Transport FirstEditor: Three cheers for your editorial...


Transport First

Editor: Three cheers for your editorial of March 2 supporting legislation before the General Assembly that would raise gasoline taxes and vehicle fees in order to increase transportation revenues.

The Sun rightfully recognizes that Maryland's economy is dependent on safe, effective and uncongested transportation facilities in a good state of repair. The availability of an adequate labor force and the ability to ship freight economically depend in large measure on a superior transportation system.

A recent report by economists of the Federal Reserve Board illustrates that public investment in infrastructure contributes to productivity in the private sector. It is not surprising that in the U.S., where investment in public infrastructure is less than 0.4 percent of gross domestic product, private sector productivity increases have been less than 0.5 per cent per year.

Compare this to Canada, France and the United Kingdom, where public infrastructure investment has been 2 percent of gross domestic product with attendant private sector productivity increases of 1.5 to 2 percent per year; and Japan, where investment in public infrastructure has been 5 percent and attendant increases in private sector productivity have been 3 percent per year.

The same relationship between public investment and private productivity gains would also hold in the economy of a state such as Maryland.

Without increased transportation funding, our continuing program of transportation improvements and repair would come to a total halt. This would be an intolerable condition, similar to closure of our hospitals or school systems. Essential services cannot operate on a stop-and-go basis.

Failure to increase transportation revenues this session would cause severe layoffs in the transportation, construction and design industries. This would be devastating to Maryland's economy, where construction job losses have already accounted for thousands of workers.

On the other hand, increased expenditures in transportation improvements and repair would put many thousands of unemployed construction workers back to work.

I totally agree with your statement that the General Assembly should have the courage to provide the funds needed to keep transportation in Maryland first-rate.

Jack Kinstlinger.


Movie Manners

Editor: Like Peter Finch in the film, "Network," I'm mad as hell and I'm not going to take it any more. Going to the movies isn't fun any more.

It has nothing to do with the quality of the movies. It has everything to do with the rude behavior of other patrons in the theater.

They talk loudly and excessively, they kick and shake the chairs of other patrons, and they are generally inconsiderate of others.

I think the theater managements need to establish and prominently display a policy that rude behavior of any kind will not be tolerated. Tom Kiefauber, manager of the Senator Theater, has done just this.

Prior to the screening of a film at the Senator, the audience is informed that rude behavior will not be tolerated, and any patron who fails to abide by this policy will be ejected.

I would like to encourage theater patrons who are tired of being annoyed by the rudeness of others to contact the theater managements. They can do this in writing, by telephone or in person.

Going to the movies is supposed top be an enjoyable and entertaining experience. Let's try to make it one again.

Michele E. Williams.


Workers for All

Editor: In his Feb. 27 letter, G. Raymond Valle comes out four-square for an increase in teachers' salaries, but clamps his foot down on similar action on behalf of state workers. As a disclaimer for self-emolument, Mr. Valle says he is not a teacher.

It is painfully obvious that he is not a state employee. If he were, he would not denigrate them by categorizing them as sanitary workers and pencil pushers.

Now, if he is talking about sanitarians he would discover that their qualifications and responsibilities are no less demanding, as guardians of the public's well being, than are the teachers' in their particular roles. As a state employee for 36 years and for 18 more in a related capacity, I traveled to every jurisdiction Maryland, east, west, north, south.

I saw prison guards putting their lives on the line, social workers visiting crime-ridden areas and remote mountain dwellings that most people never knew existed, secretaries and clerical

workers trying to meet deadlines. All were dedicated, hard working and vastly underpaid.

Add to these the many institutional workers faced with the unenviable task of caring for the needs of the helpless and near helpless confined to our state hospitals. Pencil pushers? Get real.

If Mr. Valle were to examine the record he would find that over the years, teachers as a whole have received salary increases -- indisputably well deserved -- quite a bit in excess of these given to state employees.

To put down these employees as undeserving is a flagrant misconception that cannot be left unchallenged.

Abner Kaplan.


Why PAC Reform Is Needed

Editor: After years of being shelved, campaign finance reform has made it to the front burner in Annapolis. The Maryland General Assembly appears poised to pass bills, sponsored by House Speaker R. Clayton Mitchell and Senate President

Thomas V. Mike Miller, that would limit political action committee (PAC) contributions and restrict lobbyists from fund-raising for candidates who they lobby.

Why is reform needed? Common Cause/Maryland recently completed a two-year study of PAC contributions to state candidates. We found that PAC contributions to 1990 General Assembly winners increased 71 percent over the 1986 figure, rising from $1.3 million to $2.3 million. Eighty percent of PAC money went to incumbents, reducing competition and accountability. The largest PAC, the Maryland Legal PAC, contributed $250,000 to state candidates. Another PAC controlled by trial lawyers, Citizens Rights PAC, contributed $67,000. Insurance PACs supporting no-fault automobile insurance gave just over $44,000. Is it a coincidence that the issue of no-fault, fiercely opposed by trial lawyers because it would limit suits, has been quashed in the General Assembly this year? (Common Cause is neutral on no-fault).

Common Cause/Maryland believes reform that is needed is worth doing well. There are presently no limits on PAC contributions to state or county candidates in Maryland. The Miller-Mitchell bill would prohibit a PAC from contributing more than $8,000 to any one candidate during a four-year election cycle. Our analysis shows the $8,000 proposed limit would have had virtually no effect on PAC contributions to General Assembly candidates had it been in place during the 1990 elections -- only two winning General Assembly candidates received a contribution from a PAC about $8,000.

Real campaign reform requires a limit of no more than $4,000 on what a PAC could contribute to a General Assembly candidate over a four-year election cycle, and a limit on what a candidate can accept from all PACs combined (either a percentage of their total receipts or a dollar amount, or a combination of the two). And, as the Miller-Mitchell bill would do, real campaign reform must prohibit lobbyists from bankrolling candidates who they lobby.

This year presents the best opportunity since the Watergate era for the passage of real campaign reform in Annapolis. The General Assembly should seize this chance to limit special interest influence and restore public confidence in state government.

Phil Andrews.


The writer is executive director of Common Cause/Maryland.

Notify Him

Editor: In a recent letter, Andrew Abrams expressed disagreement with The Sun's support of a parental-notification clause in recent abortion legislation. Mr. Abrams cites as a primary reason for his disagreement the fact that "poor young women" will be victimized.

He states that "We must resist the temptation to impose our own image of the 'functional' family structure on others." He suggests that family communication can not be legislated.

I agree. However, should my authority and responsibility as a parent be taken from me by the state? The overwhelming majority of parents are not abusers of their children.

How can I as a parent teach my children right from wrong and counsel them about tough choices in life when, in essence, the state is telling them they don't have to talk to me? I wonder if it is Mr. Abrams' intention to portray my parental teachings of right from wrong as a threat to his teachings of a continued degradation of the traditional family unit in society so his non-traditional values can take hold?

If people like Mr. Abrams would recognize the strength and commitment of the traditional and functional family unit and stop trying to tear it down, maybe we will all have a better chance in avoiding teen pregnancy and abortion decisions in the first place. His opinion is shortsighted, misdirected and lacks faith in the family.

David W. Ewell.


Endangered Life

Editor: Your Feb. 24 article about the new Tilghman-on-Chesapeake development clearly showed me how the "best of both worlds" attitude, about which Tom Horton wrote in "Bay Country," continues to prevail in Maryland. We claim to be making efforts to save the bay, yet we allow developers to insult such virgin soils as are found on Avalon and Tilghman Islands.

We are, truly, a species that likes to live life on the edge, the edge where land meets water. Unfortunately, a large percentage of wildlife requires that same environment to survive. Even in our own species exists a breed that depends directly on the bay and its edges -- the watermen. For them, the new planned community means an increase in property taxes and an imposed change in lifestyle.

The purpose here is not to target developers as sole destroyers of our land and water. But let's not deceive the public into thinking that developers are making fair restitution by limiting the style of house to being "harmonious with the seascape," or by making efforts "to make the development fit in aesthetically."

To save the bay is to preserve a way of life, not just life itself.

John Sandkuhler.


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