November 08, 2008

Missing other ways to save Turnbull house

I was glad that the auction of the Grace Turnbull house was postponed ("Artist's home auction halted," Nov. 2), possibly as a result of Edward Gunts' article "From preservation to desperation" (Nov. 1). But while it is disappointing that the bulk of the estate still went to auction, I am hopeful that the house will find a new owner who is willing to preserve much of its unique beauty and character.

I understand and empathize with the fact that both the Maryland Historical Society and the Baltimore Museum of Art are facing financial shortages. But I wonder if the institutions considered all of the possible options for preserving the Turnbull property.

For instance, many historic buildings located within the boundaries of state and federal parklands are offered to willing stewards with long-term or even lifelong leases.

The steward agrees to maintain the building to historic standards and make the building accessible to scholars in exchange for not being burdened with a mortgage.

When the lease term is up or the steward is no longer able to maintain the property, the property reverts back to the state, or in the case of the Turnbull house, it could revert to the trustees of the estate.

I believe that there are people who would be willing to take on such an agreement for the Turnbull property, and I even had brief discussions with a trustee of the Maryland Historical Society last summer about the possibility of such an arrangement for this house. But, obviously, an agreement like this might have made more sense when the contents of the house were still intact.

The fact that the Turnbulls' studio, library and art collection have been split among the highest bidders is a loss for the people of Baltimore.

The Maryland Historical Society and the BMA (two institutions that receive significant government funding) should have done more to preserve this unique property in the way its owner intended.

Adam Blumenthal, Baltimore

The writer is a former director of the Baltimore Architecture Foundation and a current board member of the Baltimore City Historical Society.

Changeable-signs law a boon for business

The Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce wants to thank the Baltimore County Council for voting to allow changeable signs to change their display every 15 seconds ("Business owners to fight limits on electronic signs," Nov. 4).

Although the chamber lobbied for a rule that would have allowed signs to change every three seconds, we appreciate the change from the 30-minute time frame originally proposed in the council.

We are still concerned, though, about the limitation on scrolling signs, and hope to engage in further dialogue on this issue.

But we applaud the County Council for its pro-business outlook and look forward to working with its members in the future on issues that will help business grow and flourish.

Keith Scott, Baltimore

The writer is president and CEO of the Baltimore County Chamber of Commerce.

Parity law helps meet cost of mental illness

While I was not surprised by the biased attack on parity for mental health insurance coverage by Richard E. Vatz and Jeffrey A. Schaler, given the political stance of at least one of the writers, I was saddened by the column "'Parity' through the back door" (Commentary, Oct. 23).

As most qualified mental health professionals know, without therapeutic assistance, society's costs related to adults who are unable to maintain their work productivity, their family obligations and their social activities because of mental health problems are enormous.

But with assistance from licensed or appropriately supervised mental health specialists, such individuals can resume being productive members of society.

Similarly, children and youths with mental health problems often cannot function well in their schools, social systems or families without therapy or counseling.

The issues around mental health insurance parity may revolve partially around finances.

Those who are financially fortunate can afford to pay for therapy for themselves and their young people out of pocket.

The rest of the population has to depend on low-cost intervention or insurance - or go without treatment.

Barbara R. Slater, Timonium

The writer is a professor emeritus of psychology at Towson University.

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