- The Washington Times - Saturday, February 17, 2001

Metro safety improvements moving along nicely

While your recent article about safety improvements implemented by Metro in the aftermath of last April's tunnel fire ("Just 14 of 32 safety steps taken, Metro panel told," Jan. 26) included a lot of good information about our record thus far, it did not completely reflect the aggressive efforts being undertaken to make the Metro system safer for our customers.

As Metro's Chief Safety Officer Fred C. Goodine explained to the Board of Directors' Safety Committee on Jan. 25, Metro has implemented 21 of the 32 recommendations that emerged from two separate investigations of the April 20 fire: our own internal investigation and an external peer review conducted by experts from the American Public Transportation Association, National Transportation Safety Board and other highly respected transit agencies throughout the nation.

The 14 recommendations mentioned in your article represented the total number implemented through the first quarter of fiscal 2001, as of Oct. 1. An additional seven recommendations were implemented between Oct. 1 and Jan. 25. We want to make sure your readers have the most up-to-date and accurate picture of what we have done in this area in recent weeks.

Let me also assure your readers that we are moving with a great sense of urgency to implement the remaining 11 recommendations. Some of them await the arrival of a new director of Operations Control Center training, while others will be included as part of a comprehensive training program that will begin later this month. We are committed to implementing all 32 recommendations no later than June 30.

Metro is known throughout the nation as the transit agency that puts safety first. That reputation and commitment is as strong today as it ever was. Safety will always remain Metro's No. 1priority.



Metro Safety Committee


Literacy not just an issue among the sighted

The president's recently announced education-reform package has demonstrated that, along with issues such as parental choice, literacy will be given a high priority on the new administration's agenda. Literacy is not just an area of concern among the sighted. According to the American Printing House for the Blind, only 10 percent of school-age children who are legally blind use Braille as their primary source for reading.

As the president and chief executive officer of a national organization that provides programs and services to people who are blind or visually impaired, I have witnessed the difference that learning to read and write Braille can make in a person's life. As a person who is blind, I also have experienced firsthand the independence that results from learning to read and write Braille. As a Braille reader, I am able to do independently tasks that otherwise would require the assistance of someone who is sighted, such as locating the proper button in an elevator or ordering from a menu in a restaurant. I also am able to compose memos in Braille that serve as constant reminders of the tasks I must complete at the office and around my home.

Encouraging Braille literacy is important in helping promote independence and reduce the staggering 70 percent unemployment rate among blind, working-age adults. A study published in the Journal of Visual Impairment and Blindness found that nearly 70 percent of people who were blind and employed reported extensive Braille usage. The American Foundation for the Blind estimates, however, that only 8 percent of legally blind adults use Braille as their primary means of reading and writing.

By learning to use Braille, people who are blind or visually impaired greatly increase their independence and enhance their ability to succeed in today's highly technical workplace. People who are blind or visually impaired can turn to organizations such as the Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind to receive training in Braille and other skills necessary to remain competitive at home, in school and in the workplace.


President and CEO

Columbia Lighthouse for the Blind


Mfume responds to story on NAACP's tax status

I am disappointed that The Washington Times has chosen to repeat uncritically the complaints of various critics of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People. The result is an article that leads the reader to an incorrect view of the NAACP's legal status and activities ("NAACP tax status questioned," Feb. 6).

The most glaring error is the unquestioned assertion that the activities of the NAACP National Voter Fund and Americans for Equality somehow threaten the tax status of the NAACP. You correctly state that the National Voter Fund and Americans for Equality are separate organizations from the NAACP and that the NAACP did not fund either organization. Yet you fail to acknowledge that establishing separate organizations with different tax statuses in order to engage in different types of activities is a long-standing practice the Internal Revenue Service and the courts have blessed repeatedly.

Organizations as adverse as the Sierra Club and the National Rifle Association have charitable (Internal Revenue Code Section 501(c)(3)), social welfare (Section 501(c)(4)) and political (Section 527) affiliates. There is no reason why the NAACP cannot also engage in this well-accepted practice. Indeed, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit commented favorably on this structure just last year in Branch Ministries vs. Rossotti.

You also suggest that it is somehow inappropriate for the NAACP to protect the privacy of its donors. The history of the NAACP and the civil rights movement in general provides more than sufficient reason why the NAACP chooses, like many other tax-exempt organizations, to keep its donor list confidential.

A series of Supreme Court decisions have upheld this right and recognized the very real dangers that persons whose association with the NAACP became public could face. Retaliation by employers, verbal threats and even physical violence long have dogged NAACP supporters. It would be naive to assume that those dangers no longer exist even though hate crimes and other forms of racism still occur throughout our nation.

The NAACP has sought for more than 92 years to ensure the political, educational, social and economic equality of minority-group citizens of the United States and to eliminate race prejudice.

The NAACP, not surprisingly, has found both allies and opponents in all of the political parties that have existed during that time. It has, therefore, consistently refused to endorse candidates for public office and has sought to work with anyone, regardless of party affiliation, who would help advance those goals.


President and Chief Executive Officer

National Association for the Advancement of Colored People


Op-Ed piece simply a Clintonian spin

I read with amusement Jack Young's Feb. 12 Op-Ed "No More 'gates'," about the Clinton administration's management problems.

I'm sure there is a measure of truth to his assertions of mismanagement, communication failures and the like within the realm of White House operations, but to suggest that former President Clinton's myriad scandals were simply "administrative problems" is laughable on its face. To further imply that the Bush administration will face the same "gates" (scandals) is a gross insult.

This is the same kind of spin we have been subjected to the past eight years, and I'm surprised my favorite newspaper would indulge in it.


Lewes, Del.

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