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And Now the 14-Month Wait

Posted 9/17/2003

City Paper's "Campaign Beat team" should have done their homework when endorsing Charlie Metz for the Baltimore City Council in the 10th District ("Is This Seat Taken?", Sept. 3). You praised his "proposals for bringing light industry to some of the vacant properties in the 10th District," but omitted the part about how Mr. Metz moved his own "light industry" business out of the 10th.

Maybe you could also enlighten your readers on another point. In your endorsement of Wendy Foy for the 9th District City Council, you stated concern that ACORN (Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now) may "attempt to use her as its voice in City Hall." Although you mention that Charlie Metz is backed by ACORN, you never voiced any concern for him to be used in a similar manner.

Wendy Hannon
Baltimore

Editor Lee Gardner responds: Wendy Foy's allegiance with ACORN was a small matter of concern because her platform seemed entirely determined by the organization's own. Charlie Metz, for better or worse, seemed to speak for himself and his own ideas.

It was an honor and truly rewarding experience running for office. I ran on issues such as improving the curriculum in Baltimore City schools to allow all high schools to offer college prep and vo-tech courses, increased recreation for our children, mandatory community involvement for first-time misdemeanor offenders, and statute of limitations on vacant properties. I ran a positive and "spirited campaign" (can't remember which paper said that), and I would like to take this time to thank City Paper. Thank you for interviewing me (Campaign Beat, Sept. 3). Thank you for following the election. Thank you for being active in our democratic process.

I will continue dedication to community service and active participation in our government. I will continue to advocate for the constituents of the 14th District--after all, I am a resident. I have three children to raise, and I am not leaving the city to do so. The mayor started a campaign titled Believe. Well, plenty of people questioned, what the hell does that mean? My definition, and quite possibly yours as well, was simple. We believe in leaving the city and staying in the city. But we choose to stay. We believe in right and wrong, but we choose right. We believe in giving up and fighting. But we choose to fight. Over and over again. And that's what I will do. Although not as on large a scale as Mary Pat Clarke, who I am confident will represent the district well, I will be here. I'm not going anywhere.

Elizabeth Smith
Baltimore

Congratulations on being the only source of in-depth coverage on the primary election.

Except for Anna Ditkoff, however, who, apparently on her own, before I ever got there for the interview, decided to do a number on me, and, when she sat down to compose on her computer, had amnesia on the many things I had going for me in my now-passed campaign for City Council in the 5th District, but had super-total recall of everything negative she had ever heard or imagined about me, including stuff such as my being called a "nut" by an anonymous commentator in a now-dead newspaper (the News-American) in the year 1934 or so; and such as my now being an old guy, as if that were criminal and in the felony category (Campaign Beat, July 30). And with opposite recall/amnesia as to my opponent. You're a good paper. Fire her, will you?

But this wasn't what I had started out to discuss. Among many amazing phenomena in running--such as signs getting stolen eight times from the same private property, such as the Sun's lies and errors--when checking my phone machine I find all the incumbents in a circle dance endorsing each other. By actual count, eight such calls today alone. It's not right. This election was designed as an ideal Christmas present for incumbents. Mayor Martin O'Malley said as much when he was working on redistricting in February. So I'm checking my phone machine [on election day], and it's a circle dance. Martin endorsing Sheila Dixon, Sheila endorsing Stephanie Rawlings Blake, Maggie McIntosh endorsing Rawlings Blake, Martin endorsing Rawlings Blake, Joe Officeholder endorsing Moe Jerkowitz, your friendly incumbent for being incumbent again. I was particularly offended by Martin doing this on company time, as I was offended by the obviously expensively contracted and produced one-hour paean of praise of Sheila that appeared on cable 21, the "Mayor's Office of Cable and Communications" channel, which is entirely supported out of tax funds! That was too much.

Leonard Kerpelman
Baltimore

Black Sheep Skins

After reading School Board vice chair Sam Stringfield's recent letter on graduation rates among African-American males, I am once again convinced that the School Board is deliberately opposed to addressing the spiraling decline of educational attainment among African-American males within the Baltimore City Public School System (The Mail, Sept. 3).

Several years ago, the Brookings Institute and the Heritage Foundation each released studies that indicated a national trend among African-American male dropout rates in Baltimore, Philadelphia, Los Angeles, Detroit, and Chicago. These studies highlighted that the dropout rates among African-American males in these respective cities exceeded 50 percent. As we fast-forward to the year 2003, many whom work within the Baltimore City Public School System have revealed that the unconfirmed rates exceed 70 percent. The term "unconfirmed" must be used when discussing statistics and data related to city schools' performance data. The inability to obtain accurate data from the school system regarding dropout rate as well as suspension and expulsion rates remains a persistent challenge for the School Board and schools officials.

Anyone who works in a city public middle or high school can attest to the large numbers of African-American males who drop out every year. As a former middle school teacher, I was amazed at the number of young males who were dropping out prior to reaching high school. Further evidence is the incarceration rates among African-American males, which equally substantiate the inability of the Baltimore City Public School System to educate certain segments of the population. As usual, many always cite the contributions of the city's high-achieving schools (Poly, Western, City College). Although these schools should receive the highest accolades for their ability to produce the "grade," the city still has numerous middle and high schools that fail to make the grade (based on attendance, test scores, graduation rates).

Last year I attended several high school graduations and was appalled by the lack of African-American male students who walked across the stage. At some point, as a city that is yearning to improve the quality of life for citizens, the challenges that impact African-American males must become a priority. What is most alarming about the current plight of African-American males and other students within city public schools is a recent report funded by the Abell Foundation. According to the report, 95 percent of the students that enroll at the Baltimore City Community College are required to take remedial courses. These and other issues related to student achievement, retention, and gradation are among the plethora of challenges that confront parents, teachers, and the present School Board.

Finally, for Mr. Stringfield, what is happening to all of the students within the Baltimore City School System? In 1973 we had about 180,000 students; in 2003 have less than 95,000. Maybe it could be the astronomical dropout rate among African-American males coupled with the general dissatisfaction among parents to continue to enroll their children in a failing school system. You do the math!

David Miller
Educational consultant, Urban Leadership Institute

Baltimore

Editor's note: Due to an early deadline and other circumstances beyond our control, comics The Mostly Unfabulous Social Life of Ethan Green and The Pain--When Will It End? missed the paper this week. They will return on their next regularly scheduled appearances.

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