Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

May 31, 2008

Fasting to give city kids a chance

I've lived long enough to watch my city descend through some levels of the underworld. I ask: Who will stand up to fix the problems of my Baltimore?

We students in a coalition called Peer-to-Peer Enterprises are aware of the injustices city youths face.

Peer-to-Peer organizations employ older youths to teach their younger peers skills and knowledge.

In the past few years these organizations have employed hundreds of youths, helped increase test scores, kept young away people from violence and drugs and established "families" outside the home.

These programs should be expanded and need sustained investment to grow their accomplishments.

The Peer-to-Peer coalition has requested $3 million from the city's budget to create an additional 700 to 1,000 jobs and provide services to thousands more peers.

The funds would allow youths to participate actively in a knowledge-based economy. Peers help peers learn all kinds of things: public speaking and debate, algebra, theater and playwriting, drumming and dance, video production and much more. These technical skills help students plan successful futures.

The City Council unanimously approved a resolution in March requesting that the mayor include this $3 million in the city's budget. But Mayor Sheila Dixon has refused the council's request.

The City Council recently missed an opportunity to do something to help us by refusing to fund Peer-to-Peer Enterprises with the interest on the city's rainy day fund ("Youth fund boost denied," May 29).

The interest this year will be approximately $3.5 million on a total fund of $88 million.

We don't understand why an investment in our youth can't be made from the interest on money that isn't even being used. In effect, we're just asking for the loose change under the cushions in the sofa.

Why would the City Council unanimously pass a resolution in March but then tell us in May that we aren't worth a little interest?

Having exhausted all other courses of action, we have decided that participating in a hunger strike is a way to take action against injustice.

We dedicate our bodies in solidarity with our peers. Educationally, we're starving already. We choose now to represent voluntarily what's already happening to us against our will.

We would love to eat of the fruits of knowledge-based jobs and quality education. But our city, not our peers, keeps us hungry.

Bryant Muldrew, Baltimore

The writer is a student at Baltimore City Community College who works for one of the Peer-to-Peer Enterprises groups and is one of the hunger strikers demanding city funding for the Peer-to-Peer program.

Naive to scorn judicial lobbying

As a former member of the legislature, the judiciary and a judicial nominating commission, I find this fuss in Anne Arundel County over a judicial nomination astonishingly naive ("Miller alerted about fallout," May 28).

Judicial selection commission members provide a valuable service to an appointing authority. They vet nominees who are often little known.

Typically, the commission members receive many contacts, written and oral, about the possible nominees, and they often interview the nominees as well.

Local, state and special-interest bar associations are also a part of the process.

But the decision is ultimately up to the appointing authority. In state courts, that is the governor. In federal courts, it is the president.

While some may believe judgeships are awarded on the basis of merit alone, this is hardly the reality. Judicial appointments are made largely on the basis of lobbying.

For the federal courts, the lobbying is often by a friendly U.S. senator.

For the state courts, it is usually by someone who has the governor's ear.

This is the reality of judicial appointments.

For experienced commission members to resign over this sort of thing just because state Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller (who has a political lifetime of helping constituents) may have been part of an effort to have his son appointed as a judge is absurd and makes one wonder about their agenda.

James J. Lombardi, Annapolis

The writer is a retired Circuit Court judge.

Slots wrong way to revive racing

The first cursing I can remember hearing was addressed to a one-armed bandit, 40-odd years ago in Annapolis. The anonymous harbor-front gambler had just lost his quarter, and I asked my mother what was happening. "That," she said in disgust, "is a slot machine."

Some people claim that ready access to such addictive gambling will help balance the state budget, create jobs and save Maryland's racing industry.

Canadian billionaire Frank Stronach, who owns Magna Entertainment Corp., and I know better.

Slots are a mechanism for moving money from the hands of many into the pockets of a few. And if today's rosy predictions about the impact of slots don't pan out, we can expect to hear how racing cannot survive without, you guessed it, more slots.

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