Tall condos curtail Federal Hill's vistas
Thanks for the clear and concise article concerning the ongoing drama of the HarborView homes and efforts of local citizens to get city officials to enforce the city's own regulations ("Harbor rooftop hearing today," Aug. 4).
Certainly this area of Baltimore needs development and private investment - no one is arguing that point. But as affected neighbors, we expect this development to be conducted responsibly, and need assurances that the city will enforce its regulations objectively.
And one of the main points discussed in Friday's hearing is the issue that the "penthouses" on top of HarborView exceed the building's height limit ("Both sides raise roof over HarborView," Aug. 5).
As reporter Jill Rosen correctly noted, this dispute centers around a clear-cut city law, the Urban Renewal Ordinance, which requires that the roof of the structure "shall not exceed Elevation 58 feet above mean low tide."
All parties agree that the roofs of the penthouses do exceed that height.
However, city officials now claim that the penthouses are not a "structure." Instead, so that HarborView can proceed with construction, city officials are treating the nicely finished penthouses as if they were "mechanical equipment."
This logic baffles me but, more important, this affair frightens me about future actions of city officials.
Suffering loss of views from Federal Hill Park is bad enough.
But this whole situation suggests that the city is not ready or willing to effectively enforce its own zoning regulations, which casts a very strong shadow on any future development.
The writer is president of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association.
Thank you for the nice article on the HarborView project on Key Highway ("Harbor rooftop hearing today," Aug. 4).
We need all the publicity that we can get so that more people in Baltimore know what is happening before it's too late, and all we see is concrete buildings and fireworks from Federal Hill Park.
Housing poor does more to honor pope
Sadly, I think that the Rochambeau Apartments will be torn down ("City says hands are tied in demolition decision," Aug. 8). I'm afraid that decision was made and sanctioned the moment the Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore secretly purchased it.
A prayer garden honoring Pope John Paul II will replace the hotel.
But if the Archdiocese truly wanted to honor the pope, or any human being, it would be far more holy to renovate and convert the Rochambeau into housing for the poorest of Baltimore's poor.
Housing the poor is a prayer. It pays homage to the Lord.
On one square block we would then celebrate a refurbished basilica and a dwelling place for those most in need.
Now that would be some prayer garden.
The writer is co-founder of Viva House-Baltimore Catholic Worker, a city soup kitchen.
Minimum wage hike isn't a real solution
After reading Dan Rodricks' column regarding the debate on the minimum wage issue, I believe people need to take a more realistic view ("On wages, O'Malley returns to root causes," Aug. 3).
For instance, I noticed that on the Web site for the Economic Policy Institute that only 7.6 percent of workers in Maryland would have been affected by the House bill to increase the minimum wage.
So while increasing the minimum wage is a noble cause, it hardly ranks as "a populist cause" that should prompt someone to change his or her vote.
We also have to consider the issue of illegal immigration.
Congress could increase the minimum wage to $50 an hour, but if there are illegal immigrants and others willing to work for less, there are employers out there to hire them.
Cutting cattle testing imperils our health
The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) announced in July that it will cut testing for mad cow disease by 90 percent ("U.S. to scale back mad cow testing," July 21).
The move was applauded by the National Cattlemen's Association and condemned by consumer groups and by Japan, which has called for more intensive testing before resuming imports of U.S. beef.
Mad cow disease, also known as bovine spongiform encephalopathy is a degenerative brain disease which can lead to erratic behavior and death. It is transmitted through feeding of infected brain and spinal animal tissues to other cows.
Human consumption of infected beef can lead to Creutzfeldt-Jakob disease, a deadly form of dementia that is frequently confused with Alzheimer's disease.
Federal safety measures, including the 1997 ban on feeding potentially infected cow body parts to other cows, lack adequate enforcement.
Between January 2004 and May 2005, the USDA reported more than 50 violations of mad cow disease-related health regulations per month by U.S. meat plants.
Its failure to institute an adequate testing program smacks of a crude attempt to hide the problem from the American people.