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Feeling the Pension

Posted 10/28/2009

Thanks for the great story on public pensions ("Pension Headache," Feature, Oct. 14). Edward Ericson Jr. did an excellent job making a topic that is difficult for even insiders very accessible. After infrastructure repair, post-employment pay and benefits are probably the biggest public-money issues in the nation, and also the least covered. These items will take up more and more of our city, state, and federal tax dollars in the coming years, and little is being said or done about the likely impact on current public services or future tax burdens they pose.

While the issue seems on the surface to be the city against its unions and retirees, in reality we are all bearing the cost of pension obligations and the consequences of pension fund management decisions. Money required to back city pension and benefit promises made will inevitably come from either cuts in service or increased taxes on an already stressed city property tax base. I hope City Paper continues to keep an eye on this issue in the future.

Aaron Szopinski


I am writing in response to Michael Kirk's letter ("Holier Than Cow," The Mail, Oct. 21) about Michelle Gienow's article on eating organic, local food on a food-stamp budget ("SOLE Food," Feature, Oct. 7). I don't think he read the article closely enough. Gienow did not "call out poor people," and she did not call any reader, least of all Kirk, an "asshole" for making other food choices. The point of her story was that all of us can make healthier decisions about what we eat within our budget limitations—that being poor doesn't have to mean you're automatically doomed to a diet made up exclusively of fast food, and the chronic medical issues and shorter life spans that go with it.

And, by the way, she's clear in the story that her family's Chick-Fil-A excursion was a dietary lapse brought on by a hard day, and that everyone, especially parents of young children, has those days. She is not presenting it as a superior option to getting your chicken fix at Tyrone's. Even locavore guru Michael Pollan would call either option "special-occasion food."

You can quibble about the specific examples given in "SOLE Food" (coffee vs. cereal, for instance). And certainly parts of this city need farmer's markets and more access in general to fresh and locally produced food. But the story's overall message—that a thin wallet doesn't have to prevent someone from eating as well as they can—is one that's worth delivering.

And that message doesn't warrant Kirk's profane, chip-on-the-shoulder response. I don't know if he's "just edgy from all the chemicals" in the burgers he eats, but I do think he should adjust his meds.

Heather Joslyn

The writer is a former managing editor and arts editor of City Paper.

Over the Shark

Let me begin by saying that I read City Paper fairly consistently. Yes, when I passed that yellow box I would usually be happy to reach my hand in and grab a copy of the free City Paper. But lately something has been off. I think it started with the somewhat lackluster Best of Baltimore issue, then the rock opera (Grundelsomething) ("Tales of Brotopia," Feature, Sept. 30), I was like, Hmm, this is a cover story? I figured someone was friends with someone and trying to get a friend some publicity. (Seriously it wouldn't be the first time would it?)

So which brings me to today, when I stop by and see the chicken! ("SOLE Food," Feature, Oct. 7). And the cover story on organic food. And that's when I knew, that's when I knew City Paper had officially jumped the shark. Hey, it's not that there are not people interested in Gründlehämmer or organic food. But the fact that you made these cover stories, hmm . . . I really think City Paper is veering off in a direction where they are no longer writing to the hearts of the people who live in the city. I used to think the somewhat elitist movie reviews were just City Paper's way of being New York Times-ish. But then City Paper says that Urbanite is the other best publication! And then Gurglehammer! Organic food! City Paper for weeks of weak-ass issues. You have officially jumped the free public weekly newspaper shark.

A former City Paper reader,
Anthony Redd

P.S. I only wrote this because I care.

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