Conflicts of interest need public exposure, sustained...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

June 29, 2000

Conflicts of interest need public exposure, sustained attention

In his column "Conflicts of interest abound" (June 18), Barry Rascovar talked about the two jobs held by Baltimore City Council President Sheila Dixon, both at taxpayers' expense, as an unethical conflict of interest.

He also talked about the outrageous shenanigans of Baltimore Sheriff John Anderson, whose wife works for him and who was given five months of undeserved sick leave. The sheriff has also given other members of his family jobs in his department, a clear case of nepotism at public expense.

Mr. Rascovar asks how these officials are able to get away with putting their personal interests ahead of the public's and why there no outrage or tide of public anger.

The answer is : I and most of the public just don't know what's going on.

The Sun would be doing a great service for our community if in lead articles it would name the wrongdoers and just what it is that they are doing wrong.

Then we would become enraged and raise Cain.

Philip R. Grossman, Baltimore

Barry Rascovar is wrong to think there is "no sense of moral outrage" when the public learns that elected officials such as City Council President Sheila Dixon and Sheriff John Anderson are abusing their powers for personal gain.

Most citizens who pay attention to such things are appalled by these betrayals of the public trust.

But Mr. Rascovar is surely right when he attributes the seeming immunity of political wrongdoers to the absence of a "rising tide of public anger."

The point is that public outrage matters little if it cannot be sustained.

And, in our accelerated age of hectic personal lives and round-the-clock absorption in consumerism and unlimited entertainment options, it is virtually impossible to sustain any concern (other than the most immediate and personal) for more than a few minutes.

So reports of political opportunism become little more than temporary blips on the public radar screen as the public memory becomes ever shorter.

Politicians know this and bank on our forgetting their ethical and legal lapses in short order, even when they are well-publicized.

Howard Bluth, Baltimore

Posthumous DNA testing to study evidence reliability

We can now apply DNA testing posthumously to criminal cases that resulted in a death sentence before DNA testing was available.

This could determine the percentage of executions that have taken the lives of the innocent since the death penalty came back in vogue. It could also help us gauge the reliability of different types of evidence.

Obviously, this information would be useful in future trials and sentencing where DNA evidence is unavailable.

William P. Jenkins, Bel Air

Immunization registry protects child health

I commend you for your editorial, "Best shots"(June19).

The Institute of Medicine report confirmed what most public health officials knew: For the past three years, funding for immunizations has remained flat in some states and declined in others. This decrease in financial and political support for immunization programs could not come at a worse time for Maryland.

For the past four years, the Maryland Department of Health and Mental Hygiene and the local chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics have been partners in developing a statewide Immunization Registry.

This development was initially stimulated by a 1994 directive from the state legislature. The registry would be a record of every immunization given to every child in Maryland under the age of 6 years.

Preliminary data from the Baltimore City Registry, which has been running for over five years, and from registries in other states show that registries are cost-effective. More importantly, registries keep unimmunized children from falling through the cracks when families change addresses or change medical providers due to changes in health insurance.

The state health department is within months of beginning its statewide registry. Further cuts in state and federal funding for immunization have the potential for derailing years of hard work.

Dr. Crossan O'Donovan, Baltimore

The writer is chairman, Maryland Childhood Immunization Partnership.

Cancer of the city is not in the police

So those two legal titans, Billy Murphy and Johnnie Cochran, are planning to hose the city of Baltimore for $60 million to avenge the death of Larry Hubbard and to excise the "cancer" of police brutality.

Well, here's a news flash. The cancer in Baltimore has nothing to do with the police.

The cancer resides in the tens of thousands of thieves, junkies, rapists, dope dealers and other assorted lowlifes who have turned whole sections of the city into garbage-strewn wastelands.

Kids killing kids, old folks afraid to walk to the corner store, toddlers gunned down in murderous crossfire between drug gangs. What about the brutality of that?

Given the circumstances, I think the cops show remarkable restraint.

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