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I read with disappointment and pain your recent article “Queen of Mean” (6/18). Disappointment because there are so many vitally important, complex questions that need to be explored. A few are:
1. Is the landlord-tenant laws’ bias in favor of the tenant resulting in a decline in the number of units available?
2. How will the low-rent market be affected once the two-year grace period expires for poor women on Aid for Families With Dependent Children under “welfare reform”?
3. Are landlords of modest means being driven to the wall by canny tenants who know how to game the system?
4. How has the crack epidemic affected low-rent housing stock? (See the article by Peter Perl in the June 27 Washington Post.)
5. Is rent control depriving landlords of the profit margin they need to maintain and improve their properties?
I think you underestimate the intelligence of your readers. A sizable percentage of them are either college graduates or have some college training. They could be engaged by substantive articles laying out complex issues instead of leveling ad hominem attacks such as were made in “Queen of Mean.” It’s said that good minds attack problems while little minds attack people—which explains a lot, except why a newspaper that aspires to a paid circulation base would tolerate such a reporter.
I was pained by the intense hostility I sensed in Jason Cherkis’ description of my daughter. I wondered how many Landlord and Tenant Court clients he’d had to troll among to cobble together those disjointed negative statements. I asked Barbara why the article had such a resentful tone, but all she said was that he’d asked very personal, inappropriate questions and that she’d had to terminate that tangent. Little did I imagine until I read her letter of reply!
The portion that was intended to be the most hurtful was the reference to Barbara’s physical clumsiness. A reasonably astute person would have inferred that there was a physical basis. But for the not-so-bright, I’ll explain: She suffered birth injuries that in a more extreme form are recognizable as cerebral palsy. She’s worked hard all her life to overcome it and almost never indulges in self-pity. Barbara is one of the bravest, most determined, and yet empathic people I’ve ever known, and her father and I are very proud of her. If he found her mannerisms annoying, Cherkis must really get off on Janet Reno’s severe tremor from Parkinson’s—or Robert Reich’s very short stature. For shame, Mr. Cherkis! You’re a disgrace to your upbringing. Perhaps the Almighty will send you wisdom in the form of a cerebral hemorrhage, granting you the experience of months or years of physical rehabilitation and speech therapy.