Saturday Mailbox


September 03, 2005

Use the surplus for construction of state's schools

Given the condition of many schools in Maryland, the state's recent announcement that it is projecting a more than $1 billion budget surplus presents us with a unique and important opportunity ("Surplus of over $1 billion reported," Aug. 26).

We can begin to improve the quality of the schools in the state by targeting $400 million for school renovation and construction in fiscal 2007.

The State Task Force to Study Public School Facilities, chaired by state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp, recommended that the state contribute $250 million per year for school renovation and construction over an eight-year period.

We need to ensure that we begin to meet, and exceed, that funding level.

I applaud the members of the General Assembly and the governor for working to increase school construction funding above the original threshold of $150 million last year.

By allocating $400 million for school construction for next fiscal year, the state would move closer to its goal of providing $2 billion to the school construction program by 2013.

The need is so great that Baltimore County funded numerous projects in our own budget that were not included in the state's school construction appropriation, with the hope that the state will reimburse us in the future.

And the projected $1 billion surplus allows the state to make an infusion of one-time funding that would accelerate school construction projects without affecting the state's debt capacity.

Baltimore County is committed to academic excellence.

To meet that commitment, we must provide a safe and healthy environment where teachers can teach and students can learn.

Jim Smith


The writer is Baltimore County executive.

Religious rhetoric won't stop sex trade

Once again, many American conservatives and the religion-based organizations that represent them have demonstrated that they have neither the guts nor the inclination to do the really hard work necessary to eradicate pernicious global problems ("Health groups, religious right clash over anti-HIV efforts for prostitutes," Aug. 28).

Thousands of years of proselytizing have failed to end an increasingly brutal global sex trade. And the politicization of American efforts to stem the rising tide of AIDS rates among sex workers is tragic for those whose needs are the greatest: the sex workers themselves.

Until the governments that represent the privileged among us are willing to address the root causes of prostitution, and to reverse the social, cultural and economic conditions that force sex workers into the vicious trade, we doom the poor (and especially girls and women) to lives of degradation and untimely death.

It is easier to preach abstinence and then smugly claim to have done all that must be done than to address the difficult task of providing economic opportunity and political empowerment to the victimized.

And indeed we have a proven road map for progress against disease and the cruelty that spawns the sex trade: Jeffrey Sachs, in his book The End of Poverty: Economic Possibilities for our Time, demonstrates that in Bangladesh, India and elsewhere, simple and easily affordable programs to lift the desperately poor, and women in particular, to just the first rung of the economic ladder can have enormously positive results.

Unaccompanied by moral sermonizing, simple economic aid reaps huge benefits that help accomplish the ends that advocates on both sides of the political aisle espouse.

Ronald W. Pilling


No one relationship can meet all needs

Kudos to The Sun for giving the inflammatory subject of polyamory such fair treatment ("Term of Endearments," Aug. 29). For bisexuals, at least, polyamory may be the only viable solution to simultaneously being conventional and being true to oneself.

In the early years of our young republic's grand democratic experiment, the American model of marriage was the perfect economic and political solution. But now we have forgotten the original reasons for marriage, and (except for a discerning few) are unwilling to examine why marriage is failing to do the many jobs it's supposed to do.

So when a prospective or existing mate fails to meet one or more of our laundry-list of criteria for marital success and happiness, we feel we must jettison him or her entirely, leaving tsunamis of bitterness in our wake.

Rather than forcing a person to fulfill a function for which he or she is only marginally qualified, wouldn't it be far more practical to have several relationships, each of which succeeds on its own terms?

Imagine a family in which one man is the public deal-maker and persuader, one woman is the chief financial whiz, a second man maintains and troubleshoots all of the family's computers, a second woman is great with children, a third man handles all carpentry and plumbing needs around the house and a third woman is the personal organizer for all six adults and their children - and they all get along with and love one another.

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