Understanding the 'Barnes Bill'
Editor: John W. Taylor wrote The Sun detailing his objections to the "Barnes Bill." I would like to correct his information and set the record straight.
First, the bill, properly called the "Maryland Growth and Chesapeake Bay Protection Act of 1991," does not mandate densities of any number. The bill, as submitted, leaves the issue of densities, along with many other details of implementation, to further collaborative study through an additional year of public input involving the Barnes Commission, local county and municipal government, the Office of Planning and concerned citizens. The commission did recommend in its reporting an average net density of 3.5 dwelling units per acre, which, if the many exclusions within the growth area are taken into account, nets down to approximately the 2.2 density found in Columbia. But that recommendation is not part of the proposed statute.
Secondly, Mr. Taylor claims that substantial environmental gains were made during the period from 1985 to 1990 during "one of the most intense periods of sprawl development in history." He is correct about the sprawl; however, the gains were made despite the sprawl. In fact the progress we have seen is the result of the state, local government and private industry spending hundreds of millions of dollars in corrective measures to mitigate the results of sprawl and poor environmental practices.
Upgraded sewage treatment plants (Maryland's sewage treatment plant compliance rate went from 47 percent in 1987 to 95 percent in 1990, for instance), crackdowns on polluters ($1.5 million in fines and 105 days of jail time in 1990 alone) and the individual actions of millions of Marylanders have caused the bay to stop getting worse, not better. Despite Mr. Taylor's protestations, suburban sprawl has been proven to harm the environment, increase public spending on infrastructure and eliminate agricultural and forest land.
Finally, Mr. Taylor complains that the bill does nothing to stop growth in Maryland, or cause "permanent" protection to the sensitive areas, rural areas or any type of open space. He is again wrong on two counts: The bill does achieve permanent protection of sensitive areas and, quite properly, does not duplicate other programs aimed at preserving open space and agriculture.
To conclude, one can only assume that Mr. Taylor is misinformed about growth issues and the solutions proposed by the "Barnes Bill." To say that the bill does nothing to limit growth is correct. From the beginning, the commission's charter has been to devise a program to manage and direct growth in a fashion that both ensures Maryland's economic vitality and protect her natural resources.
Torrey C. Brown.
The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Natural Resources.
Editor: I read your article dealing with the problems of the aging driver with considerable interest. As more and more of us age in a society which has become increasingly dependent upon the use of a car, this problem exacerbates.
Fourteen years ago while attending a pre-retirement seminar I heard a very relevant talk on this problem. With so many affluent seniors now living in suburbs beyond public transportation and with all of us having to do our shopping in malls, many are slaves to automobiles.
After the talk, I wasted little time in purchasing a home with access to four bus lines. It is within walking distance of many shops and facilities, my doctor, dentist and two hospitals.
I respect and admire those who have moved to similar locations and have had the honesty to admit that it was time to give up their cars. For many this represents a very difficult decision since it means giving up both mobility and independence.
However, against this must be weighed the threat to others posed by those whose eyesight and reactions have deteriorated over the years. It would seem that at some age (possibly 75) there should be mandatory testing before a license can be renewed.
Robert E. Greenfield.
Editor: The articles by Gelareh Asayesh have been most enjoyable and enlightening. As a visiting professor in Iran 15 years ago, I have developed a love for the people and their culture.
However, fundamentalist religions fanatics of any ilk bode ill for their own country.
rank J. Verde.
Editor: Although I agree with many of the statements in your editorial, "The Message of Racial Inferiority", I am disturbed by your conclusion that "predominantly black schools in Baltimore City . . . and predominantly white schools in Baltimore County . . . are unequal because far more money per pupil is spent in the county."
Lack of adequate funds for Baltimore City students is indeed part of the problem at minority schools. Yet your assessment that it is the only problem is far from true and only serves to oversimplify an extremely complex issue.
If you were to compare city schools to predominantly black Baltimore County schools (yes, there are some, one as high as 99 percent black), you would find far less discrepancy between the city and the county. At least one black county school that I am familiar with has test scores that are below the city average. Lest anyone wonder, predominantly black county schools receive the same funds as predominantly white county schools, sometimes more, since they frequently qualify for Chapter One funds.
The reasons for the lower success rates of some predominantly black schools are numerous and complex, ranging from diminished expectations from teachers and parents to lack of identifiable role models and yes, in the case of the city, to lack of funds.
In order to deal with what you term the "message of racial inferiority," we need to study the issue in an honest, open and thoughtful manner.
I suggest that one way to start in Baltimore would be to compare inadequately funded predominantly black city schools to adequately funded predominantly black county schools.
What differences do we see? In which areas has extra funding brought the greatest return? How can we build on the successes that we see? What problems have not been solved by additional funding and how can these be addressed?
It is only when questions like these begin to be asked and honestly answered that we will finally begin to banish discrimination from our schools and society.
Karen L. Gray.
Say It Isn't So
Editor: I felt despair and anger when I read the account (The Sun, Feb. 10) of Annapolis' gloating over the "Sabatini Plan" to extract additional Medicaid payments from the federal government. Implementation of the scheme is said to depend on physicians' agreement to double their billing fees while still accepting current levels of payment.
My guess is that many physicians will not want to do this purely on grounds of self-interest. But I would hope that they reject the plan on ethical grounds and do so publicly. The Sun article reveals an almost symbolic way of thinking that has eaten at the spiritual substance of this society -- the application of solely legal criteria for behavior and the "we need it . . . and everyone does it" kind of rationalization.
Are there no governmental leaders who will stand up and say, "We will not do this on the grounds of principle?" Do we want to transmit to our children and grandchildren the message that, to get ahead in life, they will be smart to find the angles through the sleaze?
I find it ironic that Susan Leviton, described as a representative of Advocates for Children and Youth, finds the plan wonderful. I find it infuriating that Nelson Sabatini, now acting Health secretary, describes his plan as "creative financing." What a denigration of the concept and meaning of "creativity."
Editor: With reference to Cathy Myrowitz's question about military spending (letter to the editor Feb. 7), I agree with her that our spending so much the military is unbalanced, and not juist a little. I subscribe to the National Peace Institute and its practice // of non-violent conflict resolution.
Such financial priorities do indeed affect the direction and outcome of our national foreign policy. Not until we as a people make our thinking on this matter well known will our government's policies be changed.