December 31, 2008

Cutting police budget could prove very costly

As a small business owner and city resident, I am concerned that Baltimore officials are cutting overtime expenses in the Police Department to help reduce a budget shortfall ("Shifting priorities affect police presence on the city waterfront," Dec. 14).

Although I understand that the economy has taken a toll on the funding for local governments, it is important to point out that since these cuts have been put in place, the city murder rate has apparently gone up and nuisance crimes have increased.People need to feel secure living, working and visiting the city. And I am afraid that the cost of these cuts to Baltimore will be much greater than the savings.

Few issues are more important than public safety, and if Baltimore is perceived as unsafe, we will all suffer the consequences.

I am particularly concerned about the many independent businesses throughout the city that give Baltimore its unique charm and depend on support from residents in the surrounding counties as well as tourists.

If crime increases in the city, I fear we will have a harder time attracting tourists and convention groups and even people from our own backyard may stop coming into the city to eat and shop. This would jeopardize the livelihood of hundreds of small business owners.

If anything, we need more, not fewer, police officers on the street to continue the progress in fighting crime that Commissioner Frederick H. Bealefeld III has made.

I truly hope that our leaders in city government will rethink any plans to reduce funding levels for the Police Department.

Our future depends on a safer Baltimore.

Cheri Cernak, Baltimore

Wasting tax dollars on failed gym project

If you live in Baltimore, as I do, and pay real estate taxes that are about twice as high as those in any county in the state, then The Baltimore Sun's article "Ruled out" (Dec. 27) is must reading. It is a real eye-opener about how the city wastes taxpayer dollars.

Baltimore is out more than $400,000 on this gym project, according to Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano.

Mr. Graziano says he would like to get as of that money as possible back from the state; lots of luck on that one, as the state has its own fiscal problems.

R. A. Bacigalupa, Baltimore

Spend city's money on public rec centers

Perhaps Del. Talmadge Branch could explain to Maryland taxpayers how a private, for-profit gym would benefit the bored, aimless and mostly not rich youths on the streets of East Baltimore ("Ruled out," Dec. 27).

It is highly unlikely that they or their families could afford the fees to use such a facility.

Indeed, the gross impropriety of this project is staggering.

If the thousands of tax dollars that have been wasted on it had gone directly to support existing public recreation facilities, thousands of young people would have had more to do, and more to think about than the corruption of those who call themselves leaders.

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam, Baltimore

Family planning curbs pregnancies, debts

While we all want to avoid infant deaths and are sympathetic about lost fetuses, given that so many of these deaths result from unplanned pregnancies, couldn't there be more counseling and education offered to the population likely to get pregnant on family-planning methods ("Help for young mothers," editorial, Dec. 22)?

That could also help relieve many of the medical debts The Baltimore Sun has noted on its front pages ("In Their Debt," Dec. 21-23).

Marion Howard, Baltimore

Menus for patients still need healing

As a frequent hospital patient, I was fascinated to read about the positive changes happening in hospital food service ("Hospital cafeterias: Heal thyselves," Dec. 23).

Unfortunately, I have never seen anything remotely as healthful and tasty-sounding on my hospital trays as the menus outlined in this article. In fact, I've been amazed at all the meat and other unhealthful food I've been offered and the scarcity of vegetarian choices.

Given what we know about the link between diet and disease, it's time to change the menus for hospital patients as well.

Simon Chaitowitz, Washington

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