Letters To The Editor


August 08, 2008

Work based on faith can meet real needs

Michele Gilman's column "Faith-based initiatives: Do they really work?" (Commentary, Aug. 3) asserts that "religious congregations have proved to be no substitute for trained professionals" in dealing with our social ills and that "these congregations are no substitute for long-standing governmental and nonprofit welfare programs."

In the context of the entire commentary, it is clear that she deems faith-based social work to be somehow inferior to the government-based variety.

As the volunteer director of a local faith-based soup kitchen and food pantry, I take offense at Ms. Gilman's assertions.

To begin with, we do not "coerce" anyone who comes through our doors - and I believe I can speak for the vast majority of organizations like mine when I say that.

Faith-based and community-based charitable organizations may not address every single social issue in every single community across this country. But in those places we work and for those purposes we set out to address, we generally operate effectively and efficiently.

We don't waste billions of dollars on administrative red tape. We adapt quickly to the changing sets of circumstances that surround us. We can generally discern between those who are truly needy and those who are trying to take advantage of us. And we are not beholden to political interests of any kind.

Every faith-based and community-based charity starts with a person or set of persons who truly care about the well-being of others. Every government welfare program starts with a politician. Need I say more?

A civilized society must have some means of redistributing wealth so that the less fortunate among us have access to life's basic necessities. But instead of debating the best way to plow government money back into communities, why not leave the money there in the first place?

Let's cut wasteful government spending on social programs and, in turn, write provisions into the tax code that encourage more taxpayers to channel more donations directly to the charities of their choice.

In such a scenario, charities that are ineffective and inefficient would eventually fail, and the gaps in the services provided would be filled by newer and better organizations.

To anyone who wishes to discredit or trivialize the efforts of faith-based charities, I say this: We've been doing this for hundreds of years. We may think in idealistic terms, but we deal in realistic terms. We are constantly on guard against wasteful spending. And we deliver our services to the people and places that need them the most. So please, give us some credit.

Michael J. Perrone Jr., Edgewood

The writer is director of the Sharing Table.

Homeowners bear city's tax burden

In his column "Low-tax ranking bit of a stretch" (Aug. 1), Jay Hancock asked "real Baltimore business people" about the KPMG study that found that Baltimore businesses enjoy the second-lowest tax burden of any large city in the United States and, not surprisingly, found little support for that view in the business community.

However, the KPMG study bears serious consideration and debate. At a minimum, The Sun should have prominently reported the study instead of limiting its coverage to a rebuttal column in the business section.

Naturally, the business community wouldn't want this study to get much local attention.

Imagine the consequences of an informed public drawing the inevitable conclusion that our homeowners are carrying the enormous burden of subsidizing the lowest business tax rate in the continental United States.

While our businesses enjoy low taxes, our homeowners are subjected to the highest property tax in the region with dire consequences for the city.

The mayor and her Blue Ribbon Committee on Taxes and Fees failed to address this major tax disparity.

But starting Sept. 4, Baltimore will have a more representative review of the matter with the launch of the City Council's Special Committee on Property Tax Relief chaired by Councilman William H. Cole IV.

He'll need to hear residents' voices clearly and loudly because the business community is highly invested in the status quo and obviously knows how to get its way.

Paul Warren, Baltimore

Simpler lifestyle is more rewarding

Steve Chapman summed up our economic problem correctly ("Face reality of lower standard of living," Commentary, Aug. 5).

I think all of us have to determine what is a need and what is a want. Buying gadgets, owning three and four cars per family, whizzing around in gas-guzzlers, going on spontaneous shopping sprees and routinely depending on restaurants, pizza parlors and fast-food drive-ins are not things we need to do.

I think many Americans have forgotten the joy of just gathering with family and friends, going on walks with their children, using a library and taking advantage of having a budget and simply enjoying the home they paid so much for.

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