not successfully made the case for affirmative action ("Affirmative action gets negative scores in polls," OpinionCommentary, May 11).

Much of the public is unconvinced of the need for continued efforts to bring minorities into the mainstream. But the sad truth is that without such efforts, many institutions will become enclaves, in which whites predominate and other groups are silently excluded.

Unfortunately, the perception of many people is that affirmative action punishes qualified whites and rewards unqualified blacks.

Part of the problem is that we need to expand our understanding of qualifications.

For students, we need to recognize life experiences and commitment to self-improvement as well as SAT scores and high school grades in our admissions policies.

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