Talk Back

April 30, 2009

City laws don't just affect group homes

The U.S. Justice Department's suit against the city of Baltimore alleging discriminatory zoning practices related to drug-treatment group homes in the wake of Mayor Sheila Dixon's unsuccessful efforts to win City Council support for amending the law ("U.S. sues city over zoning," April 25) reminds us of other barriers to her initiatives, including her efforts to end homelessness.

First, the same conditional-use ordinance that the Justice Department now alleges has illegally restricted the development of drug-treatment group homes also applies to homes and shelters for homeless people.

The city's 10-year plan to end homelessness acknowledges that the ordinance requirement "may violate fair housing laws" and sets the goal of amending the provision, but to date, the provision remains law.

We urge the city and the City Council, in their negotiations with the Justice Department, to remove all discriminatory zoning provisions, not just those applied to drug-treatment group homes.

Second, the need for housing for extremely low-income people during this economic crisis is undeniable ("Homeless face growing demand for housing," April 27).

Despite the apparent need, however, the Housing Authority of Baltimore City's commitment to develop truly affordable housing is minimal. Recent estimates suggest that more than 3,410 people in Baltimore do not have homes, a 14 percent increase since 2007.

Notwithstanding this clear evidence of increased need for affordable housing, HABC recently announced that only 19.5 percent of its new housing production in the coming year, a mere 598 units, will be rental housing for extremely low-income persons. That's a paltry sum when people are suffering.

Although the mayor may not control the City Council, she does control the Housing Authority, and, now more than ever, she must be vigilant and create housing for those in need.

Antonia K. Fasanelli, Baltimore The writer is executive director of the Homeless Persons Representation Project.

Plan B issue not a matter of science

Apparently the editors of The Baltimore Sun understand the nature of neither science nor politics ("The politics of Plan B," editorial, April 24).

Certainly, science is involved in the development of technology such as Plan B, but the question as to whether the resulting technology should or ought to be used is simply not a scientific question.

An answer, either way, is not a "triumph of science over politics."

A decision regarding government policy regarding the use of technology is nothing if not a political decision.

Charles Roswell, Columbia

Bad assumptions endanger pensions

On Monday The Baltimore Sun presented us with yet another excellent analysis of an important issue facing legislators and the public, this time in the form of unfunded pension obligations in local and state government pension plans in the state ("No quick fix," April 28).

In looking at the various assumptions used regarding investment yields in the plans, it is no surprise that these plans are seriously at risk. Nowhere in my long experience working with private pensions have I seen or heard of a plan's assumptions of 7 percent to 8 percent per annum.

Where were the pension boards, where were the actuaries, where were the auditors? If current pension promises are kept for these plans, the public will likely face huge increases in taxes for a long period of time.

This is scandalous. When will our elected representatives do their jobs in a responsible way?

Sam Davis, Towson

, The writer is a former manager for Black and Decker who worked with the company's pension plan.

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