Letters To The Editor


April 25, 2004

No part of city is innocent in plague of killing

I read Michael Olesker's column "Two cities collide, and student's life is taken" (April 20) with great dismay.

Mr. Olesker states that the intruder came from some "shadowy precinct of the human soul" and that the "collective innocence" of a community was the victim.

But the community is not innocent, even though the victim was. And the shadowy precinct is likely very close to Homewood.

The affluent who call Baltimore home - and I was one of them for 21 years - go about their business in a few, relatively small areas in the city: the slim corridor running north from the harbor to the county, the neighborhoods bordering the waterfront, the mansions that spring up north of the Johns Hopkins University's Homewood campus.

Many Baltimoreans have never been in the massive ghettos east and west of downtown. But tens of thousands of people call those neighborhoods home, and they are often victims of the terrible violence and inhumanity that persist there.

Most of these people are not a party to the drug trafficking that poisons the city. But they do not have the luxury of leaving their doors unlocked on balmy spring nights, or walking to a coffee shop at 1 a.m.

And Mr. Olesker trivializes their suffering, stating that "the vast percentage [of the city's homicides] happen in neighborhoods where poverty and narcotics traffic motivate everything."

No part of this city is innocent in the sickening, daily slaughter that occurs here. All of us are failing - failing to work for those who have no way out, failing to protect our fellow men and women, failing to even care about them.

One student died, and his death is tragic. But little is written about the young men and women who die almost daily in less-fortunate neighborhoods.

Max Rawn

Minneapolis, Minn.

The writer grew up in Baltimore and is now a law student at the University of Minnesota.

Housing problems are key health issue

Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano is right that it makes "sense to look at homelessness as a health issue" ("Plan affecting vagrants halted," April 20).

Indeed, a growing body of research suggests that housing - as the single most important factor in improving the health outcomes of those experiencing homelessness - is, in fact, health care.

And affordable housing is much-needed medicine in a city where the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has identified 39,000 households with "worst case" housing needs, where an additional 30,000 residents must live in shelters each year, and where a rapidly declining stock of affordable housing only increases the number of people who sleep on the street.

Jeff Singer


The writer is president and CEO of Health Care for the Homeless Inc.

City, state tax hikes squeeze little guys

I was disappointed to see Mayor Martin O'Malley's recent proposal of cellular phone and energy taxes to help cover a $40 million gap in the city budget ("Mayor pushes boost in taxes," April 22).

Combined with Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s added fees for vehicle registration and sewage, these taxes would add up and disproportionately affect lower-income residents. While it may seem like just a few dollars a month to some, these new costs really put the squeeze on the little guy.

The only truly fair method of taxing the citizenry is through a progressive income tax.

Brian Ransdell


Don't bill taxpayers for council's counsel

I was in shock and dismay after reading "Subpoenas issued to council members in probe" (April 20).

I cannot understand why we, the city taxpayers, are footing the bill for "the two defense attorneys hired and paid for by the city last year to represent the council" during the wide-ranging investigation by U.S. Attorney Thomas M. DiBiagio.

This is unconscionable at a time when the city budget indicates we will need to either lay off critical city employees or face increased fees to cover budget shortfalls.

I suggest council members pay their own legal fees and consider reducing their salaries and total office expenses by at least 50 percent.

Dennis G. Kresslein


Court must protect rights of detainees

Let us hope the Supreme Court is willing to protect the rights of people the Bush administration - or any subsequent administration - labels "enemy combatants" and thus detains offshore ("Guantanamo detainees press right to hearings," April 21).

While the government needs to be able to fight our enemies, it should not do so at the cost of justice - either for our citizens or for others.

The administration expects to be beyond the reach of U.S. and international law when it says that prisoners held in Guantanamo are out of the authority of U.S. courts because they are not on U.S. soil but that they are not prisoners of war because they were not conventional fighters.

But let us not forget that among the detainees are American citizens. They, as well as the others, are entitled to their rights.

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