Saturday Mailbox


January 10, 2004

Confront cruelty city's children face every day

The Maryland section of last Saturday's paper ironically summarized the fate of Baltimore children in three unrelated articles: Gregory Kane's column about a church that observed the death by violence of 44 youths ("Ensuring that young victims of violence aren't forgotten," Jan. 3); a feature on an extraordinary mentor who gives his all to youths deemed so dangerous they must be contained in the adult prison system ("A passion for helping youths," Jan. 3); and a follow-up on two children who died in a fire while their parents were at a convenience store ("Police may charge parents in deaths," Jan. 3).

Since I have worked in the juvenile court system for 12 years, these themes are all too familiar to me -- the killing, the parental breakdown, the heroes who care too much and self-destruct, and the ultimately crushing reality that no one really knows or cares how these children live or die.

We are constantly reminded of the tragedy of Ciara Jobes, who was imprisoned and starved by her court-appointed guardian. But to those of us who work in the trenches, this is only one example of a daily influx of accounts of horrifying cruelty to children and by children.

This is our city, but the citizens and the politicians have defaulted, ceding the responsibility to the print and broadcast media to take us into these children's lives and see how our community is rotting from the inside out.

We need to be assaulted by the painful images of these children in their homes, in their failing schools, on the corners of their drug- and gun-infested neighborhoods. We need to look in their eyes and listen to them talk about what is important to them and whether they have hope for a future.

Just as the images of the Vietnam War and the destruction of the World Trade Center rocked us to our core and disrupted our complacency, such images need to be real to us when we drink our coffee with the morning paper and when we turn on the evening news.

Eventually, or sooner, the unloved, the uncared for, the uneducated will be at our doorsteps in Mount Washington, Canton and Roland Park, and then we will see them close-up and find that they don't care about us much either.

Linda Koban


The writer is assistant director of the Court Appointed Special Advocates (CASA) of Baltimore.

Remington project violates zoning rules

The principal opponents of construction of the Cresmont Avenue apartment project in Remington are residents adjacent to the site who are appalled -- understandably -- by the unenviable prospect of having seven stories' worth of Johns Hopkins students as their new neighbors ("Developer fights freeze on project," Jan. 1). Have you ever lived near a fraternity full of Johns Hopkins students?

Also, City Circuit Judge Albert Matricciani Jr. did not order a "freeze on the $7 million project," as The Sun suggested; he ruled that the building permit had been issued illegally and must be revoked.

And Orchard Development LLC and lobbyist Alfred W. Barry III were likely not as surprised as they say by this ruling, considering that Mr. Barry, his clients and the city knowingly ignored a 2001 court ruling on the same issue in favor of the same adjacent residents and property owners.

And the plaintiffs' basic legal contention was not mentioned in The Sun's article: that the developer, lobbyist and the city are attacking the special parking-district zoning that protects Remington and Charles Village from overdevelopment. They want to free themselves from its restrictions. That's the real story.

As a Charles Village property owner with a city-owned open lot right next to me, I'm concerned.

Grenville B. Whitman


Rising federal taxes are also on the way

The Sun's article "State, local taxes rise as U.S. levy falls" (Jan. 4) unfortunately tells only part of the story.

While the federal income tax cuts may make "the bottom line ... appealing" for 2003 and 2004, the article fails to note that many of these federal cuts disappear in tax year 2005. For instance, the child tax credit will revert from $1,000 to $600 in 2005.

This change means up to a $400 increase per child in the 2005 tax bill, or, for the family The Sun used as an example, an $800 increase in federal tax owed.

Consequently, without any further change in the tax law, the people in your example will be paying considerably more in federal tax in 2005. And I rather doubt that state and local taxes will be reduced to offset the increase.

Barbara Gilmour


Combating evil adds to our safety

Former Secretary of State Madeleine K. Albright's critique of the Bush administration's foreign policy ("Endangered Friendships," Jan. 4) is a testament to the short-sighted foreign policy practiced for eight years under her former boss, President Bill Clinton.

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