Saturday's Mailbox

SATURDAY'S MAILBOX

October 28, 2006

Council acts to ease access to treatment

The City Council took a very positive step toward improving the health and safety of our communities when it gave preliminary approval to a bill that would amend city zoning laws that make it difficult, if not impossible, to open or expand outpatient drug treatment programs in Baltimore ("More drug treatment centers," editorial, Oct. 26).

Current city zoning laws compel all drug treatment programs - even those with long histories of success in Baltimore - to get legislation enacted in order to open an office, move or expand.

This process can take up to 12 months, and in many cases results in the denial of a zoning request.

Other medical services have a right, as they should, to open in any appropriate business area of the city. This bill would level the playing field and allow drug treatment programs to locate as other medical service providers do in business zones.

Opponents of the bill argue that it will enable drug treatment programs to open in residential neighborhoods under a zoning exception for professional doctors' offices.

But the fact is that most drug treatment providers would not meet the requirements for such an exception. And there would be few benefits for treatment providers if they were to locate on residential streets.

The bill really allows programs to locate where they are needed and can be most effective - in business areas of the city where they can be easily reached by citizens.

Terry Brown

Baltimore

The writer is chairman of the Baltimore Substance Abuse Directorate and vice chairman of the board of Baltimore Substance Abuse Systems Inc.

Renewal is coming to Reservoir Hill

I applaud Eric Siegel's column that echoed our community's frustrations and concerns with the failure of many buyers of Project SCOPE (for Selling City-Owned Properties Efficiently) properties to complete their renovations in Reservoir Hill in a timely manner ("Slow pace of renovations hurts house-selling program," Oct. 19).

However, the article may have left some readers with the impression that our neighborhood's renaissance has stalled and that this is a community filled with crime and trash.

To the contrary, in addition to the SCOPE properties, there are more than 100 private investor or homeowner renovations in progress in Reservoir Hill. There is hardly a single block where there isn't some renovation or rehab being performed.

While small pockets within the neighborhoods have problems (such as those on Newington Avenue cited in the column), those conditions are not typical of Reservoir Hill.

If you look across Reservoir Hill, you see other things.

You see community gardens. You see parks and vacant lots being cleaned up. You see houses once vacant and deteriorated being occupied.

Reservoir Hill shares the same problems of many city communities, where much of the land fell into the hands of absentee landowners and the neighborhoods suffered from decades of disinvestment by private landowners and the city.

I have lived in Reservoir Hill since 1958 and witnessed several abortive neighborhood revitalizations. However, this latest revitalization has given me renewed hope.

And the reason change has happened is that residents organized to make sure that it happened.

Some of this we have done on our own - restoring yards and lots, cleaning alleys. But we have also pressed the city to take action and bring more resources to our community.

I hope future articles do not just depict our neighborhood's problems and negatives but offer a balance and acknowledge how far we've come.

Harry Peaker

Baltimore

The writer is a member of the board of the Reservoir Hill Improvement Council.

Voting machines don't protect privacy

I want to thank Michael Hill for his article that pointed out that the lack of a "ker-chunk" from a lever on a voting machine may be what disturbs Maryland voters unhappy with the new touch-screen voting system ("Is voting all about the `ker-chunk'?" Oct. 22).

Furthermore, each lever machine was outfitted with a curtain. Every voter knew that when he or she closed that curtain, no one standing outside could determine by listening to the audible clicks of the small levers which candidates were being selected.

When voting machines with levers were first introduced, in some states they ran afoul of laws that required paper ballots for voting.

In many of these states, the highest courts decreed that the use of lever machines was satisfactory because they preserved privacy. And this, the courts suggested, was the essential requirement for public elections, even in the absence of paper ballots.

Now, the new electronic machines are clustered together and have no curtains. A voter walking to or from a vacant machine or sitting in front of a machine often can clearly see how another voter is voting.

I hope that the clear violations of privacy that I, and others, saw on primary day will not happen again in the General Election.

I will closely observe the conditions at my precinct, and I will not stand idly by.

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