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A Former Governor Calls Bullshit

Posted 4/27/2005

If people’s lives were not at stake, including those of my wife and my grandson, the remarks of Gov. Robert Ehrlich’s spokespeople regarding stem-cell research would be laughable (Q&A, April 20). Budget Secretary Chip DiPaula, one of the governor’s closest advisers, opposed this year’s bill to fund embryonic stem-cell research. For a governor’s spokesman to assert to City Paper that the governor did not take a position on the legislation is unbelievable, if not intentionally misleading.

In addition, a second aide claimed the governor’s 11th-hour statement, “I support stem-cell research, including embryonic stem-cell research,” did not mean he supported the bill.

First of all, cabinet secretaries are not independent actors. They act on behalf of the governor and therefore do represent him and his administration. Before a state agency takes a position on legislation—and certainly a bill of this significance—department officials obtain the approval of the governor’s office. Secondly, for the governor to speak in support of this research on the 88th day of a 90-day legislative session, but still take no position on the bill, is not only a failure in leadership, but appears to be intended to establish political cover should the issue arise again.

Del. Sandy Rosenberg and Sen. Paula Hollinger will introduce a stem-cell bill again early next year—which also happens to be an election year. Perhaps the governor will recognize the value of this bill to hundreds of thousands of Marylanders affected by disease and injury and also the economic-development opportunities that flow from public funding. Perhaps the governor will also recognize the political value of this bill that a large of majority of voters support, both Democrats and Republicans.

I would also highly recommend that the governor’s press office speak to Senate Minority Leader J. Lowell Stoltzfus. He told a Washington Post reporter that it was clear that the governor did not want the stem-cell bill passed by the General Assembly and placed on his desk—for his signature or his veto.

Harry R. Hughes
Denton

Harry R. Hughes was governor of Maryland from 1979 to 1987. His wife, Pat, has Parkinson’s disease and his grandson, Andrew, has juvenile diabetes. He has been working with Families for Stem Cell Research in Maryland to pass legislation that publicly funds embryonic stem-cell research.

Mount Vernon as Dupont Circle?

For me, Paul Warren and his cohorts in the “100 Under 100” campaign epitomize the “Bushie mentality” (The Mail, April 20; The Nose, April 13). They are determined to get their (perceived) “fair share”—and at least half of everybody else’s! It’s not enough that they bought up mansions at discount rates in the 1990s and now pay less per square foot in taxes than the owners of modest condos like “The Nose.” Nope: Having claimed their “castles,” they now want to turn the surrounding area into their tailor-made “kingdoms,” drumming out everything and everyone that clashes with their “décor.” (Note how Warren describes everything in the Mount Vernon neighborhood beneath his standard as a “slum”—guess he’s never visited East or West Baltimore.) The list of what clashes with the décor of Warren, et al., seems to be getting longer by the month: everything from low-income renters and single mothers to people with “historically incorrect windows” and “improperly placed” Dumpsters. Now, to complete the “kingdom,” they want to raise their rental-property neighbors’ taxes enough to force them to sell, thereby vacating buildings that can then be scooped up by more “tasteful” folk from D.C.

You will notice that Warren and cohorts have never proposed any plan that would benefit all Baltimore renters and their landlords—such as advocating maintenance-upgrade subsidies, with the landlord kicking in a percentage in exchange for getting the work done. Why? Because these folks are not interested in the good of their neighbors—unless, of course, that neighbor happens to be a townhouse-owning professional with “up to snuff” décor. Do Warren and Co. care about the real slums of Baltimore or feel moved to crusade for a change that would benefit those renters? Nope. They just want to put the screws to a few select landlords who are “infringing” on their personal turf. They are not interested in diversity: Who do you think will be hurt most by loss of reasonable rents in Mount Vernon? Students and/or artists, low-income families, the elderly, the disabled, the working poor (a high percentage of them black, so yes, we could say there’s even a racial element at work here). These are the same people that always get burned by groups like Warren’s. They will be pushed out and into worse areas—with far worse absentee landlords—while Warren and pals kick back with cocktails in their “transformed” (not to mention sterile) neighborhoods.

Cheryl Adam
Baltimore

The Nose has sniffed out a Fairfax County rat! The D.C.-driven greed rush is tired news. But Orwellian manipulation of the property-tax assessments as yet another weapon to wield against the propertyless is a real scream! When guys who telecommute to Fairfax County are our community cap-e-tains we have a problem, Houston. It seems that our affluent neighbors to the south are displeased with their Frankenstein creation and wish to pop in for a while. Naturally, I applaud their civic influence, but really, their arrival is sort of like the wet spot. In my neighborhood along Patterson Park we are already quite doomed! The invasion of the pasty people is rendering entire blocks devoid of meaningful life! A wasteland of whiteness! An Abercrombie and Fitch for every man, woman, and child! I have slipped into madness. What began as my intention to comment on the finer points of the tax code and property as theft has gone terribly wrong. Why have the Mobtown gods forsaken us? When are these people leaving? This party sucks.

Christopher Hammersla
Baltimore

I am a property owner in Mount Vernon and have made it both a personal and corporate mission to uphold this community as a cultural melting pot. Mount Vernon was chosen as a cultural center as well as an area of attraction to an international audience boasting six major learning institutions and several places of worship for people of different ethnicities. As students and working people from other countries cannot purchase homes in Mount Vernon, limiting the availability of affordable housing is nothing short of discrimination of the most egregious type. Landlords in Mount Vernon have been continually stripped of more and more rights as the arrogant, rich bourgeoisie attempt to push students and working class out of the neighborhood. The philanthropists such as Enoch Pratt and George Peabody generously envisioned a neighborhood conductive to learning and culture, which is the very thing landlords enable through offering affordable equal opportunity in a safe neighborhood setting. Not everyone can purchase expensive homes while they repay student loans and/or live paycheck to paycheck.

Landlords such as myself have been instrumental in making Mount Vernon a desirable community through creating the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Association and through active support of the Midtown Benefits District. Incidentally, Paul Warren of the 100 Under 100 Initiative has lobbied to outsource the work of the Midtown Benefits District—now done by local residents—to private companies, possibly including those outside of Baltimore. I wonder how this would benefit our community. Midtown has already lost its security team—more Mount Vernon working-class renters—to the political aims of a small faction of homeowners. The Mount Vernon restaurants that these homeowners dine in, the clubs they frequent, and the shops they enjoy throughout the neighborhood are staffed by local renters. Is Mr. Warren suggesting that people who live in our community be forced to live elsewhere? The basic idea for working-class people who rent apartments seems to be this: you can work here but you can’t live here.

The idea that landlords do not pay their fair share of taxes and make massive amounts of money off their tenants is ludicrous. Higher taxes for landlords would inevitably lead to increased rent, which would be disastrous for the economy of the neighborhood. I would project nothing short of a mass exodus of tenants forced to move.

Mr. Warren cited “absentee landlords” in City Paper. This label stereotypes all Mount Vernon landlords. Why should the few undesirable absentee landlords give all landlords a bad name? The truth is that most major landlords in Mount Vernon live in or around the community. Many live in their own apartment buildings. Some of these “absentee landlords” that Mr. Warren holds in contempt are, in fact, active community members who are always accessible to their neighbors and tenants. Attempting to force multifamily property owners and their tenants out of the community to allow the political aims of a small number of wealthy homeowners is discriminatory and will not be tolerated.

J.R. Owens
President, J.R. Owens Corp.
Baltimore

The author owns “25 to 30” Mount Vernon apartment buildings with more than 200 rental units—including one building on the 100 Under 100 list.

As a former Section 8 tenant at the Stafford Towers in Mount Vernon, I am one of the many witnesses that the letter you received from the Mount Vernon-Belvedere Association is not the whole truth. Since 1986 when I first moved to Mount Vernon, there have been three dwellings for the poor abolished by conniving, sly, underhanded means. Besides the Stafford, these were the Abion Hotel, which was located at Cathedral and Read streets, and the Congress Hotel at Franklin Street near Howard Street. The Mount Vernon Association’s next target will be the Rochambeau at 1 W. Franklin St. They were trying to use the Basilica to achieve that. All of us had to vacate Mount Vernon with no aid from the Mount Vernon Association. Not even a farewell did we get from them.

Leo A. Williams
Baltimore

Baby This!

Tell Vincent Williams, as a SINGLE MOTHER, I will help him wrestle with Fantasia “Being Exploited by the American Idol Machine” Barrino (Social Studies, April 20). I talked to a lot of sistas who are college educated, dropped out of high school but got their butts back in school for their children, and we all agree WE ARE NOT BABY MAMAS. That’s reserved for teen (and other) mothers whose children are in foster care because they thought Tamika was a Barbie doll who can be thrown in a corner while they chase the “baby daddy.” See, single mothers handle their business. Baby mamas wait for Uncle Sam every month.

I heard Fantasia say in an interview, “Clive said this is his favorite song.” I screamed, “What else is he supposed to tell a high school dropout single mother who he needs to make him richer?” I wonder what he told Whitney when she recorded “It’s Not Right But It’s OK” for mothers having man drama. I bet calling it “Baby Mama” never left his lips to Whitney. The part that really pisses me off about the Idol machine is how Clay Aiken was on television for weeks discussing his priority of getting his education for his mother. Part of his intelligent PR image. Hint hint, Reuben and Fantasia.

My daughters and I are praying Fantasia gets back in school, because as I predicted to a friend of mine years ago when his teen daughter got pregnant, Fantasia’s daughter will say, “You got pregnant and quit. How can you preach to me?”

Sharon Wright
Baltimore

Saar Is Right

I read your article regarding your state prison system (“Prisoners of Bureaucracy,” April 13) with great interest. I was surprised to learn that the Maryland Division of Correction employs 8,000 corrections officers to supervise 25,000 prisoners and the staff feel like they are undermanned. By comparison, Michigan employs about 9,000 corrections officers to supervise nearly 50,000 prisoners.

Mary Ann Saar, Maryland’s secretary of Public Safety and Correctional Services, rebalanced staffing patterns after consultation with the National Institute of Corrections—a respected professional correctional group and part of the U.S. Department of Justice. Her Project RESTART is another name for re-entry initiatives, programming used in prisons across the United States and in Canada, Great Britain, and Australia in an effort to keep prisoners out of jail, reduce criminal behavior, and protect the public.

Sounds like Saar is doing her job, however unpopular.

Valerie Chaplin
Bay City, Mich.

The author is the assistant warden of the Saginaw Correctional Facility.

Saar is Wrong

As a veteran of 15 years’ service in the Division of Correction, and of about 15,000 inmate interviews, I found your “Prisoners of Bureaucracy” story a superb piece of work. You’ve been talking to the right people, and you’ve been doing your homework. You have exactly captured Mary Ann Saar and the state of corrections in Maryland.

I hope your extraordinary success will not exhaust your curiosity about how we manage crime in this state.

Thank you for an exemplary report.

Harold “Hal” Riedl
Baltimore

I’m With Morton

This is my letter in answer to the rant by Jeremiah Clark poor-mouthing Brian Morton, calling him a bastard and calling for City Paper to fire him (The Mail, April 13).

Silly me! I agree with just about everything Brian Morton writes. In my view, we liberals (and progressives) are not whiners—insulters, yes, to the rich and powerful conservatives who deserve to be insulted. I submit that conservatives are cowards. They vilify and deride only those who are powerless and voiceless. And they have no sense of humor.

Contrast the humor of Tom Tomorrow, Al Franken, Jon Stewart, Jim Hightower, and Molly Ivins with the sick rage and vitriol emanating from Rush, Liddy, Hannity, Tom Marr, Bruce Elliot, not to mention Ann Coulter and Laura Ingraham with their eight-inch hard-ons pointed at anyone to the left of John Ashcroft.

Clark refers to Joe MacLeod as Joe McWhatever. OK, so Joe is a potty-mouth like myself, but his column is merely intended to be funny and nothing more. Most of us who read his funny shit are over 18.

I’ll take Brian Morton’s columns over the Rick Santorum spewing out of these humorless, cowardly conservatives any day.

Finally, what’s the difference between the Hindenburg and Rush Limbaugh?

Answer: One is a flaming, bloated Nazi gasbag and the other was a dirigible.

Gerald Ben Shargel
Baltimore

Spank Bret

I’d like to first give Bret McCabe credit for actually making the effort to come out to a show at an “alternative space” like Current Gallery (“Bust a Groove,” Feedback, April 13). All too often events at such venues fail to get any recognition at all, and I believe this is a problem that both parties are responsible for.

However, I was greatly disappointed with Bret’s condescending tone and smart-alecky remarks in his review of what went down at Current on April 9. His failure to look past his own disappointment and “being made to feel like a teenager for trying to get some Spankrock on” and see the larger picture of police abuse of power and politics is thoughtless and uninformed. I doubt if Mr. McCabe spoke with anyone from Current, Baltimore Office of Promotion and the Arts, or the police after the event. Even if he had stopped to think about how many art galleries and museums serve alcohol at events (virtually all of them), how many have liquor licenses (virtually none), and how many have ever been raided by a squad of police (can anyone think of one?), he would see that clearly this isn’t a case of alcohol-without-a-license-equals-police-bust. Had he tried he might have also learned that Current is actually run by adults who have been careful to use the proper channels and ask questions beforehand to prevent a situation like this from happening.

In fact, everyone at Current that night was wrongly “made to feel like a teenager” (the only one who actually was one was the police cadet). The automatic assumption that young people are disorganized and unprofessional and the legitimization of authority by seniority is an attitude that should be an embarrassment to a paper that calls itself alternative.

Nick Barna
Baltimore

Corrections: In our April 20 round table on poetry (“Words’ Worth”), we misidentified Coppin State University as Coppin State College. In addition, a transcribing error led to us misquoting Kathleen Hellen quoting a line by poet Gary Snyder. The quote in question should have read, “Like in the insect world, some can sing, and some can’t.” Our apologies to Coppin State, Ms. Hellen, and Mr. Snyder.

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