Dear Dan," writes Sun reader Donnie Fair of Baltimore. "I'm hoping you might be able to help me understand how the city of Baltimore doesn't have money for critical municipal services, such as trash service, yet it has the money to buy movie theaters."
Dear Donnie: The finances of operating a trash system and making investments in the name of economic development are structurally distinct in Baltimore's budget. Like it or not, the city has a stake in the historic Senator Theatre; taxpayers purchased the mortgage after the owner stopped making payments on a $1.2 million loan the city had partially guaranteed. It's in the city's interests to see the Senator reborn under new management. As for the new trash system - it makes sense, and the one day trash/one day recyclables arrangement has more to do with environmental priorities than budgetary ones.
"Dear Dan," writes Jamie Kenney, in a note about Rocky Point Golf Course in Baltimore County. "Near the snack shack lived an old, blind groundhog named Scruffy. Scruffy was loved by many golfers and staff. My dad even brought him apples every week. The other day, the [golf course] decided to kill 17 groundhogs, including Scruffy. Many golfers and staff are devastated. I think attention should be brought to this act of animal cruelty."
Dear Jamie: Sorry, but ever since Caddyshack, I've refused to defend the rights of golf course rodents. Still, you'll be relieved to know that Rocky Point groundhogs were captured in "Have A Heart" traps and released to an adjacent wooded property, according to Jeff Bell, the course's operations manager. "Scruffy was captured and released as well; he was not old nor blind," says Mr. Bell. "He had become a problem as, wanting food, he was getting aggressive towards customers. Groundhogs are a nuisance and cause a tremendous amount of damage to golf courses and equipment such as irrigation lines and golf carts." There now. Feel better?
"Dear Dan," writes J.M. Varley. "As a young child when I went to the supermarket with my parents, there were no bags, but boxes were provided. Now, it is hard to get a box because the markets hire people to come in at night and bust them up. I don't see why they can't offer boxes to us instead of the plastic bags."
Dear J.M.: That's a good point. Bring it up with the store manager. Start a crusade. Or, you could consider joining Costco. They have boxes galore, and the company treats its employees pretty well.
"Dear Dan, with all due respect to you, and [Walter] Cronkite, he was wrong about Vietnam," writes George B. Smith Sr. "I was in Vietnam from June 1967 through June 1969. In my opinion folks like Ted Kennedy, John Kerry and Jane Fonda played a key role in grasping defeat from the jaws of victory."
Dear George: With all due respect, we'll just disagree and leave it at that.
"Mr. Rodricks," writes Bill Peace, reacting to my criticism of a polemical film about Lyme disease. "PLEASE take your family to the woods and get some tick bites, and see what happens. You are ignorance [sic] and ... I hope that someone close to you get infected!!!"
Dear Bill: Or is it Mr. Peace? Man, you must be a hoot at cocktail parties.
"Dear Dan," writes Suzanne. "Has the Sun ever done a piece on the African-American guy who runs all over Baltimore ... continuously? I see him everywhere as I am sure others have too. I've seen him from Liberty Heights to Parkville. He's an old guy. I'd be so curious as to know what his story is."
Dear Suzanne: A little more information, please. If you're convinced there's some sort of Forrest Gump out there, running nonstop all over Baltimore, then I might agree there's a story worth chasing. But I'm not going on the hunt. Please pin the guy's route down a little - or stop him and get a phone number.
"Dear Dan," reports Dean Paciocco, proud Baltimore sausage maker. "For the second consecutive year, I am pleased to announce that Roma Sausage Co. has been selected for the 2009 Best of Baltimore Award in the Sausages category by the U.S. Local Business Association."
Dear Dean: Congratulations. I know how such an honor feels. I once entered a dish in a benefit cooking competition at the downtown Hyatt and won my category. I still have the award with the inscription: "Dan Rodricks, Best Vegetable."
Dan Rodricks' column appears Wednesdays and Sundays. He is host of the Midday talk show on WYPR-FM.