Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 02, 2003

Governor owes black ministers an apology

On Feb. 25, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., testifying on behalf of slots before the House Ways and Means Committee, reaffirmed his accusation that House Speaker Michael E. Busch is "playing the race card" by "targeting" black ministers so that they would oppose slots ("Ehrlich makes appeal for Md. slots," Feb. 26).

"Race as a consideration here is almost wholly irrelevant," Mr. Ehrlich continued. "Nobody has explained to me why African-American preachers are being targeted. Why not white preachers?"

His accusation is irresponsible and, indeed, offensive for a number of reasons.

There are dozens, perhaps hundreds, of white ministers in Maryland publicly opposed to slots. Many were in attendance and later testified at the hearing where Mr. Ehrlich made these accusations.

Indeed, the predominantly white Maryland Catholic Conference, Lutheran Office of Public Policy, Episcopal Diocese of Maryland, Baltimore Presbytery and Baltimore-Washington Conference and Peninsula Conference of the United Methodist Church all oppose the slots plan.

Mr. Ehrlich diminishes their contribution to the debate by pretending they don't exist. And why would he attempt to single us out for his criticism?

Furthermore, I know that Mr. Busch's opposition to slots stems from deeply held convictions. To accuse him of "playing the race card" to gain tactical political advantage smears this honorable public servant.

We all understand that political debate can become heated at times. But to question an opponent's motives in such a mean-spirited way poorly serves the people of Maryland.

Mr. Ehrlich says, "Race as a consideration here is almost wholly irrelevant." Yet his plan raises troubling questions.

If his goal is to balance the budget by adding slots to racetracks, they should be distributed fairly among tracks based on their ability to impact the budget. Since the state already owns the fairgrounds at Timonium, no one doubts slots there would generate more revenue, and the proceeds would not have to be split with a track owner.

Yet he refuses to put slots into the affluent and mostly white areas of Timonium and Ocean Downs because, he said, gambling would spoil their "family atmosphere." This implies that slots are only appropriate for the mostly black areas where the Pimlico, Laurel and Rosecroft tracks are located.

But since when do these majority African-American communities lack "family atmosphere"? Can you blame many African-Americans for being suspicious of the governor's proposal?

It was the governor - not us or the speaker - who injected race into this debate by concentrating his plan in African-American neighborhoods while protecting the more lucrative tracks in white areas.

Finally, I was especially offended by Mr. Ehrlich's suggestion that black ministers are being "targeted" by Speaker Busch - as if we are dupes incapable of independent thought and action. The Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance's opposition to legalized gambling goes back many years, starting before Mr. Ehrlich became governor and Mr. Busch become speaker.

We oppose slots because they would be a terrible moral, social, and economic mistake for our state - not because we are manipulated by puppet-masters, white or otherwise.

Mr. Ehrlich owes the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance and all members of the faith community an apology.

The Rev. Gregory B. Perkins

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Interdenominational Ministerial Alliance.

Slots can generate revenue state needs

We need slot machines at the racetracks now.

Our taxes are too high, and lower-tax states such as Delaware and West Virginia are draining too much money for their budgets from the large numbers of Marylanders who go there daily to gamble.

And we need increased funds for fighting crime, for highways and public transit, for promoting tourism, for water and sewage expansion, for industry protection, for parks, for health care, for elimination of military pension income taxes and for many other needs.

Jacques G. Hager

Hagerstown

Better wages offer exit from poverty

The Sun's editorial "Nice work if you can get it" (Feb. 11) is a perfect course in Conservatism 101, whose premise is there should always be a poor, downtrodden, minimally educated underclass of people who are willing, or forced, to work at menial, unwanted jobs at minimal pay.

It is well-established that living on welfare means existing in poverty. It is also well-established that living on minimum wage means existing in poverty. Is it any wonder, then, that many people see no point in leaving welfare?

A higher minimum wage, coupled with a true manpower shortage, would encourage people to take jobs and lift themselves up out of poverty.

Harry E. Bennett Jr.

Baltimore

We should also be grateful to France

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