Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

March 17, 2007

Firing prosecutors politicizes justice

There is a reason the statue of justice wears a blindfold: No one is above the law, everyone should be equal before the law and no one should be persecuted by the justice system because of his or her politics.

The loyalty of federal prosecutors should be to those they serve and the impartial administration of justice, not to a political party.

But apparently Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales, the Bush administration's Justice Department and the White House disagree ("Bush aide urged firing prosecutors," March 13).

Since the Bush administration came to power in 2001, investigations into local Democratic politicians have been seven times more frequent than those into their Republican counterparts. Is this a six-year coincidence or has the prosecutorial system been politicized?

The Justice Department summarily dismissed eight U.S. attorneys in December for what appear to be political reasons.

The firings look like a political purge aimed at preventing corruption investigations of Republicans by replacing independent-minded (Republican) prosecutors with politically loyal and subservient ones.

Every administration has the right to fire people. But the perception that justice isn't being administered fairly and impartially is more dangerous than mere bad staffing decisions.

And when the administration of justice is no longer fair and impartial, and political loyalty becomes the criterion by which prosecutors keep their jobs, we have lost something important.

Roger C. Kostmayer

Baltimore

No slogan will stem city's litter problem

Mayor Sheila Dixon is apparently planning to waste our tax dollars on an ad campaign that won't work ("Getting city to pick it up," March 13).

Catchy slogans are fun. But anti-littering ads don't work because changing people's behavior is very different from getting people to choose one brand over another.

Parents don't have to be persuaded to buy peanut butter for their kids. That's why "Choosy mothers choose Jif" was an effective ad slogan - the advertiser simply had to get parents to choose its peanut butter over other brands.

But behavior scientists have found that "norming" and social pressure work much better than advertising to change behavior.

For example, subjects returning to cars with fliers on the windshield were less likely to litter the flier if the parking lot was already litter-free and were also less likely to litter if they saw someone else picking up trash in the parking lot.

Therefore, I urge the mayor to consider spending the money instead on extra trash pickup and street cleaners, perhaps in a pilot program targeting one neighborhood at a time, to establish a norm of clean behavior and monitor results.

We all have seen city trash cans overflowing.

The message this sends is stronger and louder than any million-dollar ad campaign.

Caroline S. Ingles

Baltimore

The writer is a former training coordinator for the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency's Chesapeake Bay Program.

Bottle bill best way to block litter blight

I think the best way to reduce the blight of litter on the city is for the mayor and her administration to support the bottle bill now before the state legislature ("Getting city to pick it up," March 13).

Under such a law, a 5-cent deposit on all beverage containers would remove the largest, bulkiest and most valuable part of the litter stream.

If discarded, the plastic bottles and aluminum beverage containers would not remain as litter very long, because the 5-cent deposit would provide a powerful incentive for enterprising kids or other folks to pick them up to earn some extra pocket money.

Removing beverage containers from the streets through a deposit system also provides a way to get those containers back for recycling, thus keeping them out of the waste stream where they would otherwise be buried in a landfill or incinerated.

Litter begets litter.

But if beverage containers are removed from our streets, people will be less inclined to discard other forms of litter.

Ajax Eastman

Baltimore

Find more equitable path to development

I heartily applaud the writer of the "tell it like it is" letter about the skewed and destructive priorities that lead to approval for building bloated and intrusive monstrosities such as those in the Harbor East ("Ritzy development leaves poor behind," March 10).

This crazy encouragement of development by and for those with huge wealth, even as the city refuses to pursue a more equitable approach - one that would stress affordable housing throughout Baltimore, all-around economic development leading to more and better jobs for all our citizens and an all-out push to shape up education in Baltimore - will inevitably lead to a continuing loss of middle-class, working city residents to the suburbs.

These sumptuous palaces for the very rich will do nothing to reduce poverty and the violent crime and drug-dealing that go with it.

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