Letters To The Editor


May 23, 2008

Peer programs offer hope for the schools

It is important for readers to understand that Peer to Peer Enterprises are community-based programs - not ones based in or associated with a particular school ("Students end their protest at City Hall," May 16).

For instance, the Algebra Project has sites in several schools, but projects such as Unchained Talent and Wide Angle Youth Media and Kids on the Hill are not based in schools. They attract young people from across the city.

Although Mayor Sheila Dixon says the school system, and not the city, should pay for the peer-to-peer work, there is no way the school system will invest in groups that are not part of schools.

City schools CEO Andres Alonso is supportive of the Peer to Peer Enterprises concept.

But it is important to stress that most of the groups participating in the project are not associated with the schools and need the increased capital that the $3 million the project has requested from the city would provide to expand and to hire more young people.

Peer to Peer is a new way of doing business in Baltimore - a way to make sure that young people are part of the knowledge-based economy and productive now, rather than waiting until they are out of school.

The $3 million requested could hire 1,000 young people to teach and train up to 6,000 other young people.

That is a worthwhile investment.

Odette T. Ramos, Baltimore

The writer is a consultant to the Peer to Peer Enterprises project.

I was so impressed to learn about the Peer to Peer Enterprises program.

A coalition of 20 youth-based groups has banded together and proposed an initiative to hire 700 to 1,000 youth mentors and tutors. These student leaders would work with struggling Baltimore students by providing tutoring services and after-school programs.

They would serve as positive role models and help struggling students succeed.

This initiative would have multiple benefits.

First, it would surely help the school system improve its dismal test scores and graduation rate.

Second, it would address the school discipline problem by rewarding students who exhibit model behavior and strong academic achievement.

This program would also provide knowledge-based job opportunities for city youths, which would help boost the local economy.

This student-led initiative should be perceived by Mayor Sheila Dixon as a gift. But she has refused to fund the project.

Perhaps there are budgetary reasons that the city cannot provide the full $3 million the students have requested.

However, Ms. Dixon should be working collaboratively with the students to ensure that this project gets off the ground.

Instead, she has flatly refused to include funding for the project in the city budget and refused to have a formal meeting with its student advocates.

The students camped out for days and nights in front of City Hall. But they have received little more than a cold shoulder from Ms. Dixon.

This is bad policy and bad manners.

Vince Tola, Baltimore

Boost for sugar is good for city

I was amazed at Jay Hancock's column on sugar policy - amazed at its inaccuracies and amazed that Baltimore's hometown paper would run such a column ("Farm bill is sweet for Big Sugar," May 16).

One look at the Inner Harbor today is a painful reminder of the fall of American manufacturing. Once surrounded by iconic U.S. brands, Domino's Sugar now stands alone as a beacon of opportunity for the city's workers.

And the column's insinuation that the sugar policy in the new farm bill will benefit few other than Domino and its hundreds of Baltimore workers is laughable.

This bill helps keep Domino in Baltimore - that's good for the city's tax base and unemployment rate. It does so at little cost to taxpayers because sugar farmers don't get crop subsidies.

And it ensures that grocery shoppers don't have to depend on unreliable foreign sources for an essential ingredient.

U.S. food manufacturers pay less for sugar today than they did in 1980. They pay far less than their counterparts in other developed countries.

This might explain why U.S candy companies are announcing major expansion projects - not fleeing to Mexico (a country with higher sugar prices), as Mr. Hancock contends.

George H. Wedgworth, Belle Glade, Fla.

The writer is president and CEO of the Sugar Cane Growers Cooperative of Florida.

Quake underscores chemical dangers

On May 6, The Sun printed an article about Chinese unrest over a multibillion-dollar petrochemical plant planned for Chengdu, the capital city of Sichuan province ("Chinese stroll in protest of petrochemical plant," May 6).

Many citizens "illegally" marched and protested for hours in this tightly controlled area to protect their environment. Unfortunately, Chinese citizens do not have our constitutionally protected right to petition their government.

Less than a week later, their province lay in ruins because of a mega-earthquake that caused untold civilian loss of life and property damage.

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