Campaign ReformsEditor: As expected, The Sun's editorial...


Campaign Reforms

Editor: As expected, The Sun's editorial page came down on the side of big-money contributors by smearing the issue of public campaign financing as an "incumbent's relief bill." Never mind that Bill HR 1177 has provisions essential to better government.

One way in which it will help challengers as well as incumbents is that it will reduce the necessity for candidates before and after elections to grovel before and do the bidding of big contributors like Charles Keating, the S & L owner. He had congressmen putting the heat on federal regulators in an S & L failure which will now cost the taxpayers over one billion dollars.

Another way in which HR 1177 will help all of us is the reduction of the inordinate amount of time challengers and incumbents alike must spend on fund raising. Both would have more time to devote to trying to solve the deep problems our country faces.

The Sun reports that only one in five taxpayers earmarks one dollar for the presidential campaign fund, and therefore the fund is not needed. It is also true that in this country a miserably low percentage of citizens bothers to vote compared to the voting record in comparable democracies. Is the franchise then not needed?

M. R. Brown. Baltimore.

Bay Arithmetic

Editor: Your June 13 article on the proposed three-year moratorium on oystering brings to light once again the strange arithmetic of the Chesapeake. Again we see a tiny minority claiming the absolute right to exploit the bay until the very last oyster is sold. The other five million Marylanders should have no say in the matter at all, according to the members of this exclusive club.

And think just how incredibly exclusive it is.

The total oyster catch last year was said to be worth $10.1 million at dockside. Regardless of the claims made by the fisheries camp, this volume surely could not support more than 1,000 oystermen. At that figure they would each have averaged only $10,100 in gross income from their line of work over a six or seven month season. From this they must subtract expenses of gasoline, boat maintenance, labor, etc.

Clearly, oystering is an activity confined to a very small group. It is this same little group which also claims the right to catch all the crabs, fish and eels humanly possible. This same little group fished the shad and the rockfish to near-extinction, never relenting until stopped by law and complaining loudly when it finally did.

Now the oyster catch is down to one percent of its former size and still its members claim the right to catch all they can find. Could their greed possibly be more obvious? Could their utter disregard for the long-term health of the bay be more flagrant?

Are we expected to permit this handful of men to continue their abuse of the resources of the Chesapeake simply because their forefathers abused them? Plainly, the husbandry of a stable oyster population cannot be left to this group. It was under their stewardship that the magnificent "great shellfish bay" has come to its present sorry state.

It is abundantly clear that government must act to save this tiny group of short-sighted people from themselves and to protect the rights of the other five million Marylanders. Remember us, fearless lawmakers? Out on the Chesapeake our votes don't seem to count for much, but in the voting booth they add up just fine.

James W. O'Reilly. Monkton.

Shifting Sands

Editor: Ellen Goodman is perceptive and of the keenest sensibilities. However, her June 14 column, "The New Father Is About Love, Not Money," managed what must surely be a new high in solecistic comedy.

A Washington cabbie, having our columnist as an audience of one on a recent hot afternoon, opined thoughtfully, "One thing about my wife, she's a good provider." Now, the more Ms. Goodman ran that sentence around in her mind, the more, she tells us, it occurred to her that she rarely hears "that kind of kudo to men anymore."

Kudos, a lifting from the Greek, is quite singular already, and Ms. Goodman has committed verbal butchery in amputating the final consonant, which is not the inflectional s used to form the plural of most English nouns.

As has been sagely observed, the shifting sands of pronunciation claim many a victim: kudos should be pronounced, but almost never is now, with the second syllable to rhyme with the first of dossier; a correct pronunciation would be highly suggestive of the bound nature of the s.

Herbert T. Fee Jr. Towson.

Too Much Privilege

Editor: Thanks to reporter Doug Birch, for having the courage to discuss the last bastion of privilege, the perquisite of all perquisites, VIP parking. What a vast, untapped source of income for a struggling city. What a novel idea, that metered parking be available for Baltimore citizens who need to conduct business with city agencies and departments!

I suggest that privilege parking be immediately withdrawn from all but the mayor, City Council members and emergency vehicles on emergency business. Looking for parking should just be a fact of life for all other downtown employees.

Commuter parking lots should be available, but should operate more like the "High-Occupancy Vehicle" lanes outside Washington. Anyone with three or more persons in their car could be admitted by an attendant to a special lot for a bargain rate. The current system in effect under the JFX is blatantly abused by car-pool lot permit holders, who purportedly drop off their riders before parking in the metered lot (which requires three or more passengers).

Also, the city should reclaim the parking lot it gave to the State Highway Administration last year. City property should be put to the best use for all citizens of Baltimore.

Parking changes, through the addition of new Baltimore City public parking lots and rearrangement of metered areas on Baltimore's streets, can help Baltimore with its current fiscal crisis. Action should be taken immediately by city officials.

Mary Sloan Roby. Baltimore.

'Safe' Nukes? Get Serious

Editor: Anthony J. Baratta's letter in support of nuclear power (The Sun, June 2) as a solution to the nation's energy problem contained some inaccuracies and unfounded assumptions. His assertion that nuclear power plants in the United States are protected by containment buildings so as to preclude the possibility of a Chernobyl-type accident is unsubstantiated.

In early 1986, a top Nuclear Regulatory Commission official admitted that the containment vessels on 24 General Electric reactors in the U.S. have a 90-percent chance of failure in a nuclear accident. In late 1987, an NRC task force confirmed the weakness of these 24 "Mark I" reactors, saying their containments are "virtually certain" to fail in an accident. The NRC also says there is a 45-percent chance of a core-melt accident in the United States in the next 20 years.

Unlike the Three Mile Island plant, which fortunately had a strong containment, the GE containments resemble the Chernobyl model, some with as little as a half-inch steel shell. The Reed Report, written by GE engineers in 1975, recognized the containment weakness and concluded that GE reactors are "not a quality product." Two of these Mark I reactors are operating at Peach Bottom in Pennsylvania, only 40 miles from Baltimore.

Professor Baratta makes the claim that no death or serious injury has been caused by radiation from U.S. reactors. However, it has been documented that 360 curies of radioactive iodine and strontium have been released into the biosphere by 50 U.S. nuclear plants between 1970 and 1978. Routine radioactive ventings are still commonplace.

Public health experts tell us that any level of radiation poses a health risk and there is no threshold damage level, unlike other toxic substances. There are many carcinogenic substances in our environment which are killing us and radioactive releases from power plants make up one of them.

If nuclear power is as safe as some people claim, then why won't any insurance company insure a power company for the full amount of damages in case of a serious accident? Nuclear power plants are insured for only a small fraction of their potential liability. For example, the Peach Bottom plant is insured for about one percent of the $119 billion of potential damages in a worst-case NRC scenario which would cause 109,000 deaths. The Calvert Cliffs nuclear plant in Maryland is underinsured to the same extent. If the professional gamblers, that is, insurance companies, don't think the odds are in their favor, then I don't think it is a good risk either. Unlike Professor Baratta, I agree with Ralph Nader's organization, Public Citizen, that we should be using conservation, efficiency and renewable energy sources instead of nuclear power or fossil fuels. Recycling our trash is only the beginning.

Richard Ochs. Baltimore.

The writer is co-director of the Maryland Safe Energy Coalition.

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