New ways for public to play political role

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 18, 2008

While Kima Joy Taylor's column "Democracy diminished when so many don't participate" (Opinion

Commentary, Feb. 12) offers concrete ideas to improve voter turnout, I don't believe political participation is just about the vote.

To get behind the reason people don't vote, we have to look at our government structures.

After one votes, what role is there for the voter? All in all, it is a pretty passive one.

You can go to a meeting and complain to the politician who sits up front saying, "OK, OK, I'll fix that."

You can write a letter to a politician - and you will likely get a very general "thank you" letter that leaves you feeling as though your effort was like a tree falling in a forest.

The challenge for our city and nation is to find structures between elections that allow for real participation. This would definitely involve greater community organizing and more community organizers.

And we might also look closely at a practice in Brazil where many cities use "participatory budgeting" - a process in which capital budget decisions are made at the neighborhood level.

Or we might try developing neighborhood assemblies with a real voice and resources (not just enough funds to hold a block party) and thus real power.

We need to find stronger methods for the voters to hold elected officials accountable between elections.

Many communities around the country are searching for ideas to make our democracy real.

They are trying things such as instant-runoff voting, vastly increased public financing of elections, same-day voting registration, community control of media and cooperative ownership of resources such as electricity, gasoline and natural gas.

What processes can we come together to initiate in Baltimore?

Betty Robinson

Baltimore

Officer owes apology to skater and public

A policeman was nice to me once. I was in college in Annapolis and had parked illegally. I caught him in the middle of writing a citation; he agreed that he would cancel the ticket, helped me park and gave me a ride back home.

I will never forget his actions and will always be grateful.

However, more often than not, I've seen policemen act the way Officer Salvatore Rivieri did to that hapless skateboarder ("Skateboarder calls reaction over the top," Feb. 14).

About a year ago, a city traffic cop yelled at me and was very abusive. He apparently pulled me over just for the sheer pleasure of being able to make me do what he wanted - which was listen to his hysterics - and then directed me to go on my way without responding to his tirade.

His manner was the same as Officer Rivieri's - fury and hysteria, the attitude of a bully.

I do hope that Officer Rivieri will be properly chastised and perhaps have to make a public explanation and apology for the trauma he put that boy through.

Cathy Randall

Baltimore

Can't suppress grin over teen's rebuke

Yes, the officer in the now-famous harbor incident video probably went over the top ("Skateboarder calls reaction over the top," Feb. 14).

But I would bet that there are very few people out there in the real world who could honestly say that they, after years of cleaning up after and ducking obscenities from groups of authority-flouting, disrespectful teenagers, didn't have trouble suppressing a grin as they watched that YouTube video.

Tim Marshallsay

Baltimore

Tougher gun control can stop the killings

As long as the National Rifle Association, a small but incredibly powerful lobby, continues to hold this country hostage to its pro-gun agenda, shootings like the one at Northern Illinois University will continue ("Shooter kills 5 on Ill. campus," Feb. 15).

As we once again ask why this kind of thing happens in our country, we need to look at the guns.

You can't walk into a classroom, stand up in front and murder multiple people without a gun.

Until Americans wake up and understand this and demand strong gun control, such shootings will continue.

Maria Allwine

Baltimore

Don't blame games for youth violence

I am tired of hearing people respond to juvenile crime by pointing at the video game industry ("Violent video games can poison values," letters, Feb. 9).

Children these days are not mindless drones who will absorb anything put in front of them.

When children wrestle and horse around, they know the difference between play and life and aren't going to act that way in a different context.

When they play video games, the same is also true.

Indeed, modern games are often written to make a player feel bad for committing wrong actions and be compelled to make the right choice.

With all of the negative publicity about video games, I'm afraid that public officials and parents are ignoring the real issues behind youth violence - including children's mental stability and the quality of their home life.

I hope people will begin to look at video games as a new form of entertainment and not a desensitizing monster taking over America's youths.

Patrick Sherwick

Towson

Gilchrest's record betrayed party base

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