Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

July 18, 2004

Police focus on 'nuisance crime' hurts the poor

I've heard Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin P. Clark argue persuasively that the criminalization of nonviolent "public nuisance crimes" is a drain on public resources and ultimately counterproductive to the amelioration of poverty and homelessness in Baltimore.

I couldn't agree more.

His plan to discontinue arrests for public urination, loitering, public intoxication and the like in favor of a civil citation process seemed sound public policy - at least in theory. In practice, the disproportionate focus being placed on such citations ("`Quality of life' crime plan splits police, prosecutors," July 12) serves only to recriminalize poor Baltimoreans - particularly when "failure to appear" charges turn minor civil matters into criminal offenses.

These criminal offenses then prevent future placement in jobs and housing.

As ongoing reductions at the Housing Authority of Baltimore City condemn an increasing number of vulnerable city residents to homelessness ("Shortfall forces housing agency to cut 147 jobs," July 12), we should pursue public policies that reverse the decline of affordable housing and get people off the streets.

Saddling the poorest of the poor with criminal records will only keep them there.

Jeff Singer

Baltimore

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

State threat pushes schools for answers

Let me get this straight: The Baltimore school system is complaining because the state warned that it might have to withhold some funding if the city cannot resolve issues around possible misspending of millions of federal dollars ("State says city schools misused federal funds," July 14)? What is so unfair about that?

The funds are not supposed to be withheld until the fall (if at all), and that is only if the city can't straighten out another mess it may have gotten itself into.

Why doesn't the city stop whining, prove it has corrected any problem and negotiate a settlement on any money that may have been misspent?

If the school system were not so screwed up in the first place, the state would not resort to such drastic measures.

Davis Maloy

Baltimore

Gay marriage debate wastes critical time

I have mixed feelings on the topic of gay marriage, but in the end I don't particularly care if two people who love each other want to get married. What is maddening to me, however, is that the sanctimonious Republicans in the U.S. Senate have taken so much time to debate this issue ("Same-sex marriage ban loses in Senate," July 15).

Forty-four million Americans have no health insurance. The unemployment rate is more than 5 percent (and about 10 percent for African-Americans), and more than 2 million jobs have been lost in the past four years. Hundreds of Americans have been lost to the war in Iraq - a war based on intelligence we now know to be flawed - and a Senate committee says that our intelligence community needs a complete overhaul.

For the life of me, I can't figure out why, except to divide Americans and rev up their base, Republicans are taking so much time to debate a constitutional amendment on gay marriage.

Jamie Kendrick

Baltimore

Addressing NAACP would show courage

Rarely do I agree with The Sun's editorials concerning national politics. However, the conclusion of "Another setback for civility" (editorial, July 13) - that President Bush hurt himself more by staying away from the NAACP convention - is right. Even though much of the NAACP leadership has acted despicably in its rhetoric and personal attacks against Mr. Bush, he should have walked into the lion's den and faced his accusers in a presidential manner.

I am sure his speechwriters could have provided him with a speech that would be a just rebuttal to NAACP Chairman Julian Bond and company. If the audience lapsed into cat calls and booing (as Mr. Bush and his advisers reportedly feared), then in most eyes (including mine), Mr. Bush would come have away the victor.

Now, by not attending the convention, he has prompted more criticism of his leadership.

Ron Wirsing

Havre de Grace

Twisting science to serve ideology

I commend The Sun's coverage of 4,000 scientists calling for the restoration of scientific integrity in federal policy-making ("Researchers renew criticism of the Bush administration," July 9).

And, although the pattern of putting politics before science spans many issues, one need look no further than the Food and Drug Administration's recent decision to deny emergency contraception over-the-counter status ("OTC ban on `morning-after' pill defended," May 8). This is just one of the most recent examples of this administration's willingness to put political ideology over women's health and the widely shared goal of reducing unintended pregnancy.

The American public deserves policy informed by the best scientific advice available, not science tainted by political motives.

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