Doesn’t the public’s sacred trust count?

I found the editorial, “Pugh’s finances,” 1-27-17, to be troubling. Mayor Catherine Pugh is quoted saying, “ “we did everything by the book”….I don’t talk about campaigns here.” When the editors respond by saying separating the business of running for office from that of running the city is a good practice, does that mean it is alright to use highly questionable practices in the process of getting elected? How likely is it that one who does engage in questionable practices in campaigns is able to completely disengage from those practices once elected?

As for Mr. Smith who is giving the appearance of making an unlawful loan of $100,000 to Mayor Pugh’s campaign, the editors point out he received a job at a generous salary of $175,000 which he doesn’t really need. Since we are not informed as to his personal finances, I have to ask, if he doesn’t need the money then why did he accept the salary – why doesn’t he volunteer his time and services?

I maintain that a “politician/public servant” is not supposed to give even the slightest appearance of doing something that is wrong. We should be demanding that career politicians be held to the highest level of ethical behavior – public’s sacred trust. How can anyone argue that Mayor Pugh does not give the appearance of doing something that’s wrong? Something smells fishy!

Ralph Jaffe

Only a small dose of hope

The article, “Hiring of 100 officers ok’d,” 1-20-17, offers a little hope. Mayor Pugh deserves credit for taking a teeny, tiny step in the right direction with her announcement of hiring 100 additional police officers to the Baltimore City Police Department. The truth, though, is that we really need a minimum of 500 to 700 additional officers which would enable the police force to make their presence effectively felt in Baltimore City communities. Lieutenant Ryan has said that nothing will really be accomplished until the hiring and placement of the new police officers becomes a reality.
For the police department of Baltimore City to be where it needs to be, the recruitment and training of police officers will require a lot of improvement in order to undo the damage of the 2 preceding administrations.

Ralph Jaffe

A chance for Mayor Pugh to get it right

Yvonne Wenger in “Black, female and in charge of a big city,” 1-17-17, points out commonalities among Mayor Catherine Pugh and her two predecessors. However no mention was made of the commonality that all three of them are products of the liberal, “phony baloney” government programs which have failed to serve the best interests of the citizens of Baltimore City.
Furthermore, I was saddened, but not surprised that no mention was made of another commonality – the failure of the current mayor as well as her 2 predecessors to tell the truth about the status of the Baltimore City Police Department. The blatant truth is that the Baltimore City Police Department does not have enough police officers on board to properly protect the citizens of Baltimore City.

If Mayor Pugh would conduct a really sincere communication with the President of the Baltimore City Police Union, Lieutenant Gene Ryan, perhaps she would more willingly grasp and accept the reality of the police shortage situation. Then, in light of the fact that Baltimore has been selected for Bloomberg’s Innovation Team program (“Baltimore gets Bloomberg-funded innovation team” 1-18-17), Mayor Pugh could use the opportunity to “get it right.” How about this for innovation? Use the $1.5 million to start the process of hiring more police officers that are so badly needed in Baltimore City. For a change, it would be money well spent by Mayor Pugh.

During the last 2 weeks I’ve had several conversations with key aides of the mayor concerning the police shortage problem along with my plan to make the Baltimore City public school system more relevant in meeting the needs of the students, without any extra taxes involved. The question is – does Mayor Pugh have the courage to listen to Lieutenant Ryan and me?

Ralph Jaffe

About term limits

As someone who has been trying to get rid of corruption in Maryland government since 1992, it would be irresponsible on my part to bypass the editorial, “Term limits won’t help.”

I agree with the premise expressed in the title. It says it all. In my opinion, term limits will be neither a forceful nor effective tool in bringing about real ethical reform in government. Furthermore, I agree that good choices of candidates must be presented to the voters with opportunities to properly differentiate them. (Perhaps that means more media exposure to all candidates who run rather than limiting coverage to the so-called major ones.)

What is needed is for aspiring wannabe candidates to be willing to make a voluntary commitment that – regardless of the office in question, be it governor, U.S. senator, city or county councilperson, etc. – only one term will be served and then they will return to their field of work. The candidates should be able to make the government work for their constituents during that one term in office. If such is the case, then they can leave the public service arena knowing they can be proud of their record for being outstanding public servants who placed their constituents’ needs above their own. If such is not the case, then there’s no rhyme or reason for allowing the candidates to be re-elected anyway.

I take issue with the call for public financing of political campaigns to encourage the best and brightest to run for office. What’s more the individual should not take any campaign contributions, no matter how large or how small – because campaign contributions might be legal, but they are unethical disguised campaign bribes. I would rather take the taxpayers public financing fund and distribute that money to the needy of our state instead of the politicians who have a thirst for greed. Until we get money out of politics and put a stop to “career politicians” whose focus is on power, fame, and money as opposed to the needs of their constituents we will not be successful in solving any problems. The best proof – look how messed up our state is now.
Right now – the sad truth is, based on my philosophy, we don’t have one ethical politician in our state or country.


Enough is enough

The Federal Railroad Administration is recommending an upgrade for Amtrak (“Upgrade Amtrak, agency urges,” 12-28-16), but I’m suggesting another point of view. The article only reaffirms the stance I’ve taken as an observer and critic of this railroad passenger service for almost 30 years. Amtrak’s performance for the citizens of the United States is way less than satisfactory. Why? Reasons include their use of antiquated equipment, archaic trains, old-fashioned wiring systems, outdated tracks, ineffective security system to combat a terrorist attack, slow installation of automatic safety braking systems. In return for this service, Americans have been bilked for billions of dollars in taxpayer money.

In short, Amtrak is a colossal boondoggle. It’s time for Amtrak along with the Federal Railroad Administration to go out of business. Let’s see what the private sector can do for those who travel on track.

What citizens can do is contact their congressmen and U.S. senators to say no more funding for Amtrak. Enough is enough!

A Real Tutor/Mentor Program

The alarming rate of suspensions in the Baltimore City schools as reported in the media underscores the need to take action for solving the discipline problems in the schools.
A prime piece of the long term solution to the crime problem in Baltimore City necessitates public schools to provide a more meaningful education for its students.

As a teacher myself, the best way I know how to do that calls for an effective and expanded tutoring/mentoring program. The program I am proposing, the TUTORING/MENTORING (T/M) PROGRAM, does not require any money for implementation because it’s based on VOLUNTEERISM.

The T/M Program – its basic tenet
My T/M program gets down to the brass tacks. Its goal is to provide each student in Baltimore City with a responsible surrogate parent otherwise known as the tutor or mentor), a tutor/mentor who will stay with the student from pre-k through the completion of an academic or vocational program that leads to gainful employment. The tutor/mentor could enlist the help of other individuals for building and expanding this support system for the student.

The T/M Program – Getting started
The T/M program calls for convening a series of conferences with every leader in every church, synagogue, and mosque throughout the state of Maryland. The agenda for these meetings consists of two key words – MOTIVATION and INSPIRATION. The program should be of such a nature that will motivate and inspire the leaders to return to their places of worship to make rousing appeals to their members to volunteer to serve as the tutors/mentors. Similar conferences would be conducted with representatives and personalities from business, media (radio, TV, newspaper, magazines), sports, and entertainment fields. The fact that the T/M program is based on volunteerism eliminates any cost to taxpayers.

This T/M program will provide each student with a sense of stability, continuity, and love – fundamental ingredients for guiding students on a path of success from pre-K through the completion of a program leading to gainful employment. Having well known figures as tutors/mentors is not really relevant. What is germane is recruiting volunteers who are ready, willing and able to make a big and meaningful difference in the lives of these students.

I am well aware of programs that do engage tutors, but they are not as far reaching as the one I am putting forth. My program is designed to provide an opportunity for every student in Baltimore City to have a tutor/mentor who will give the student committed and dedicated support from pre-k thru grade 12.

I believe there are thousands of citizens who would love to make a voluntary commitment to help students in Baltimore City get on the success track of life. The T/M program provides the tutors/mentors – the good samaritans – with memorable and spiritual experiences as they witness the positive strides the students will be able to take because of the help, guidance, sensitivity, and concern they are receiving.

The program can work. When the various pieces of the plan come together, the product will be a rewarding and gratifying plan of action for students and tutors/mentors alike.

Call for an ER (Education Revolution)

Here’s a reality check. Governor Hogan’s executive order to start schools in Maryland after Labor Day has sparked controversy. I venture to say that the number of days schools are open should not be of critical importance. Rather, what should be the crucial concern is this – are the needs of the students being met on the days when schools are open.

I submit that our present system of public education is not working. Students in the public schools are victims of what I call “classroom prison-like education.” Students enrolled in the academic program are confined approximately 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, 10 months a year to a setting of classroom walls within a school building. Couple this with the teachers who are confronted with the daunting challenge of educating and entertaining their students 6 or 7 hours a day, 5 days a week, 10 months a year. To deliver dynamite lessons consistently and continuously is a Herculean task. So…is it hard to understand why students could easily become bored and fed up in the classroom?

What we need is an Education Revolution. Its main thrust occurs in grades 9 thru 12, but its basic framework can start with grade 1. The ER calls for the writing of a new curriculum that reflects the formation of a partnership between the school subject areas and real life world experiences. It calls for students to get out of the classroom and go into the real world of life. It calls for all tracks of education, not just the vocational path, to embrace the concept that learning has to come to life, learning has to be made practical. It calls for a new teaching methodology which allows students to participate in real life experiences.

For example, the ER (educational revolution) in the language arts reading and writing division entails students stepping into places where the mastery of English skills is essential such as TV and radio stations, magazine and newspaper facilities, etc. with students meeting the people who work in these places, and students actually performing various jobs (level of difficulty and complexity of tasks increase with each grade level). For a TV news program, the people on and off camera – the news anchor, producer, assignment editor, reporter, etc. join forces with the teacher in helping students grasp the English skills utilized in making the program relevant to the viewers.
The partners in education are the students, teachers, and real life mentors or facilitators. All 3 parties are actively engaged in the entire learning process including the writing of the goals and objectives, the activities for concepts and content to be learned, and the evaluation segment. The facilitators are not just bystanders offering rewards for good behavior. Rather they become active participants in designing curriculum which builds a framework of education that is meaningful and relevant to today’s youth. The 3 party team is really working together to make learning applicable, meaningful and FUN. The Educational Revolution in the public school system needs to start now.

Ralph Jaffe