LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Linowes: It's Not His Burden

Editor: This letter is to comment on the Linowes Commission's recommendation for personal property taxes on cars and boats (The Sun, Jan. 6).

There is no doubt that the State of Maryland needs to increase revenues to remain solvent. To do so by levying a personal-property tax on cars and boats is an easy but unfair way to do this.

The revenue from the tax on cars and trucks would be used for highway maintenance and improvements and since cars and trucks do contribute directly to deterioration of highways, it is logical for those who use the highways to pay for their upkeep.

It is not logical, however, to calculate the amount each must pay based on the value of the vechicle he or she drives. This ignores the fact that it is the weight of a vehicle and the miles driven and not the vehicle's value that contributes to wear and tear on the roadways. Revenues for highway projects should be raised in such a way that those who cause the most wear pay the most toward the inevitable repairs.

On the subject of boats, the revenue from the proposed tax is intended to be used for Chesapeake Bay cleanup. Boats, whether they be pleasure or commercial, large of small, do not contribute significantly to the deterioration of bay water quality. The costs of bay cleanup should be borne by those who cause pollution. Wastewater treatment plants, industrial discharges, stormwater outlets and runoff from agricultural land and construction sites are the major contributor to bay pollution.

Generating revenue from those who cause non-point source pollution (run-off from agricultural land, for example) would be difficult since there is no simple way to equitably determine how much each waterfront landowner must pay. In addition, the Critical Area Commission established a 1,000-foot-wide buffer that surrounds the tidal waters of Chesapeake Bay which will, in time, reduce pollutants from this source.

Point sources of pollution, such as industrial or municipal outfalls, however, represent a logical source of revenue for bay clean-up. These sources are responsible for a great deal of the pollutants entering Chesapeake Bay, and they are largely controlled by a system of discharge permits.

Would it not be logical to generate revenues for bay cleanup through a system of fees based on the quality and quality of wastes discharged into the bay and not on the state's estimate of the value of a pleasure or commercial vessel?

In this current climate of accountability, should we not hold those responsible for creating a mess also responsible for cleaning it up? It would be wrong to penalize recreational boaters or commercial watermen for the sins of industries and municipalities just as it would be wrong to raise revenue for highway maintenance based on the value of the vehicles using those highways.

John V. Martin.

Baltimore.

Exploiting the War

Editor: Am I alone in my disgust in how some of the networks and local news stations have exploited to the hilt the current crisis/war in the Middle East? Those people who are less journalists than they are TV personalities (i.e. "Friends You Can Turn to . . .") ought to keep in mind that they are covering a war, complete with death and destruction, and not some Super Bowl. They can keep their glitzy graphics and flare for drama and just give us the facts. Isn't that what journalism is supposed to be?

Mark Ochalek.

Baltimore.

2020

Editor: The proposed state growth management program, known as 2020, is under attack by the Maryland Farm Bureau.

The 1991 Farm Bureau Policy Zoning Issue states, "Any change in zoning or regulations that would cause loss of equity in land shall provide for just compensation to the landowner." Why?

Zoning changes would affect only a farm for sale. A farm sold for development is no longer a farm.

There are no guarantees in a free market enterprise; not in real estate, merchandise, stocks and bonds, art work, antiques or any other assets.

The 2020 program will ensure the existence of rural areas. The JTC Farm Bureau should support it.

Claire B. Mulford.

Avenue.

Longer Work Week

Editor: I am writing to condemn a recent action by the governor.

He signed an executive order increasing the state employees' work week from 35.5 to 40 hours. This is but the insulting culmination of a series of concessions already exacted by the governor.

Historically, the state employees accepted a shorter work week in lieu of pay raises necessary to keep up with inflation. As recently reported, the state's pay scale is about 15 percent below that of the private sector. To make ends meet, many state employees work second jobs. Extending their work day will only make getting to those jobs harder, especially since they will now be fighting (and contributing to) rush-hour traffic.

Also, finding day care will be made even more difficult and expensive because they have to pick the children up later in the day.

This increase in work time is in addition to denying merit raises to newer employees, who typically earn the least. The governor suggests with a straight face that forcing the employees to work longer hours, for the same low pay, will increase productivity.

This implies a profound ignorance of human nature on his part.

Robin J. Kremley.

Annapolis.

Idiotic Idea

Editor: It's both sad and maddening that an elected official proposed buying guns from citizens for $50 as a means of reducing crime, as was done back in the Seventies.

Does he think it worked so well then that it should be repeated? Money has halved in value over the years. This means that per gun this idiotic idea would only cost half as much as it then did.

Under that old program I took an old cheap handgun I'd inherited and traded it at police headquarters for $50 of my fellow citizens' tax dollars. I would not have done this if it were a tool of my trade, just as a carpenter wouldn't sell his hammer and saw, but since I wasn't planning an armed robbery or a murder I parted with it.

Both business and criminals apply a cost/benefit ratio to their endeavors. No reduction in handgun-related crimes can be expected until the cost to the criminal goes way up.

We need more non-lawyers in all legislative bodies. We need less plea bargaining of gun crimes. We need more jail space and tougher judges. What we don't need is inane ideas like $50 gun purchases that only serve to obfuscate the real solutions to the problem.

Robert Lindsay.

Towson.

Unholy War

Editor: Many Americans have been shocked that Iraq's Saddam Hussein has referred to the war against the U.S. as jihad -- holy war.

We should not be shocked. Many Americans, including President Bush, also believe themselves to be fighting a holy war.

Americans have been praying that God will protect the nation's warriors and give them swift victory. Even the ban on public-school prayer has been spontaneously lifted in some places, while the normally secular media call on Americans everywhere to pray.

Many of those deployed in the gulf claim that they have been praying since they arrived. Some pilots say they prayed all the more that their bombs would destroy their targets but the flak would not destroy them.

Many Americans believe that this war is an act of righteousness -- hardly a secular word -- for which God will reward them.

The commander-in-chief has ended many of his recent speeches with the prayer, "God Bless the United States of America," while citizens fervently sing "God Bless America," as a battle hymn.

Not coincidentally, the Rev. Billy Graham (probably the nation's most respected religious leader) spent the first night of the war at war headquarters (the White House).

The day after he initiated the war, President Bush attended a worship service at Fort Myer with Defense Secretary Richard Cheney, Gen. Colin Powell and others.

Divine protection, assistance, blessing, presence. This is all the language, the mindset, of holy war. It is the same kind of language and mindset emanating from Iraq.

But it is also, at least from a Christian perspective, a lie.

From a truly Christian perspective, there can be no holy wars. The U.S. is not a holy nation (neither is Iraq). As a nation, we are not God's people, "for God so loved the world. . ."

It would be merely foolish to think that the U.S. has gone to war simply for moral, humanitarian, noble reasons. However, it is more than foolish -- it is blasphemous -- to pray, preach or believe that God is on America's side.

Those who call themselves Christians -- as well as all people of faith -- must pray and work not for victory but for peace, and for the peaceful restoration of justice. That is the only holy enterprise in war.

Michael J. Gorman.

Odenton.

Stopping War

Editor: I can't help but think how much better the world might be if "peace" demonstrators channeled their energies into something more productive than undermining the efforts of our already committed service people. (Maybe praying?) What is started is started.

I'm not for armed conflict. Anyone with their beads on the right string wouldn't be. It affects all.

I lost an uncle in World War I, the man I wanted to marry in World War II, in which many of my friends and school mates were killed or wounded.

It just seems that it was necessary for someone to start sticking up for what is right and hopefully keep acts of takeover, etc. from continuing. Given a free hand in this, what other worlds did Saddam Hussein plan to conquer?

Perhaps if a similar retaliation had taken place for another pompous dictator named Hitler, when he made his first move, we might not have had World War II.

M. Kotowski.

Baltimore.

Dr. Ronald Michels

Editor: The death of Dr. Ronald Michels is a tremendous loss to the world.

The miracles he performed, for that is what they were, to restore eyesight to the blind is the stuff of which biblical legends were made. I was one of the thousands who benefited from his incredible skill. He saved me from total blindness.

That he should leave us so young, with so much more to give and teach is heart-breaking.

I watched him instruct his staff, first at Hopkins, then at the Glaser & Michels Eye Clinic, and was impressed with his eagerness to convey all he knew to them. We can only hope that his wisdom and hunger to learn and to teach continues among his disciples.

Lillian Broadwick.

Monkton.

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