Don't stifle initiatives to revive city It seems...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

January 13, 2001

Don't stifle initiatives to revive city

It seems Baltimore always finds a reason to stifle development and avoid evolving into a first-class city. The latest possible casualty is the proposal for apartments at the Stanbalt Building ("Tax break mix-up halts apartment conversion," Dec. 29).

It is painfully obvious to me that the developer attempted to abide by the city's rules. He achieved the minority and women-owned subcontractor requirements outlined by the PILOT agreement.

The lone stumbling block was that one subcontractor was from out of town. Did the developer knowingly try to pull one on the city and cheat its citizens out of thousands of dollars? I sincerely doubt that is the case.

What is the real cost of this stumbling block?

We lose the revenue generated by the residents of 200 apartments. We lose the opportunity to inject the energy of an additional 200 families into our now-desolate business district. We lose the opportunity to take 200 commuters off the road.

But, most important, we lose the opportunity to show real estate developers that Baltimore is a good place to do business.

City leaders need to coax real estate developers back into town by making the development process easier and more predictable.

I applaud the efforts made by H&S Properties, Struever Bros. Eccles & Rouse and the Cordish Company to bring jobs, entertainment and businesses back to the city. These efforts help the city grow -- and if a city isn't growing, it's dying.

I wish the government would keep that in mind the next time they threaten to kill a valuable development project.

Jeffrey H. Ratnow, Baltimore

City's visitors need hub

Kudos to The Sun for a fresh idea: kiosks at gateway locations to downtown Baltimore, Westport and the travel plaza ("City needs gateways to maximize tourism," editorial, Dec. 29). Kiosks would help introduce tourists to the great attractions we have to offer. But I suggest we need to think bigger.

We need to think of the proposed tourist center as a hub, a beehive of activity, in the center of things, from which tourists fan out east to Fells Point and Canton, west to the B&O Railroad Museum and the Mount Clare Mansion, south to the Cross Street Market and Fort McHenry and north to Mount Vernon, the Great Blacks in Wax Museum and the Baltimore Museum of Art.

The tourist center needs to be furnished with racks of brochures promoting restaurants and lodging, historic sites and public transit. In addition, it needs short-term parking, not just for tour buses but for guests who arrive by car.

It should have computer-assisted facilities for making hotel and dinner reservations and maps of parking facilities, along with exciting graphics to grab visitors' attention. The center also needs restrooms, ATM and change machines and a ticket vendor.

As a regular volunteer at the "temporary" visitors center at the Inner Harbor, I know that most visitors know very little about what Baltimore has to offer.

If we are to keep them here for more than a few hours, we need a visitors center that is engineered for convenience and steeped in information they can use.

To support this hub there must be free shuttle service to long-term parking and cheap shuttle service to the four points of the compass to permit visitors to get out into the city with ease. Vital to the success of this hub will also be adequate signage throughout the Inner Harbor and downtown directing visitors to the center.

Isaac C. Lycett Baltimore

State must find a way to insure all

The Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative has always been based on one overriding premise: that all Marylanders have the right to quality, comprehensive and affordable health care.

We are committed to proposing a "Health Care for All" plan to secure this right, while allowing freedom of choice for doctors and other health-care providers to operate without undue interference from third parties.

How we achieve this goal is up for discussion. Many of us feel the most efficient and equitable way to achieve universal health care is through a single-payer system.

However. as The Sun has reported, because the federal waivers needed to adopt such a system will be impossible to obtain under a Bush administration, I do not think we can realistically propose a single-payer plan in Maryland ("Single-payer quest abandoned," Dec. 20).

With help from policy and legal experts from the Johns Hopkins School of Public Health, the University of Maryland School Of Law and the Georgetown University School of Medicine, we will come up with a Maryland-specific plan for health care for all that is economically and politically viable.

And, with the more than 1,000 religious, community, labor and health-care organizations from across Maryland that have signed our "Declaration of Health Care Independence," we will make universal health care a defining issue in the state in the years to come.

Dr. Peter Beilenson, Baltimore

The writer is president of the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative and Baltimore's health commissioner.

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