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Wire to the People

Posted 10/17/2001

I wish to comment on and add to Afefe Tyehimba's heartfelt and much-needed story on the financial woes of the Baltimore Cable Access Corp. (BCAC), which operates out of Coppin State College (Mobtown Beat, Oct. 10). There are other woes as well, which I, as a major BCAC producer (75 hourlong shows a year, usually shown thrice weekly each) and a Cameo Award winner in the community-access-programming category, am all too familiar with. But far and away the main problem is money.

It's been a happy ride in the five years of my association with BCAC, and with the indefatigable Arthur Bugg, its director. But the problem of finances for this really essential community enterprise is readily solvable. By its own figures (113,000 Baltimore subscribers), Comcast Corp.'s year's gross is $48,816,000 (113,000 times $39 per month times 12 months). Let's round it down to $48 million--all sucked out of the community by a sanctioned monopoly where no competition is allowed. Is it too much to ask that a piddling $2 million be required to be given, no strings attached, to the Coppin operation? Other cities do it. Chicago and New York are two. When Comcast's contract expires in 2004, let us have a few bidding requirements: 1) that $2 million be given yearly to the public-access quasi-public and totally independent corporation; 2) a five-year contract be awarded, instead of 20-year one; and 3) no bidder, nor its employees, can ever have contributed one cent to any local official or soft-money committee within the past five years or forever forward.

Then we would see some shows! Them airwaves are ours--not theirs. The trouble is, we've been suckered in the past. Let's not do it again.

Leonard Kerpelman
Executive Producer, Only Shakespeare Production Company Baltimore

To Your Health
We saw your recent article on the Health Care for All! campaign and the Maryland Citizens' Health Initiative (Mobtown Beat, Oct. 3). As representatives of two of the largest campaign endorsers, we want to set the record straight about the campaign's process and plan.

Our Health Care for All! campaign is based on true grass-roots input and inclusivity. For that reason, among others, our campaign will succeed at giving all Marylanders access to quality and affordable health-insurance coverage.

More than 2,175 groups have endorsed the campaign's general set of principles and are involved in the grass-roots plan. The recently released draft health-care-for-all plan was the result of grass-roots input combined with scientific and systems expertise. It builds on progress already made by our legislature and governor in expanding health-care access. To date, there have been more than 15 public town meetings and numerous stakeholder meetings with physician groups, hospitals, nursing groups, etc., and a group of experts from Johns Hopkins, University of Maryland, and Georgetown University willing to turn needs and wants into a sound plan. More meetings are scheduled, including one in Baltimore on Oct. 29, to get input on the draft plan--see

Our goal is to come up with a realistic, economically sound, affordable health-care reform plan that we will take to the people of Maryland. During the elections of 2002, candidates and incumbents will be asked to sign a pledge supporting our final plan. Our polling indicates that people are willing to make a voting decision based on this issue. After electing a governor and legislature supportive of our plan, the campaign will push for enactment in 2003.

This campaign has never stalled nor taken steps back. It is a progressive, forward-thinking campaign that will succeed because of its grass-roots strength. We hope your group will take part in this process so that the plan we ultimately present to our legislature reflects your needs and wants for health-care reform. The health of our families and friends will depend on it.

Ernest Crofoot

Maryland/D.C. AFL-CIO Coordinator for Health and Senior Issues

Sandy Ferguson

Associate Council Director, Baltimore-Washington Conference of the United Methodist Church

Don't Let War Stop the Fight
I am still stunned after reading a couple of issues ago in City Paper about the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now's (ACORN) Mitch Klein's thinking about activism since the Sept. 11 tragedy (The Nose, Sept. 26). If anything, activists like Klein should now be more aggressive when it comes to tactics. Allow me to point out a few historical facts.

During World War II, labor unions, which were quite militant organizing workers and increasing their membership in the 1930s, had to shut down much of their activity in support the war effort. It was thought at the time that a strike, for instance, would show disloyalty to our nation. Most unions adopted a strategy of so-called "business unionism," which continued even after the war ended. It is this "business unionism" that has allowed many union representatives to act more like insurance agents than union organizers. These representatives now service members instead of empowering them. In so doing, the labor movement started down the road of decline, which continues in some circles to this very day.

I say to ACORN that there are many ways to show patriotism. One of our finest documents is the U.S. Constitution, which gives us many rights and liberties and allows us to dissent if we feel a government policy is wrong. Think of the Constitution as a muscle. It needs to be exercised, even in times of war.

Ed Rothstein
Perry Hall

Best Way to Skirt an Urban Renewal Ordinance
Thank you for your Best of Baltimore issue! It was great. You go from success to success.

I saw that the Baltimore Tattoo Museum received the Best Tattoo Parlor award. Unfortunately, the Fells Point Urban Renewal Ordinance excludes a tattoo shop in Fells Point by omission in the ordinance; therefore, it is a museum, with demonstration tattooing as an accessory use, and therefore permitted in Fells Point.

May I suggest that the Baltimore Tattoo Museum be nominated for Best Small Museum in 2002. I know whereof I speak because Chris Keaton and I founded the Baltimore Tattoo Museum together.

Jeff Kilpatrick

Blast From the Past
Associate editor Anna Ditkoff's work is pure, classic indie-rock-snob journalism (In the Wings). I went to high school with her in Northern Virginia, birthplace of the Internet economy and cyberclass resentment. As a popular cheerleader (true--she was on varsity) who dated "punk rockers" and baggy-clad skaters, she exemplified to me all that is rotten in "alternative" culture. I was among the high school underclass that could not afford to dress like a Hot Topic alternateen, which placed me well under Ms. Ditkoff in the high school hierarchy. But this is in the past, and I forgive all. For real this time. My point is, I've noticed her views on music, indie culture, and "underground" events have changed very little since the bad old days in high school. I've often wondered how she ended up writing for City Paper, which is an otherwise stellar publication. As an active member of the arts community, a resident of the Copycat building, and an anti-snobbery crackpot, I would like to recommend City Paper replace/retrain her or find Anna some less challenging assignments. No bitterness, really. I've just been reading the pap, and it's bad. I know you're a Mensa member, Anna; let's see some less twitty and goofy writing. I believe in you. Love and kisses.

Charlotte Benedetto

The guy who hired Anna Ditkoff responds: Anna ended up at City Paper because she is a savvy writer, a conscientious, thorough researcher, an incredibly hard worker, and an all-around nice person who is smart, passionate about local music, and dedicated to the work we do. Plus, like most actual grownups, she doesn't nurse adolescent grudges or bore us with stories about high school.

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