Letters To The Editor


May 05, 2004

Conferencing can help kids and taxpayers

It is ironic that the state Department of Juvenile Services' excuse for reneging on its $750,000 commitment to fund a highly successful and innovative juvenile justice initiative is lack of money ("Turning feuds into hugs," April 27).

The state estimates that it costs $50,000 to $100,000 a year to provide residential treatment for a juvenile offender. Lauren Abramson's Community Conferencing Center would have needed to divert only 15 young people from residential treatment - places such as the notorious Cheltenham Youth Facility and the Charles H. Hickey Jr. School - to pay for itself.

Yet for $750,000, Ms. Abramson had planned to divert 600 young people from the juvenile justice system through community conferencing over the next 18 months. Of course, without conferencing, all of these youths would not end up in residential treatment. But the program's cost savings to our overburdened court systems, police departments, public defender's offices, communities and families would still be enormous.

And conferencing works. Unlike incarceration, for which the recidivism rate is nearly 80 percent, the recidivism rate for young people who resolve disputes through community conferencing is only 10 percent to 15 percent.

The conferencing program involves a relatively small investment for a very large payback.

It is not too late for the Department of Juvenile Services to rethink its position and make good on its commitment to our children's future.

Diana Morris


The writer is the director of the Open Society Institute - Baltimore.

Dirty city can't afford to cut trash pickups

Eric Siegel's column "Cutting trash pickups makes sense" (April 29) correctly reminds us as citizens of Baltimore that difficult decisions must be made to address the current budget crisis. Unfortunately, his suggestion - to cut trash collection instead of adding a tax on cell phone use - is foolish.

Baltimore critically needs its twice-weekly trash collection.

This is a filthy city, from the downtown streets to every neighborhood corner. Rats run rampant along my street and alley, despite the wooden trash boxes neighbors and I have built to secure our garbage.

And Mr. Siegel suggests we merely need to buy a $25 trash can at the hardware store? Nonsense.

Rats in this city eat "Believe" trash cans like a late-night snack. Once-a-week trash collection would cripple our sanitation efforts in this urban environment.

But cell phones? Now there's a luxury we can do without, or at least pay more for if we deem it necessary.

My wife and I work stressful jobs and lead busy social lives, yet have chosen not to add the cell phone ball-and-chain to our daily routines.

You want to call your friends and discuss last night's sitcom while standing in line at the grocery store? Fine, but feed our tax coffers while doing so.

City officials must recognize the difference between need and want during these trying economic times.

Brian Dulay


The city offers more than people realize

I have to express my agreement with the column by Gordon T. Ingerson ("A building problem," Opinion * Commentary, April 30).

I commute all of 15 minutes from my historic home in Fells Point to a historic office property in Mount Vernon. Every time I accidentally stumble onto the Beltway during rush hour, I am reminded of just how good I have it.

Baltimore is indeed full of interesting architecture, parks, businesses and people, not to mention our waterfront. These unique qualities cannot be replicated by leveling farmland and putting up prefabricated structures.

Is Baltimore without shortcomings? Far from it. But we have much more than we often realize.

John Dickie IV


Oil companies profit as consumers suffer

Who among us hasn't been reeling of late over gasoline prices? Certainly not the folks at Exxon - they're too busy counting their millions, oops, make that billions ("Exxon posts $5.4 billion profit as earnings from refining soar," April 30).

They may call a big chunk of their $5.4 billion profit an "accounting change," but you don't have to be a rocket scientist to figure out they're capitalizing big time on troubles in the Middle East.

While OPEC certainly plays a role in oil output and pricing, it is abundantly clear that Exxon (and the other oil companies, I'm sure) is using this opportunity to make things even worse for the consumer.

D. Pazourek


Nominal figures distort real ad costs

The Sun's article "Commercial Cash" (April 25) listed the cost of a 30-second advertisement for final episodes of five different television sitcoms.

The final episodes span a period of more than 20 years, and yet the numbers listed were nominal and not adjusted for inflation.

This would be worth a chuckle if the article were in the entertainment section, but instead this meaningless "apples to oranges" comparison was in bold print on the front page of the business section.

What a failure of the business section to leave these numbers in nominal terms.

Steve Grantz

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