Saturday Mailbox


February 24, 2007

How did Baltimore become so violent?

I was saddened to read of the two killings near Broadway and Gay Street ("Violence dims area's progress," Feb. 21).

That's the area where I grew up.

The article said the neighborhood was thought to have "turned the corner" on violence. My thought is: How did it turn the corner toward violence?

As a youngster, I walked to Faith Presbyterian Church on the corner of Broadway and Gay Street, and I walked to Public School No. 20 at Federal and Eden streets.

I also walked to the stadium to see the Orioles, and to Clifton Park to play ball or swim almost every summer day. And I never saw a hint of violence.

The median park that ran almost the length of Broadway had lovely flowers in bloom all summer, and some blocks even had urns with goldfish. It made for a lovely Sunday stroll.

In our three-story rowhouse, my grandparents lived on the first floor; my mother, father and I on the second; and my uncle, aunt and cousin on the third.

We could walk to the many movie houses, and on weekends we would walk to Monument Street to shop or go to the Redwing or even the State Theatre to see stage shows.

I met my future wife, who was then a student nurse, when my father was a patient at the old Sinai Hospital, which was across the street from the Johns Hopkins Hospital.

To go downtown, we had the No. 15 streetcar line on Gay Street and the No. 27 on Preston Street.

Despite the lead paint, my friends and I all grew up in a lovely, safe neighborhood.

Those were such happy days. What happened?

Thomas R. Foster


Tax burden deters new homeowners

I've been following with great interest the articles about the city property tax, and I commend The Sun for tackling the issue ("Reassessment Shocker," Feb. 4, and "Dixon studies tax cut method," Feb. 16).

I bought my home in Canton in July 2005, and the next year my home was assessed at $218,830.

In the two years I have owned the house, my property tax bill has more than tripled. Consequently, my mortgage payments increased by $330 a month, just to pay the added property tax.

I live in an 888-square-foot rowhouse with one bedroom and one bathroom. I have checked the Web site for the Department of Assessments and Taxation, and the other properties on my block range in assessment from $148,300 to $172,450, with three higher exceptions.

Recently, I went before the Property Tax Assessment Appeal Board. I argued that because the Maryland Constitution requires uniform assessments, my house should be valued at a level more in line with others on my street. Or that those houses should be assessed at the same value mine is, because I am essentially setting the fair market value.

The board members told me that yes, I did set the market rate, but that they have to cut a break to those people who have been living there for several years before me.

What this comes down to is that new owners are being unfairly penalized for buying in the city. What incentive is that to live in Baltimore?

I am planning to move out of the city this summer, even though I love everything else about where I live.

I simply cannot afford to pay such a significant tax increase.

I know I have to pay the property tax, and I am willing to pay my fair share.

All I ask is that the tax burden be equally distributed.

Lori Romer


Appeasing aggressor is no path to peace

Dan Rodricks excoriates those of us who still support our war in Iraq, accusing us of "garbled thinking," and argues that "anyone who supports George Bush on the war at this point must be just as clueless as the president" ("Iraq goes off the rails, we stay on the sidelines," Feb. 18).

I suggest that Mr. Rodricks and the "pull out now" crowd study the history of 20th-century Western failures to confront terrorism or dictatorship, such as Neville Chamberlain's appeasement of Germany in 1939.

They might also learn the more recent lessons of U.S. and Western attempts at retreat from and appeasement of Islamic terrorism over the last quarter-century.

From President Jimmy Carter's failure to rescue our Iran embassy personnel in 1979, to President Ronald Reagan's retreat from Beirut in 1984 after the Marine compound bombing, to President Bill Clinton's pullout from Somalia, recent presidents have not taken on terrorism directly. They have either fled at the first bloodshed or chosen to ignore intrusions without taking firm action, as Mr. Clinton did with the attack on our warship the USS Cole near the end of his second term.

Mr. Bush has not executed the war well, and he clearly misjudged the sectarian aftermath of the defeat of Saddam Hussein's Baath Party loyalists and army.

But today we are no longer fighting a definable nation-state, but rather ill-defined sects of Islamic fundamentalism, manifested by suicidal terrorists implacably opposed to modernity and Western culture.

We can either kill them in the Islamic countries that harbor and train them or pretend that withdrawal will appease their murderous intent. It won't.

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