JHU must help East Baltimore face challenges The people...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

May 18, 2002

JHU must help East Baltimore face challenges

The people of East Baltimore were missing from The Sun's article on Johns Hopkins University's efforts to redevelop its medical complex and renovate or replace hundreds of housing units north of the hospital complex ("Bold plans for Hopkins medical park, neighborhood," May 5).

The university's founder intentionally situated the hospital in East Baltimore so that poor people could have access to it. Isolating staff and students in a park and providing delicatessens and Internet cafes will not improve relations between the East Baltimore campus and its neighbors.

We should take visitors and applicants by the prison complex on Madison Street. In fact, we should take them inside the Metropolitan Transition Center. The view inside is startling.

The MTC is full of young men, many from East Baltimore, doing time for drug-related offenses. They leave with no additional skills or plans for the future. They are often back in jail before their paperwork has been filed because their only home is on the streets.

Hopkins could help by devoting more resources and brainpower to the triple problems of drug addiction, lack of education and lack of marketable skills confronting so many young people in East Baltimore.

Indeed, this is preventive medicine. These same young men later fill our emergency rooms and intensive care units with gunshot wounds and drug overdoses.

East Baltimore's community groups are struggling to overcome many complex problems including: trash, often dumped by outsiders; drug addiction that leaves grandmothers bringing up the next generation of kids; corner drug markets supplying not only the area residents but also addicts who drive in from the counties; and crime directed mostly at the area's own residents. These brave and dedicated people need help.

Hopkins should take more responsibility for the decay of East Baltimore and seize the opportunity to do something concrete about it.

Only by involving ourselves as true neighbors of the people of East Baltimore will we at Hopkins shed the image of the distant and patronizing neighbor on the hill.

Polly Walker

Baltimore

The writer is associate director of the Johns Hopkins' Center for a Livable Future.

State boosts funds for environment

During the 2002 legislative session, we faced a $1 billion structural deficit and had to make difficult budget reductions in every area. But one department that received a large increase in taxpayer funds was the Department of Natural Resources (DNR).

However, after reading Tom Horton's column "Environment takes legislative hit" (April 26) one would have thought DNR had its budget cut. In fact, its operating budget received an 8.5 percent increase in general funds -- not exactly a "crippling" reduction.

While there were numerous inaccuracies throughout Mr. Horton's recitation of various reductions to DNR's budget, the most glaring involved his opinions on the impact of the $100,000 travel budget reduction, the $450,000 "management studies" reduction and the turnover rate cut.

The $100,000 travel reduction gives DNR the same funds for travel it had in fiscal 2002. How this "eliminates the agency's ability to send personnel to monitoring stations throughout the state" is baffling.

As for the natural resources "management studies" cut, Mr. Horton failed to mention that the reduction was $450,000 out of $21,422,425 DNR spends on "management studies" and brought DNR in line with its actual fiscal 2001 spending.

Mr. Horton also failed to mention DNR's most recent audit by the Office of Legislative Audits, which found "significant deficiencies in the department's budgetary and accounting practices."

Mr. Horton ends his article by reciting reductions to land preservation programs. And indeed, because of the fiscal situation, land preservation funding was reduced.

The governor's budget package proposed transferring $30 million in state and local Program Open Space funds to the general fund. However, the General Assembly thought it would be more prudent to transfer only funds from state projects and to modify the distribution of the transfer tax, which funds Program Open Space, for two years. As a result, Program Open Space will be fully funded in fiscal 2005.

Mr. Horton also failed to mention that Maryland is still spending more than $60 million for land preservation.

Barbara A. Hoffman

Howard P. Rawlings

Baltimore

The writers chair, respectively, the Maryland Senate's Budget and Taxation Committee and the House Committee on Appropriations.

Cigarette tax hike saves lives, money

As a health care professional and American Cancer Society volunteer, I was quite taken aback by Jay Hancock's recent column "Getting around the high cost of cigarettes is much easier" (April 21).

Mr. Hancock's column only serves to educate Maryland smokers in ways to circumvent or break state laws.

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