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Cross Fire

Posted 9/23/1998

As the Pastor of St. Mary, Star of the Sea Church, I write on behalf of many of my parishioners and myself who have taken great offense to your derogatory article in the Sept. 16 (Best of Baltimore) issue ("Best Scary Cross"). At the very least, the article is in extremely poor taste. But much worse, I find it a mockery of Christianity's central belief in the crucifixion. The specter of anti-Catholic bigotry also shines through. No religious faith should be subject to the derision found in your paper.

In our country, freedom of religion along with freedom of the press are part of our basic rights. While I certainly support and enjoy the great freedoms that are accorded to us, I am deeply offended by your blatant lack of respect for the Catholic faith. Even if one does not subscribe to the beliefs of Catholicism, a basic respect for religion and its contributions to the life of our city should have precluded such an offensive article from being printed.

As a parish, we are all deeply shocked. As a person who has witnessed people stopping by that garden scene for prayer, meditation, and solace on numerous occasions, I find your article truly meanspirited, benighted, and terribly insulting to the Christian faith.

The Rev. Mitchell T. Rozanski

Pastor, St. Mary, Star of the Sea


In the Best of Baltimore issue, a section entitled "Best Scary Cross" begins with the words, "Christianity can be frightening." What is frightening is that outright bigotry and offensive writing is alive and well at City Paper. I am outraged that you would publish such a blatant attack on one of the world's largest religious groups, and demean one of Baltimore's largest religious communities as well.

You owe an apology to the Catholic community of Baltimore, and to all who honor the name and image of Jesus Christ. But I won't hold my breath.

Gerard F. Bugge

Your vilification of Catholics in the Best of Baltimore issue on pages 23 and 48 is offensive and ridiculous at the same time. South Baltimore is not Auschwitz and there is no controversy about the crucifix that has stood next to St. Mary, Star of the Sea Church for generations. What are you trying to do? If there is some possible explanation for your defamation, I would appreciate knowing what it could be.

The Rev. George J. Brubaker

I demand an apology be printed in the next edition of the City Paper for the "Best Scary Cross" article. The writer of this trash should be disciplined for obvious lack of thought and compassion.

I was sickened and outraged at such obvious bigotry and offense to the Catholic community of the Archdiocese of Baltimore. This article is an affront to the Catholic Church and to all of the Catholic faithful.

Robert Sissons
Franklin, La.

It never ceases to amaze me the lengths the devil will go to to ridicule or condemn the Catholic Church. I did not realize your paper prided itself on being one of his greater assets and propaganda tools. Your comments on Catholicism and the cross of our dear lord Jesus Christ are beyond outrage. They are unacceptable and will not be tolerated.

This country's level of morality is at an all-time low. I assume your paper prides itself on being a major contributor to this condition. Our president is unwilling to accept accountability; I hope your paper will not follow suit.

I pray that you will find the wisdom to administer a retraction and an appropriate apology to all Catholics around the country. Your liberal hate of Christianity is unacceptable. I, and all Catholics around the country, await your reply.

Ray A. Saenz
Corpus Christi, Texas

Book Bind

The Nose's column concerning the proposed CVS at 25th Street (9/2) was misleading when it was stated that "pharmacy giants can indiscriminately replace 100-year-old storefronts." Of the 10 buildings slated for destruction, four were burned-out shells, four others have been vacant for many years, and one of the bookstores had already planned on closing. Not exactly the corporate-giant-crushing-the-small-business-owner story you made it into.

More importantly, your column has confused our customers. I have received many phone calls from concerned customers asking when we are closing. The Kelmscott Bookshop has been in the same location for the past 21 years and we have no plans on moving, nor have we been asked to move. I would appreciate it if you would think a little bit more about the implications next time you write an article "defending" small business.

Steve Johanson

Manager, Kelmscott Bookshop


Theater Projectile

What really bugs me is when people wax nostalgic for what never really was (unlike, for instance, waxing nostalgic for the time the excellent David Bergman was the theater critic for City Paper).

I was on the staff of the Theatre Project in the mid-'80s, and yes, emphatically, yes, Philip Arnoult presented some outstanding work (and even some duds) ("Best Example of Running a Theater Into the Ground," Best of Baltimore, 9/16). And do you know what? There were still all too many times when, excellence of the show notwithstanding, you could count the audience on four hands. Risk-taking will do that to you.

But what I really must take issue with is the gross characterization of last season, a season in which more than 10,000 people attended Theatre Project's many performances and workshops. The "guy eating glass"? Well, performance artist Scott Baker opens at New York's La Mama on Oct. 26. (And if you haven't heard of La Mama, hon, go back to Cutting-Edge Theater Class 101.) And the play so blithely referred to as "filmic and insubstantial"? Oh, you must mean Monster, which went on to play to sold-out houses at the prestigious DuMaurier Festival in Toronto and receive five stars from the Toronto Star. (But then, what would critics in cities such as New York and Toronto know about avant-garde theater?)

Frankly, these were just two of the several intelligent and intriguing offerings (yes, and some duds--risk-taking will do that to you) that I experienced at Theatre Project this year. As a board member, I am extraordinarily proud of the range of work we present and the curatorial choices of Executive Director Bob Mrozek. If we've scaled back some from the heyday of international work, it's because we are still dealing with the debt incurred from people staying away in droves from the "special" work presented in the mid-80s. Maybe we should just give the work away, like a certain paper which could not exist without the showgirls ads that fill its back pages.

Finally, regarding your glib reference to the "self-reverential" Theatre Project Honors, reread your press release on the event, buddy. Mrozek was very clear in stating that he would be delighted to expand the event citywide but felt it was time to start somewhere to acknowledge Baltimore's fine independent performing and visual artists.

Remind me of the "Best of" deadline next year--City Paper remains the best reason to save a tree.

Anne Cantler Fulwiler

Sky Blues

In reference to "Accident Bound" (Mobtown Beat, 9/9), it should be noted that no one was in favor of privatization of the Baltimore City Police Department helicopter unit. The helicopters were sold to keep the unit in operation after Helicopter Transport Services Inc. (HTSI) refused to renew its maintenance contract with the city. Without tremendous capital outlay, there was no other viable option to keep the unit operational. There were no adequate local facilities available to safely hangar and maintain the helicopters.

While there will always be the potential for a commercial maintenance facility to cut corners in the interest of saving money, there are no guarantees that following any other course of action might not have met a similar result. In the interest of saving money, in the early '70s the department made a decision to use rebuilt engines. What followed was a series of valve failures that resulted in a number of forced landings. All of those engines had been rebuilt in the manner required by Textron-Lycoming Serving Bulletins.

If the National Transportation Safety Board determines there was "willful intent" in failing to comply with Textron-Lycoming Service Bulletin 240, the T.W. Smith Engine Co. will face severe penalties. It is unfortunate that Terrie Snyder choose to ask Robert Richards' opinion on matters of safety. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) officials used the term "willful intent" to characterize Richards' conduct when he induced an FAA-certified mechanic to make repairs to a helicopter without documenting the work. Whether the helicopters were sold or not, the greatest threat to the safety of maintenance programs is a lack of integrity in those individuals involved.

Douglas M.F. Womack

Sergeant, Baltimore City Police Department


Breaking and Ignoring

It gave me a warm fuzzy feeling inside to know the police are willing to demonstrate such a strong sense of force when summoned to a residence in Roland Park (The Nose, 9/2). After reading how several cops were called in to investigate an apparent case of windows left open in a home not far from police Commissioner Frazier's house, it became obvious to me that the police will turn up when a little suspicious activity is detected. Although that particular instance didn't warrant any arrests, nor was anything out of the ordinary uncovered by the massive police search, it did manage to tie up radio communications for 22 minutes, an action that might have been a bit excessive.

Now let's take a short trip down West Pratt Street not far from the B&O Railroad Museum. On a nice Sunday morning, about a week after the Roland Park incident, I noticed a white male in his mid-20s entering the rear of a house in this neighborhood--a house which he did not own and a property on which he was trespassing. I recognized this man as a recently released convict who was a former affliction to the neighborhood. I thought it would be a good idea to notify the police.

Though this was a crime in progress, I figured the criminal was not in a hurry to vacate his newfound home. I considered it prudent to call 311 instead of the emergency number 911. The operator asked the reason for the call. I replied that there was a breaking and entering in progress, that a man who had no business being there was removing items from a house. The operator asked if it was my house. I said, "No, it isn't." He said, "Well, there's nothing we can do about it."

The operator went on to say that the only way he would send the police was if the property owner called and complained. I explained that I had been authorized to call the police by the property owner, who is in poor health and didn't live in the area; he had asked me to report any suspicious activity--and this looked very suspicious. It didn't matter. Unless the actual owner called, the police would not send anyone, which struck me as absurd.

I subsequently called the owner of the house and told him the scenario. He said he would call the police and re-report it. Some days later a neighbor saw this same trespassing delinquent, this time with a buddy, entering the house again. Later I saw him myself--he was walking out of the house, shooting up drugs under the warm glow of the street light. He is still there as I write this.

I can't help but wonder what the police response would be if a similar situation were to occur in Roland Park.

John Ellsberry

Editor's note: The writer is a City Paper contributing photographer. The opinions expressed are purely his own, not necessarily those of City Paper.

Counting Woes

As Molly Rath noted in her report on the 44th District legislative race (Campaign Beat, 9/2), independent candidate Lisa Mitchell is challenging her exclusion from the November ballot. Of the 1,517 petition signatures she submitted, only 754 of the 894 she needed were validated by the Board of Elections.

One of her problems is that Baltimore's antique green-screen election computers are so poorly designed for verifying petitions that errors are inevitable. For example, if you type in "Schmoke, Kurt," the computer will tell you he isn't registered to vote, unless you know that his middle initial is L. Many people don't sign with an initial, or omit their birth date, forcing time-consuming, error-prone address checks or comparisons to signature cards, which are sometimes missing.

It's often easier to verify signatures with the low-tech printed voter list, but when Ms. Mitchell asked to consult one, she was told that she would have to purchase it, even though courts have held it unconstitutional to charge candidates for verifying petition signatures.

Besides the clerical errors that disqualified scores of valid signatures, far more petitioners were disqualified as "inactive" voters because they failed to return a postcard from the Elections Board. Although they are legally eligible to vote, their signatures were declared invalid because state law requires it. This clearly unconstitutional denial of the First Amendment right to petition has little chance of surviving a court challenge.

Maryland's closed electoral system, which badly needs an overhaul, may still allow Lisa Mitchell to be on the ballot. Voters, not election officials, should decide whether or not she will be elected.

Douglas E. McNeil

Senior analyst, Marylanders for Democracy


BUILDing Not Betting

In response to Gary Suggars' letter (The Mail, 9/2), which I regret I just saw or I would have written sooner: It's not at all illogical for the governor to be morally opposed to adding slots to the tax structure on top of the lottery games now played. If he changes his mind, we have no chance of not repeating the failures of Atlantic City. The proposed casino locations are already in place, including Pimlico Race Track. We are not going to get an "architectural gem" from Joe DeFrancis, and the additional parking he would need for his addicted gamblers would impact all of the neighborhoods surrounding the track. His present parking lots are wastelands; to create a merely adequate parking lot near the track would entail the destruction of woods and open spaces, and condemnation of quite a few houses, some of them recently erected or renovated with public money. Neither DeFrancis nor the state is going to rush to that expense.

At the risk of being neither witty nor cynical, I suggest that bad things would get worse. It is not a waste of time to keep insisting to your governor and legislature that we have enough dependence on "easy" money, despite the siren call of lowered income taxes. It is probably true that racing survives and beautiful horses are bred because people like to bet on horses (and betting is a form of gambling), but the 17,00 jobs that depend on racing really exist. The jobs that slots promise are illusory; the pain that day-in/day-out gambling inflicts on the families of addicted gamblers is not.

I think the program that Baltimoreans United In Leadership Development (BUILD) has developed promises much more to the city. BUILD offers a well-thought-out plan to improve housing, raise the income of the very poor, increase jobs, help small-business starts, and make sure there is a continuum of care for children (not only better schools but day care, Head Start, before- and after-school activities). This is much better than throwing a few bucks to suckers as millions flow into the pockets of one person, or fly out of state.

When Ellen Sauerbrey promises smaller government (for an increasing population with increasing problems?) and a 14-percent cut in income tax, she's really asking you to turn your backs on Baltimore and every troubled place in the state. Those who say, "Let's have the tax cut and take up the slack with slots" are shifting the costs of government from the rich to the middle class and poor.

Elinor H. Kerpelman

Not Shooting Straight

Fred Davis, president of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse (MAHA), should study the history of his organization before attempting to whitewash its past (The Mail, 9/9). In 1988, MAHA took credit for writing, passing into law, and defending the "Saturday Night Special" law in a referendum. Years later it pusHed2 for passage of another gun ban, this time against certain semiautomatic handguns. MAHA wants to ban guns, period.

Mr. Davis should also remember that MAHA's "Saturday Night Special" law initially called for only a single board member, the superintendent of the Maryland State Police. That person, appointed by an antigun governor, could have banned every single model of handgun, without the possibility of appeal. An appeals process and the other eight board members were added only after discussions with the National Rifle Association, the Maryland Licensed Firearms Dealers Association, and other concerned firearms owners.

I appreciate that Mr. Davis admits to currently having two seats on the Handgun Roster Board. Especially since MAHA is only allowed one member by the very law it had passed. This gives MAHA an illegal and unfair advantage on the approval of any handguns for sale in Maryland. MAHA is only entitled to one seat on the board. By unethical maneuvering, it has managed to have Laverne Turner reappointed, just weeks after she resigned. Two MAHA people, Ginny Wolfe and Nancy Fenton, sit behind Mrs. Turner at each meeting she attends and coach her by whispering in her ear. When Mrs. Turner misses a meeting, so do her MAHA shadows.

Since it takes five affirmative votes to approve the sale of any handgun, MAHA's two votes are vital to the delay in availability, and banning, of several high-quality models, some of which have languisHed2 for months without an up or down vote. This is banning by delay.

Even MAHA's sister organization, Handgun Control, started life as the "Coalition to Ban Handguns." It gave up that name when its surveys discovered that most Americans didn't share its views on banning guns.

Some months ago Nancy Fenton sent me a letter asking for a meeting to discuss violence, its causes and cures. Then, two weeks later, she lasHed2 out at me personally in the pages of the Baltimore Jewish Times. The meeting was canceled. She preferred to attack me in the press rather than discuss the issues. It's sad that her ego took priority over solving difficult problems.

MAHA can rail all it wants that it does not want to ban guns, but it has succeeded in banning some guns in Maryland. And if MAHA had its way, it would ban all handguns from private possession. That is a fact.

Sanford Abrams

Vice president, Maryland Licensed Firearms Dealers Association


Correction: Due to an editorial error, an item was omitted from last week's Best of Baltimore issue. The following kudo should have appeared in the Eats & Drinks section:

Best Old-School Fast Food Harry Little

6809 York Road, (410) 377-9857

Once upon a time, fast food began with a single little restaurant in San Bernardino, Calif., run by two efficiency-minded brothers with the surname McDonald. Ray Kroc's buyout and billions and billions of hamburgers later, you can drive across the country dozens of times, patronize a different chain restaurant each trip, and eat the identical, hauntingly overprocessed meal for breakfast, lunch, and dinner--right down to the extras on the burger and the promotional tie-in printed on your drink cup. Ain't progress something?

We suppose we can't claim that the pizzas and subs at this Harry Little aren't fast food of a stripe--one of two remaining establishments of what was once a local chain (the other is at 515 E. 25th St.), is a strictly to-go kind of place, and the food shows up on a big truck, just like it does at every other fast-food joint. But we can safely say that the comforting greasy-spoon vibe of the place and the soulful handmade-ness of the food makes us take a break for a little Harry Little every now and then. The generous burgers and sandwiches are assembled to order on substantial, fresh sub rolls, and everything's hot off of the griddle; the only heat lamp in the joint is strictly for the delish fries, served boardwalk-style in a cup. It ain't haute cuisine, but it's good, it's fast (at least by pre—Golden Arches standards), and it'll fill you up at a bargain price. And that's the kind of fast food we can get behind.

Editor's note: We're growing again: In this issue get your first look at two brand-new columns, Tom Scocca's 8 Upper (page 11) and Sandy Asirvatham's Underwhelmed (page 12). Also starting this week, you can immerse yourself in Suz Redfearn's Germ Bag--read all about it at

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