March 14, 2009

City needs funds to repair pipes

The Baltimore Sun's article about the Washington Suburban Sanitary Commission seeking to claim a portion of the stimulus money available for water projects that would otherwise go to Baltimore cited the recent Montgomery County water-main break seen on national TV ("Md. to review water grants," March 6).

But I, for one, think funding projects in one of the nation's richest counties, Montgomery County, by taking money from a poorer jurisdiction, Baltimore, is counterproductive.

Naturally, Montgomery County's water drama was national news because the networks operate out of Washington. But Baltimore has seen lots of equally bad water main breaks. The one on Madison Street, for instance, did major damage to the State Highway Administration headquarters and other buildings ("Washed out," Feb. 9).

We have seen the city Department of Public Works explain the reasons for these breaks: old pipes underground moving through cycles of freezing and thawing until they snap.

The city seems to address these problems quickly once a problem occurs. But it needs more funding to avoid water spills like the one on Madison Street.

Many here in densely populated, poorer Baltimore are tapped out on our water bills as we pay to improve the city's pipes. We deserve some help from outside funds.

Mark N. Schechter, Baltimore

State song debate a waste of time

I cannot believe I read the article "Singing a different tune?" (March 7) in last Saturday's Baltimore Sun.

First, I can't believe that the topic is being discussed in this session of the General Assembly, and second, I can't believe that The Baltimore Sun, which has been downsizing in recent months, would devote more than half a page to this discussion.

Given the major issues Maryland is facing (i.e., the economy, job losses, foreclosures and a budget shortfall), I fail to see the value of our representatives spending valuable time on such a nonissue as debating the lyrics to the state song.

Then again, maybe it is this type of mentality that has helped put the state in its current position.

As a child, when I would do or suggest something that was inappropriate, my parents would say, "There is a time and place for everything."

I wish state Sen. Jennie Forehand, the sponsor of a bill to revise the state song, had gotten that lesson.

Bob Horensky, Ellicott City

Poor pay drives doctors from state

My patients and I would vote for "Keep Holding On" by Avril Lavigne as the new state song ("Singing a different tune?" March 7).

The reason I say this is that the Baltimore area ranked dead last among 319 areas examined by the Government Accountability Office in a 2005 study of physician reimbursement.

Because our area's reimbursement rate for physicians is only 73 percent of the national average, even though our cost of living is above the national average, few new doctors are coming to this area and many old ones are retiring early or leaving.

The state has offered only Band-Aid solutions to tort reform and allowed an oligarchy of insurers to strangle the physicians trying to provide essential medical services.

Patients and physicians have just tried to "Keep Holding On" through 20 years of declining reimbursement rates and collapsing physician supply.

Dr. Ted Houk, Towson

The writer is an alternate delegate for MedChi, the Maryland State Medical Society.

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