Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

December 16, 2006

Mitchell manifests little trust of public

As City Councilman Keiffer J. Mitchell Jr. meets with his new national consultants in preparation for his bid for city-wide office ("Preparing for 2007 bid," Dec 8), I can only hope they advise him that the thumping many incumbents took in the last election had much to do with the lack of transparency in government.

And it would have served Mr. Mitchell well if, during the many months he says he was working with Mercy Medical Center ("Rowhouse rider presented in public," letters, Dec. 9), he had notified the city's Commission for Historical and Architectural Preservation and the preservation community that he was quietly working to remove the historic designation of those rowhouses.

And he might have gained some respect if he had notified the rest of the City Council prior to its vote on the matter that these properties once contained Male Colored School No. 1, an irreplaceable part of Baltimore's African-American history.

All of this is part of Mr. Mitchell's pattern of putting his own notion of "due diligence" above public processes and working against the interests of his communities ("Houses stripped of protection," Nov. 26).

He did this unsuccessfully when he supported the idea of building 230-foot skyscrapers in Mount Vernon ("Mount Vernon's plan advances," March 21).

He did it when he unsuccessfully supported demolition of three historic Morton Street buildings last year, again without notifying the preservation community ("Ready for fight over Mt. Vernon structures," Oct. 30, 2005).

Without the open process Mr. Mitchell scuttled for the Mercy buildings, we will have to simply trust him that there are no viable alternatives for Mercy's expansion.

Mr. Mitchell's record makes that a tough pill to swallow.

Phillipa Strydom

Baltimore

City school sets a shining example

Congratulations to the Maryland Blue Ribbon Schools ("Six named Blue Ribbon Schools," Dec. 12). And congratulations to Susan Burgess, the principal of Baltimore's George Washington Elementary School. She's a leader with integrity, courage and vision with the interpersonal skills to lead and build alliances.

Congratulations also to the school's students, teachers, parents and community members, whose dedication and collaboration made the difference.

George Washington Elementary is a shining example of a learning community whose goals are aligned with those of the district and the state and where there is continuous instructional improvement and resources are devoted to support adult learning and collaboration.

Ms. Burgess helps deepen educators' content knowledge, provides them research-based instructional strategies to help students meet rigorous academic standards and prepares them to use various classroom assessments appropriately.

Provide educators with knowledge and skills to involve families and other stakeholders appropriately and you have a recipe for success.

Maggie Kennedy

Phoenix

The writer is a former Baltimore schoolteacher and an education consultant.

Freedom to choose to smoke is critical

In response to the letter "Science shows bans on smoke save lives" (Dec. 13), I would note that, while there is compelling evidence that smoking kills people, that is not what the argument is about.

The reason smoking bans are bad for a society is that they may open the floodgate for the government limiting or banning a lot of things which are bad for our health.

For instance, with obesity rates on the rise, much the same argument could be made for banning fatty foods (and it has been made to justify banning the use of transfats by restaurants in New York City).

The point is that the government has no business telling restaurant owners and patrons what they can or can't do in a private establishment, even if it is dangerous.

This is a societal freedom issue, not a health issue.

And if you truly have a problem with establishments that allow smoking, you can vote with your wallet by not going to that establishment.

Robert Wagoner

Baltimore

Record shows Biden is far from a `bubba'

Kathleen Parker's column "Joe Biden releases his inner bubba" (Opinion

Commentary, Dec. 8) misunderstands Sen. Joe Biden's reference to the fact that South Carolina and Delaware share a tragic history of slavery and segregation - a point he has made repeatedly to very diverse audiences, including in a recent keynote speech to a meeting of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People in South Carolina.

He regularly uses the fact that Delaware was a slave state to remind people that he comes from a place where the challenges of civil rights were real and had to be dealt with directly.

Given his track record on civil rights and civil liberties, it's especially unfortunate that Mr. Biden's comments have been misconstrued.

Among other achievements, Mr. Biden was the architect of the strategy for enacting the bills that extended the Voting Rights Act extension in 1982 and reauthorized the U.S. Civil Rights Commission in 1983.

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