Editor: There is something fundamentally wrong with the redistricting process which results in the butchering of Baltimore County. I cannot accept the old saw that this is the way it has always been done.
The purpose of redistricting has been ignored by the sitting legislators in their selfish attempt to choose their constituency rather than defining constituencies which need representation.
Maybe this travesty will awaken the voting public enough so that we take this important process from the politicians and place it in the hands of people. Otherwise, the foxes will continue to guard the henhouses.
Thomas W. Hourihan.
Editor: Gov. William Donald Schaefer has indicated that he will present a sweeping cost-cutting plan on Oct. 1 to deal with the state's budget deficit of $450 million.
The Maryland Appalachian Trail Protection Plan, prepared by the state Department of Natural Resources, recommends an annual project open space funding appropriation of $1 million for four to five years, combined with federal funding of $3-$4 million in order to relocate six miles of the Appalachian Trail. These costs will certainly increase due to the litigation involved in eminent domain and condemnation proceedings since most of the property owners will refuse to sell.
It is very evident that saving $1 million per year will not balance the budget by itself. On the other hand, the budget cannot be balanced by eliminating $450 million in one cut. It requires spending cuts in numerous programs by bold policymakers. Eliminating this $1 million per year expenditure should be one of many cuts made before the consideration of tax increases.
The Department of Natural Resources officials have been presented with an alternate route for relocating a part of the Appalachian Trail. It would cost the taxpayers nothing because it would be located on both Hagerstown watershed and state property.
It would even provide a much more beautiful view for hikers. It was rejected for three very weak reasons. Obviously, the state would rather spend than save money.
Needless and wasteful spending such as the Appalachian Trail Relocation Plan should be permanently abandoned. If legislators don't comply, vote the rascals out in future elections.
Michael D. Jacques.
Stadium Community Ignored
Editor: The Sun's Sept. 17 article about plans for the Memorial Stadium/Eastern High School site totally missed the fact that the consultants ignored recommendations of the Stadium Task Force.
In the report given out Sept. 16, the consultants outlined the task-force goals and plans, and then, with a patronizing pat on the head for a job well done, dismissed them all as not feasible.
As a homeowner and taxpayer on Ellerslie Avenue, I found the task-force ideas much more feasible and far-sighted than those of the out-of-state consultants.
The task force was firmly opposed to retail in the Memorial/Eastern site, due to the already struggling retail areas on Greenmount. The consultants ignored this, repeatedly referring to retail in the site and sneaking in comments about a "grocery store" at least three times in their report. There is already a supermarket on Gorsuch Avenue and another in Charles Village. There are two Giants within easy driving distance.
L Where's the need? Or are we not just talking property taxes?
The task force was strongly in favor of senior-citizen housing at the site. This was debunked by the consultants, who said that the area residents could not support its fees. Most senior housing that I've been involved with both personally and professionally does not draw its population from the immediate area. The need for senior housing will be the largest growing of all housing needs. Not all nice senior-living facilities are expensive. I know, having parents in one in Pennsylvania, that they can be both lovely and practical, while still within the reach of a retiree on social security and pension.
Tearing down Eastern High School is a terrible waste. What fabulous condos could be made, or a practical facility for government agencies. The city has restored far worse sites for its Department of Social Services offices. Just because short-sightedness has left the building empty and ignored for six years is no reason to overlook its potential now.
The community around the site is being ignored by the consultants. It is a racially and economically diverse group, and should not be silenced. Fifteen years is a long time to live with construction. I think we should at least get an end product we can live with.
Margaret L. Steiner.
Editor: Roger Simon's column of Aug. 30 concerning possible Japanese participation in the 50th anniversary ceremonies at Pearl Harbor was one of his best. The idea calls up long thoughts.
But E. Kristine Belfoure's letter of Sept. 5 condemning the proposal calls for an immediate reply. Surely the commemoration is intended to honor the patriots who fought in the Japanese War. If the Japanese are not invited unconditionally to participate, I would contend that we have learned nothing from the conflict.
Editor: The job of keeping the taxpayers accurately informed about state finances is a difficult job. Unfortunately, that job is made more difficult by inaccurate reporting by The Sun.
Referencing a legislative audit, reporter C. Fraser Smith reported Sept. 3 that state agencies "rolled over" $32 million in expenditures from fiscal 1991 into fiscal 1992. Had he taken the time to thoroughly read the audit report, he would have realized it was a year old and referred to the fiscal 1990 close-out.
Furthermore, the information in the audit was reviewed by the legislature's budget committees last fall and reported by The Sun.
In these times of limited state resources, the public's need for accurate data on state budget matters is more acute than ever.
Frederick W. Puddester.
The writer is deputy secretary of the Maryland Department of Budget and Fiscal Planning.
Things Castro's Cuba Will Not Change
Editor: It is disturbing when The Sun joins in the campaign to rid Cuba of Fidel Castro and then uncritically adopts the prevailing mythology about that country and misinforms readers. Your Sept. 12 editorial depicts Mr. Castro as calling a party congress for Oct. 10 in a desperate effort to save his rule.
The fact is that the upcoming Fourth Party Congress has been more than a year and a half in preparation and is culmination of a process of rectification that began in Cuba even before Mikhail S. Gorbachev started his country on the road to glasnost and perestroika. But the readers of your pages know little of this and no doubt believe that Cuba has been dogmatically resisting any political reform, operating as a closed dictatorship.
That this is a distortion of the historical record can be seen in the open public discussion that has led up to next month's party congress. About 80,000 meetings were held in every city, every province, every neighborhood. Some 3.5 million people took part -- one third of the nation's population.
These discussions questioned virtually every aspect of Cuban society, rethinking what people wanted their society to look like. More than 1 million suggestions, proposals and complaints were made. I wish we could have such a democratic process in the U.S.
While the political changes that will come out of the congress will not be the ones the U.S. demands, they are likely to be far more than your editorial suggests. I spent two weeks this summer in Cuba talking with intellectuals. I found they were developing a new conception of the party that could mean fundamental changes.
They will stay with a one-party system because they recognize that multiple parties would only invite divisive U.S. meddling in Cuba's politics. What is likely is a redefinition of Cuba's Communist Party not just as a Marxist-Leninist vanguard party of the working class, but as a party that is open to people of all classes.
While the party will continue its commitment to socialism, the Cuban concept of socialism is far broader than what we think of. It has no resemblance to the bureaucratic rule that prevailed until recently in Eastern Europe.
When the Cubans speak of "socialism," they mean social justice. Given that understanding, they can see no reason to yield to U.S. insistence that they give up socialism, especially if that results in their economic subordination to the U.S.