By Charles R. Wolpoff and Loren Goloski
BALTIMORE – The federal budget standoff and crime are the most important issues for the president and Congress to address, said residents questioned recently in this city and a nearby county.
In random interviews Wednesday with 32 people in various locations in the city and Carroll County, 12 cited ongoing budget-cutting negotiations as their primary concern and seven cited crime and/or drugs.
“They need to resolve the budget issue,” said Kathleen Richardson, 36, of Mayfield, who owns a bakery in Fells Point.
Richardson said the uncertainty about the budget and the furloughs of federal workers have affected her business.
“I want people to feel confident so they’ll go out and spend,” she said. “And the first place that can start is the Congress and the president working together for the benefit of everyone.”
Everett Boyd, 26, of Charles Village, criticized Congress for insisting on a balanced budget in seven years.
“Balancing the budget in seven years is stupid,” said Boyd, who is a regional office assistant for Johns Hopkins Programs in Education and Gynecology and Obstetrics.
“Seven years is just a number somebody created,” he said.
Sylvia Gibson, 52, of Northeast Baltimore, said Congress has been irresponsible on the budget issue.
“I feel Congress is playing a game with the people’s lives because the president didn’t talk to [House Speaker Newt Gingrich] on the plane,” said Gibson, a telephone operator with Bell Atlantic.
Gingrich created a controversy last year when he suggested that the budget negotiations were hindered because he felt snubbed by the president during a trip on Air Force One for Israel Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin’s funeral.
Albert Wilson, 48, a postal clerk who lives in West Baltimore, said he thinks Congress has proposed too many budget cuts.
“There’s going to be a lot of hurt out there for people who use Medicare [and] Social Security – people who are retired,” Wilson said.
But some criticized the president with regard to the budget battle. “He acted like a spoiled brat,” said Jessica Pepsin, 32, of Westminster, vice president of New Song Guitar Center.
Chekesha Almin, 50, a free-lance journalist from Govans, said she supports budget cuts even though she feels they “will hurt a lot of people.”
A recurring theme was that Congress and the president need to work together more than they have recently.
“Compromise should be the order of the day,” Wilson said.
Next to the budget, crime was the topic of most concern to the survey respondents.
“They’re entirely too lenient,” said Pepsin. “If streets were safer, more of us would get out at night.”
Karina Gunn, 28, of Ednor Gardens, said, “I really don’t think that the president is addressing the crime issues like getting guns off the street [and] harsher sentences for criminals.” Gunn is in retail sales management at Petrie Corp.
Marcquiem Carter, 35, a secretary for the state who lives in Northwest Baltimore, said the government should make more of an effort to clear the streets of drugs.
“They talk about getting guns off the street,” she said. But “the guns are connected to the drug dealing.”
Homelessness, housing, jobs, education and health care were other issues cited as primary concerns.
Respondents were also asked a number of specific questions, including whether they supported term limits and campaign reform.
Twenty of the 32 said there should be some reform of the campaign system. Richard Topps, 35, who lives downtown, said money plays too large a role in elections.
“There are so many good leaders who if it was not for the money would come forward … and provide better leadership for this country,” said Topps, who owns an insurance agency.
“They should make it so that the little man can participate in the democratic system as well as the rich,” said Gregory Walker, 40, of Baltimore.
Twenty of the 32 also said they supported term limits for congressmen.
Russell Barr, 72, a retired railroad worker and stevedore who lives near Finksburg, said he supports limiting congressmen to two or three terms.
He said the older lawmakers exert too much influence over younger members.
But several respondents said they did not think term limits are necessary.
“We have term limits. Just go to the voting booth,” said Herb Clark, 63, a retired steel mill worker from Cedarcroft. Felton agreed. “A lot of people are there because of apathetic voters. Their terms can be limited with each election.” -30-