Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

February 10, 2007

Commerce triumphs over city's history

Two front-page headlines Tuesday seem to signal an alarming sea change in Baltimore ("Challenge to razing dropped" and "Historic Senator Theatre to be sold at auction," Feb. 6).

Those of us who moved to Baltimore and bought houses here because of the architectural gems scattered in seeming profusion about the city have now discovered that Baltimore is like every other city: History capitulates to commerce.

The preservation organization Baltimore Heritage, which seemed to be a bulwark behind which we could stand and fight for keeping the past as part of our future, didn't call an emergency meeting of its membership or mount a public fundraising appeal to save the 1820s-vintage rowhouses, with their seminal connections to the city's African-American history.

Rather, the board of Baltimore Heritage decided to give up the battle and let Mercy Medical Center bulldoze its way into a future in which Baltimore becomes yet another city of parking lots and tall, ugly buildings.

And then I read about how Tom Kiefaber, owner of the Senator Theatre, has had to agree to a mortgage foreclosure auction and therefore a likely change of ownership.

I finished reading the articles wondering which important historic buildings might be left in Baltimore in a few years. Will they also disappear because there's not enough money to be made from them, or because a nonprofit institution demands their space?

What will be the news tomorrow?

Linda C. Franklin

Baltimore

The writer is a member of Baltimore Heritage.

`Living wage' chills Md. business climate

The Sun's article on Gov. Martin O'Malley's backing of a mandatory "living wage" for companies doing business in Maryland clearly shows that a new age of state government micromanagement of economics is afoot ("O'Malley pledging a `living wage,'" Feb. 2). You can hear business groan as far away as Western Maryland.

As a lifelong Catholic, I do congratulate Mr. O'Malley on his obvious concern for the social and economic well-being of Marylanders.

But the core philosophical problem with political liberalism is and has always been that class warfare and demagoguery damage the process of creating effective public policy. Everyone should have learned this by now.

I think the recent fiasco with the effects of electricity deregulation gives us a hint about how well Maryland legislators really understand the economic implications of their well-intentioned maneuvers.

When policy errors facilitate macroeconomic distortions, it is usually several years, or even longer, before the side effects are felt. At that point, the need for additional interventions often takes on emergency proportions.

You cannot intentionally balance capital and labor. President Richard Nixon tried to do so in the 1970s with his disastrous wage and price controls.

Mandatory state wages for bidders will encourage overbidding, put an additional burden on the state's economy, and eventually mean higher taxes and slower growth.

Somehow, I don't think that's what the governor really wants by the end of his first term.

Frank O'Keefe

Baltimore

LNG project offers jobs and revenue

The editorial "A clear message" (Jan. 30) noted that Baltimore County's attempt to ban liquefied natural gas facilities by amending its zoning regulations was ruled unenforceable by a U.S. district judge.

The court recognized the important role the county has in the review process but determined that the final decision was not the county's to make.

The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission will make the final decision after it has considered all studies performed by AES Corp., all comments received by federal and state regulatory agencies and all information presented by the public.

The process is intended to ensure that national, regional and state interests are considered along with local needs and concerns.

The national interest in diversifying our sources of clean-burning natural gas is obvious.

North America has only about 5 percent of the world's gas reserves, and those supplies are in decline. And the gas pipelines that serve the Mid-Atlantic region, including Maryland, are at or near capacity.

Introducing more gas into this area, with its increasing demand for energy need, would better balance supply and demand and help lower energy prices.

The project also has environmental benefits.

The Maryland Healthy Air Act recognized the need to decrease air emissions from power plants. Increased access to natural gas will help accomplish that goal.

AES will remove contaminated sediments from the Chesapeake Bay during dredging in a safe and controlled manner, and recycle the sediments into useful products rather than putting them in contained disposal areas.

The AES project will also put to productive use the heavy-industrial land at the old Bethlehem Steel site.

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