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Mad as Hell, etc.

Posted 4/19/2006

I agree with Brian Morton (Political Animal, April 12), but a lot of people don’t seem to understand that all of Baltimore Gas and Electric Co.’s budget billing customers have already been hit with at least a 50 percent to 65 percent rate hike in the past two months. The city tried to sue to block that from happening and was unsuccessful. My electric bill is almost more than my car payment now. With all the finger-pointing, most of them are pointing right back to the culprits: our esteemed politicians who made the deal that gave back the power plants to Constellation Energy Group and still made us pay them for their suffering. Yeah, they’ll defer our 72 percent rate hike and charge us a percentage rate to finance the difference. What, is BGE merging with Capital One? Can I transfer the balance to another card with a lower percentage rate?

This whole legislative session has been a joke. State schools Superintendent Nancy Grasmick is a political piranha and has always lusted for the ultimate power. She could certainly point fingers when the original city school problems surfaced but would not help at all. Now she thinks she can do a better job—not a shot. Not one politician has any of our best interests at heart and never will. As I explained to my 13-year-old, they spend four years trying to dig themselves out of the mess left for them and, if they survive, then spend another four years making a bigger mess for the next batch. Everyone should definitely vote this election, or don’t complain the next day.

Kimberly Siegert

Signs of the Times

The City Council’s attack on neighborhood signs, aimed at those seeking to buy houses, must be tempered with restraint as to message by citizens having a noncommercial quest (“Signs, Everywhere Signs,” Mobtown Beat, April 12)—from “lost dog” to some kid’s lemonade stand or parent’s garage sale, to “re-elect the Councilman” or “time for a change” fliers. These noncommercial messages are constitutionally protected communications.

I support efforts to clean up the mess, but ever since before the American Revolution, citizens and dissidents have gotten their message to fellow citizens by bulletin boards, fence postings, anywhere one might see a message. One answer is for more vigilant policing by utility companies and the city of abusive commercial messages, rather than hauling into court some Asian merchant posting a message “with five you get egg roll,” when there are language problems as well as marketing problems involved.

And only incumbent politicians can afford the U.S. Mail; one might think the new ordinance is an Incumbents Protection Act rather than an environmental measure.

Mike Schaefer

It’s a Set-Up

Thank you for publishing my letter about City Council President Sheila Dixon, and my thoughts on why a “setup” might have been implemented to bring a strong black woman down (“Covering Alleged Black Corruption Is Racist, as Is Covering Who’s Covering Alleged Black Corruption,” The Mail, April 12).

I read in a book once that the ideas of smart women do make all men feel threatened in their worlds of business, education, the arts, politics, and religion. To put it plain, there is a serious gender double standard in conservative America (maybe all of this country). I believe that the majority of men in America want women to live a double standard because the white Christian church has created a moral code of white male supremacy to keep all women down (“You must be punished, Eve, for sinning in the garden”). Why are young girls becoming violent in America?

As an Afrocentric feminist, I am very disturbed about the number of recent incidents in America that have “set up” black women to be perceived as guilty of a crime or whorish in human essence.

I am angry as Hades at black men who have a slave mentality that continues to live in a rut in some part of their brains that makes black men believe black women benefited from the slave system (master’s house) to assumed freedom (affirmative “white women benefits” action). As a result, a lot of black men are not speaking out and defending the human essence of Sheila Dixon, or the exotic dancer who might have been physically abused or whose vagina might have been violated by members of the Duke University lacrosse team. It seems to me that Cynthia McKinney’s radical militant ideas are disturbing white male Democrats and Republicans in Congress.

If this country continues to “set up” black women to harm them with jail time or disgrace, black radical women will give this country a time that no terrorist in the Middle East will succeed—that’s my honest opinion.

Let the fire trucks roll, the fire next time is coming. We black women will not be taken for granted.

Larnell Custis Butler

His Ears Are Ringing

My daughters and I swear Vincent Williams has a bug in our house or he was a very smart City Paper hire. When I showed my daughters his column on class rings (Social Studies, April 5), they both burst into laughter because they know how proud I am of my Lincoln Senior High (East St. Louis) class ring that I wear to this day. Lincoln was also home to Jackie Joyner Kersee. Jackie stopped me several times in the hall, asking, “Do you play sports?” Sorry, Jackie, you’re talented. I’m lazy!

Now onto my daughter losing her Baltimore School for the Arts class ring and promising she will pay for its replacement. Yes, Vince, tell your wife I’m proudly looking forward to my youngest daughter’s Western ring. See, Oprah, in this house the high-school class ring is a sign of the start of a successful road. Exhale exhale

Sharon Wright

Legislative Failures

In “Kill Bill” (Mobtown Beat, April 5), City Paper briefly described a series of expungement bills that the legislature failed to pass during the 2006 session. While there are slight differences among the bills, each would ensure that people who are arrested but not charged with a crime do not lose out on job opportunities because the arrest appears on their criminal record.

In Baltimore City alone, approximately 1,600 individuals are arrested each month and then released without being charged. Though they have committed no crime, the arrest appears on their criminal record and remains there until it is expunged. In order to expunge the arrest, applicants must wait three years or waive their right to sue the state for damages. This presents a great barrier since employers are often reluctant to hire people with criminal records, and many employers are unable to separate convictions from arrests due to the confusing nature of the information presented on background reports.

The bills introduced during the 2006 session would have corrected this problem by calling for the automatic expungement of arrests without charge. What’s disturbing is that the bills were not considered on their merits. As described in your article, the bills clearly failed because of politics. And so, another 20,000 people this year will be left to try to explain to their employer, or their would-be employer, why they have a criminal background when they never committed a crime. Maybe it’s our legislature that needs to do the explaining.

Melissa Chalmers Broome
Senior Policy Advocate, Job Opportunities Task Force

Recycling the debate

Unfortunately, all I have to boast about is a degree in philosophy and Spanish that I won’t have achieved until May 2006, while Sidney Rankin has a background in research, is an author of papers, speaker at the Center for Plastics Recycling Research at Rutgers University, and an officer of the Maryland Recyclers Coalition. I am writing this letter, Mr. Rankin, to contest some of the claims that you have made, and to challenge our intelligent Baltimore citizens to think outside the little box you have constructed from your comments in the April 5 edition of City Paper (“Reduce, Reuse, Reply,” The Mail).

You see, my fellow citizens, Mr. Rankin is right about many of these things. BRESCO’s incinerator does produce electricity that may otherwise have been obtained through fossil-fuel burning. He is also correct in his analysis of aluminum and the benefit of it being recycled. Finally, I agree that it is worthwhile to recycle glass, because it is a money-saving tool for businesses like restaurants and bars that are charged for the weight of their trash. Removing the glass is beneficial in that regard, specifically to the municipality and the food and beverage services.

Now for my own analysis: Mr. Rankin failed to bring to light some important factors in recycling and asked a number of questions that I will answer. Before I continue I would like to alert people that recycling is not going to save the world, and proponents like me already know this. No one is saying that it will. That being said, what recycling does is reduce the amount of what are called “virgin” materials being used to create products.

This is one of the largest benefits of recycling. The reduction of source materials being used to create products is a benefit to everyone, inside and outside Baltimore. The manufacturing process of many products like paper and plastics is extremely harmful to the environment by polluting water and air sources—things I think we use here in Baltimore. More environmental damage is incurred due to the packaging and transportation of these goods around the country and world. That is the benefit to Baltimore. Clean air. Clean water—the Save the Bay campaign might want to comment.

Plastics are the most beneficial resource to BRESCO’s facility, not paper or anything else. Why? Because plastics come from petroleum. Petroleum is a fossil fuel, although I’m not a research scientist. So that would mean that the incinerator is burning fossil fuels anyway.

While Mr. Rankin does have a point that the benefits of recycling are not limitless and there are some deterrents, I would argue overall that recycling is more good than bad. The city Department of Public Works should provide more recycling resources and pickups because citizens want them. They work for us, and that is their incentive. I am sure that there are people without jobs in the city who would be more than willing to work a collection or sorting job.

The environmental crisis we are in isn’t going to get better by burying paper and burning plastics. As scientists and concerned citizens, whichever you may be, we need to come together and discuss solutions for this crisis. Those are your reasons, decide for yourself.

Dana A. Koteen
Community Liaison, Roy’s Baltimore

Made You Look, Think

Before I noticed what the women in the picture (Untitled Image, April 5), were dressed in (or not dressed in!), I noticed two things present in the picture that are absent from the picture of women I see in society. The first thing I noticed was the wonderfully large smile on the young woman’s face at the far right. How much would it cost to equip every woman on Earth with such a pure and lovely expression? Smiles are so absent from the world. Inner joy is missing. A stripper seems to be the last person I would expect to embody this virtue. It was unexpected but refreshing.

The second thing that I noticed was that there are three women in this picture helping each other out. It might not be the most important moment of aid, but it is aid. It is known but not widely accepted that women have a great influence on the world. They are the bearers of life, no matter what technology innovates. They are the first teachers. This is the real power. Women often fail to realize the power and connect with each other to impact the world positively.

I must admit that there was a time when I would have been blinded by the profession of the women in the picture. I would have marginalized them as beyond reach. I still don’t think stripping is the best use for the power that these women have, but it is not my job or the job of others to judge them. If they are the weak link of society, there is a vulnerability present until they are strengthened.

I don’t know the photographer’s intent of the picture, or City Paper’s purpose in publishing it. I do know that it caused me to think, as art should.

Terrence Gooden

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