Belvedere Square merchants driven out of business Your...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 11, 2000

Belvedere Square merchants driven out of business

Your editorial putting the failure of the Belvedere Square market ("Belvedere Square disaster," July 5) squarely on the shoulders of developer James Ward was right on the mark.

In addition to the points made in the editorial, at least two other things should be mentioned that may further explain local resistance to Mr. Ward's proposal for redevelopment.

At meetings in which Mr. Ward described his plans for the Belvedere Square area he attributed the failure of the businesses to the ineptitude of those tenants. This explanation is hard to swallow.

My wife and I bought our house in 1989. The proximity of the then-thriving Belvedere Square market was one of the things that influenced our decision. For several years, the market was a daily destination to shop for dinner and to visit with neighbors and merchants.

When the businesses in the market began to close, each merchant told more or less the same story -- the landlord was making it impossible to continue to do business. They said it seemed as though they were being driven out of the market.

If ineptitude was the reason for the failure, what sustained these vendors for all of the prior years?

The other thing that should be mentioned is that Mr. Ward's plan to bring "big box" retailers to the site requires the razing of numerous homes in the lovely neighborhood along Orkney Road just south of the Belvedere Square property. That alone should be enough to persuade Mayor Martin O'Malley to reject the required rezoning.

If that is insufficient, the mayor might consider what Mr. Ward has already cost the city of Baltimore and listen to the perspectives of the residents of the Belvedere Square area.

Steve Rafferty

Baltimore

Hearing loss screening needs insurance mandate

On July 1, the Maryland Newborn and Infant Hearing Screening and Intervention Act went into effect. Now, all newborn babies in Maryland will be screened for hearing loss before they leave the hospital.

Unfortunately, there is no state mandate requiring health insurance companies to treat hearing-impaired babies. How can we screen our children and then refuse to treat them by providing them with hearing aids?

This lack of proactive intervention can have devastating results.

My husband and I were devastated to learn that our 2-year-old daughter was hearing impaired. We were further devastated to learn that Blue Cross/Blue Shield would not provide us with a penny of the $4,000 hearing aids we needed to purchase for our little girl.

Approximately 480 children with hearing loss are born in Maryland each year. Many of them, including our daughter, are developmentally delayed simply because they can't hear. (Our daughter was identified at 20 months and is now wearing hearing aids). This can be prevented through early intervention and treatment.

I urge citizens and lawmakers to support legislation requiring insurance companies to cover the cost of hearing aids. After all, aren't these precious children worthy of an equal opportunity to hear?

Anne W. Dorsey

Baltimore

Arafat, Barak risk most in seeking Mideast peace

Your July 6 editorial states that President Clinton, by convening a Mideast summit, is taking a high risk for a high reward.

This is so. But given that Anwar Sadat and Yitzhak Rabin were both assassinated for making peace by religious terrorists among their own people, Clinton is taking much less of a risk than are Yasser Arafat and Ehud Barak.

He is risking failure, but each of them is risking much more than political power. They are each putting their lives on the line here.

Clinton's risk seems pretty minor. He is doing the right thing, but they are showing true courage if they dare make peace. Let's not forget it.

David J. Pollin

Havre de Grace

Internet sales taxes pick consumers' pockets

I am reluctant to accept the argument that "untaxed Internet sales put Maryland businesses ... at a competitive disadvantage," as state Comptroller William Donald Schaefer writes ("State must levy tax on Web sales," June 30).

An Internet sale is no different than a catalog purchase. Maryland sales taxes are collected only if there is a physical presence within the state.

There is no practical difference between placing an order at a Web site and ordering over the phone or by mail.

Further, there is no monetary competitive disadvantage for local businesses. Consumers must pay shipping charges for both Web and catalog sales, which usually equals or surpasses the 5-percent tax levied within state.

Local retailers maintain their competitive edge by offering some added value to the transaction. This could be anything from personal contact and service to having real samples to see and touch.

While citing concern for Maryland businesses, it really boils down to the state coveting an additional income stream. The state didn't lose something it never had any more than it can claim lost revenue because the sales tax isn't 10 percent.

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