Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 03, 2005

City zoning bill can help stop homelessness

I join The Sun in applauding the affordable-housing legislation introduced by City Councilman Bernard C. "Jack" Young ("A smart zoning move," editorial, March 28). This is just the sort of creativity that will be required to end homelessness in Baltimore.

The Maryland Department of Human Resources reports that in Baltimore, homeless facilities sheltered more than 24,000 men, women and children in 2003. But these facilities also turned away those seeking shelter more than 23,000 times that year.

Until we have a sufficient supply of affordable housing, thousands of our relatives, friends and neighbors will have no place to call home.

As they sleep on the streets, under bridges and in abandoned houses, their health will deteriorate. This makes the journey home more arduous.

Federal dollars for affordable housing are declining. Recognizing the fiscal limitations of local government, it is essential to advocate for increased funding from Washington.

We can do more, however, at the state and local levels.

And Mr. Young's bill would steer the resources of the public and private sectors in the right direction.

Jeff Singer

Baltimore

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

Intimidation laws won't cut crime rate

Despite her best intentions, Baltimore State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy's vigorous pursuit of a witness intimidation bill will do nothing to stop witness intimidation in the city ("Jessamy joins Ehrlich to urge passage of crime bill," March 31).

Criminals will not stop and think twice about doing something because there is a new law against it. That's what makes them criminals.

If the city wants to be serious about crime and make the people of Baltimore feel safer, it needs a stronger police presence in the most dangerous neighborhoods, a higher conviction rate and longer sentences for criminals.

Until the violent culture of the city can be changed, removing criminals from the streets - not new laws - is what will reduce city crime.

Gerard Oakley

Eldersburg

Reform the way city summons jurors

I am a Baltimore resident who is called for jury duty every 13 or 14 months, and I agree with much that Baltimore Circuit Court Clerk Frank M. Conaway said in his column "Selection, treatment of jurors tarnish justice in city" (Opinion Commentary, March 29). But I disagree with his priorities.

Reforming the method used to determine who is summoned to jury duty is much more important than improving the room where potential jurors are housed.

Jury service is an obligation of citizens, but Baltimore's current selection process causes this obligation to fall disproportionately on some citizens.

We need to know why some city residents are called on a yearly basis and others are not called at all. We also need to do a better job of identifying and sanctioning those citizens who fail to appear for jury duty.

I am sure that most Baltimore citizens, if given a choice, would opt for a fairer jury selection process over a "state of the art" jury facility.

Granted, the jury facilities are not ideal. But Baltimore is a resource-poor city, and I would rather my tax monies be spent on more-pressing needs.

Taunya Lovell Banks

Baltimore

The writer is a professor at the University of Maryland School of Law.

Public must oppose GOP `nuclear option'

GOP leaders know that long after President Bush is but a faded memory, his impact will continue to be felt through his judicial appointments.

While Senate Democrats have confirmed most of Mr. Bush's judicial selections, they rightly have held steadfast in opposing nominees who have demonstrated extremist views.

Now we hear that Senate Republicans might employ what is dubbed the "nuclear option," a strategy intended to circumvent and corrupt the time-honored system of checks and balances in this nation.

Their goal? To ram through nominations of individuals who are unqualified - or unfit - to serve lifetime appointments on the federal bench.

Americans must stand up and with a mighty roar let GOP leaders know that their insidious plans to bypass the Constitution will not fly.

The "nuclear option" wasn't viable during the Cold War, and it's no more acceptable now.

Christopher Johnson

Chevy Chase

Filibuster didn't kill higher tobacco tax

The article about filibusters in the Maryland Senate mischaracterized the 1999 filibuster against a tobacco tax increase as a "success" ("Miller pursuing the votes to keep filibuster at bay," March 31).

It is true that the filibusterers got the amount of the increase reduced from 36 cents per pack to 30 cents per pack.

But the 30-cent tax increase nearly doubled the state's tobacco tax and, more important, kept about 20,000 Maryland children from becoming addicted to tobacco, nearly 7,000 of whom would have died tobacco-caused deaths.

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