Letters To The Editor


November 07, 2005

Street peddlers part of fabric of the city

I am writing to voice my opposition to the proposal to ban sidewalk peddlers in certain areas of the city ("Council to propose city street peddler ban," Oct. 29). Although I do not doubt the sincerity of its sponsors, the impact of such an ordinance is in need of closer consideration.

First, whether we like to consider it or not, a ban on sidewalk peddlers will disproportionately affect African-American entrepreneurs. The vast majority of sidewalk peddlers are black, and most of their customers are black.

As such, this ordinance may be considered an affront to African-Americans. I know the sponsors well enough to understand that this is not their intent, but, sadly, that will not change the facts of the matter.

Second, if the proposal is designed to prevent obstruction of traffic and attendant dangers, there may be less burdensome ways to address these problems.

For example, vendors could be required to set up in areas where motorists can pull over to patronize them. It is very unusual for sidewalk vendors to sell goods to anyone other than a pedestrian.

Third, let's consider the impact the proposal might have on the wider array of businesses that sell on the street.

Girl Scouts sell cookies from tables in front of grocery stores. Churches have sales on their parking lots and in their front yards. Homeowners have yard sales. These forms of commerce are part of the fabric of our communities.

Finally, Baltimore is a city with an abundance of poor people. Our education system hasn't prepared much of our population for professional life. There just aren't opportunities for many of our people to go into business for themselves.

Many of these street peddlers have no other viable options for making a living in Baltimore. I cringe when I think of the alternative lifestyles that might be available to them.

For all of these reasons, I ask that this proposal not be introduced, and that all of us find a way to incorporate street peddlers into the diverse fabric of our city.

Frank M. Conaway


The writer is clerk of the Baltimore Circuit Court.

Flu preparations come years too late

Concerns about the avian flu migrating to humans have been around for at least three years. Health care agencies have been alerted to this potential disaster and monitored the evolution of the virus during these past several years.

The United States is pitifully behind in having any plan in place to manage such a disaster.

Great Britain has massive quantities of antiviral medication stockpiled, yet the United States has barely enough to manage an outbreak in New York City.

Now we have President Bush taking center stage in an effort to deflect attention from his other deficiencies as a leader to tell us that he has a grand plan for the flu ("Bush unveils plan to battle avian flu," Nov. 2).

But his efforts to now throw around money to develop vaccines and antivirals come about three years later than they should have.

Linda Kelly


Indictment, leak very grave matters

One thing about the indictment of the vice president's former chief of staff, I. Lewis "Scooter" Libby Jr., should be made perfectly clear: This is no small matter, no technicality, no hairsplitting about legal details ("Senators pressing Bush for shake-up," Oct. 31).

Mr. Libby is charged with perjury and obstruction of justice in a major federal investigation. He is alleged to have deliberately misled a grand jury in an attempt to cover up his administration's unlawful tactics.

The Republican spin machine has attempted to call this a "criminalization of politics," but all this is simply about the enforcement of federal law - the law of our land.

The Libby indictment - and the entire story of the Valerie Plame leak - is an illustration of a White House out of control: one that believes it is above the law and that it can crush its enemies by breaking the law and force-feeding lies to the American people.

Ted Knight


Make civil marriage available to all

In overturning a lower court ruling denying partner benefits to same-sex couples of public employees, the Alaska Supreme Court exposes the circular logic that opponents of gay rights use to justify their shameful discrimination ("Alaska's high court backs gay benefits," Oct. 29).

The court wisely acknowledges that even though Alaska was one of the first states to constitutionally ban gay marriage, treating gay couples as second-class citizens violates equal protection principles.

The opposition to gay marriage often wants to have it both ways, saying to lesbian and gay couples: "You aren't entitled to societal protections because you're not married, and, by the way, we're not going to allow you to marry."

The only way to resolve this issue is to separate the civil benefits of marriage, to which gay couples are plainly entitled, from the religious ceremony.

James R. Moody


Send delinquents far away from home

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