`A slap in the face' to steelworkers The Sun's...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

March 23, 2002

`A slap in the face' to steelworkers

The Sun's editorial "Caught `steeling,'" (March 7) was a slap in the face to the thousands of Americans who rely on the steel industry for their livelihood.

The editorial claims the American steel industry is "enfeebled and decrepit." Has the writer not read the articles in The Sun that explain the millions of dollars spent on capital improvements to our steel industry?

This money has been spent to improve efficiency and lower the man-hours per ton in the production of domestic steel so our companies can remain competitive in the global market.

The Sun suggests we need serious debate about whether we need a domestic steel industry. If we don't need a domestic steel industry, why do we need locally produced newspapers? We could read The Times of London or Pravda.

The editorial claims we need to learn from the best the world has to offer. We have.

But other countries' steel industries get regular government subsidies, health care for all workers and protectionist measures to block their markets. Yet our steel industry has not asked for the billion-dollar handouts given the airlines - only for our government to provide a fair playing field.

We have only asked for help with our legacy costs from the money raised by the tariffs.

An article in The Sun's own business section, published the same day as the editorial, indeed notes: "The tariffs could hit Western European steel makers ... where it hurts most ... with fears that cheap steel blocked from the United States might flood the European market, depressing prices and leading to the loss of thousands of jobs" ("EU to take tariff dispute to WTO, may retaliate," March 7).

Those thousands of jobs have already been lost here because of the very same cheap imports.

The same article also states that several EU countries have already protected their steel industries. Yet they now complain about U.S. tariffs.

From this editorial and The Sun's business section article, I can only conclude that The Sun would rather not see the tariffs, preferring to allow cheap imports to continue to flood our market and see thousands of American steelworkers and many other workers in industries that supply and work with the steel industry lose their jobs.

Steven P. Strohmier, Dundalk

The writer is a steelworker at Bethlehem Steel's Sparrows Point Plant.

Furor over `mansion' misplaced

The legislative furor over the "mansion" and inauguration for the new Towson University president is as mean-spirited as it is unenlightened ("Visit shadowed by The House," March 13). Consider the facts:

The house was purchased before the economy went south and higher education budgets were threatened.

The state-owned house was purchased before the new university president, Mark L. Perkins, arrived on the scene and will be used by his successors.

According to a recent review, the academic profile of Towson University's faculty and students puts it among the nation's top regional institutions in the nation; yet many consider it "Maryland's best-kept secret."

A distinguished future for the university will largely depend on private support; the university's past efforts in this respect have been quite modest.

Towson is the second-largest university in Maryland but has not been highly visible in the region or the state. Indeed, in the past two decades Towson has not received a single significant capital budget allocation from the legislature, and its operating budget funding is one of the lowest among Maryland's state universities.

A principal criterion of the presidential search was to appoint a highly-visible president who could effectively marshal support for the university.

A presidential residence with significant public space is de rigueur in higher education. The fact that Towson's last president lived in an apartment on campus was an anomaly.

A $1.45 million presidential house is not out of line with those provided other presidents in Maryland and across the nation.

An inauguration is a tradition in higher education and like the "mansion" is another way of saying "Maryland's best kept secret" is going public.

James L. Fisher, Baltimore

Electric choice works for Maryland

There has been a lot of uninformed and inflammatory rhetoric lately about electricity deregulation in Maryland - including the column "Time to pull plug on deregulation" (Opinion*Commentary, Feb. 26) But the reality is that customer choice is working in Maryland.

Electric prices have dropped, air quality has improved and Maryland consumers have the freedom to choose the source of their electric supply.

To protect against the uncertainties of a new market, Maryland chose a more considered and phased approach than the one California adopted.

Maryland adopted this approach because the legislative process was open to all parties.

State Sen. Thomas L. Bromwell's Finance Committee met in public sessions for more than 100 hours. After much give and take, the final product was something all Marylanders can be proud of.

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