Shifting SandEditor: Even before the tempest subsides,...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Shifting Sand

Editor: Even before the tempest subsides, you can hear it blowing in the wind of every storm that hits our coast.

It sounds like the choir at the corner church. The politicians and residents of the affected area all start crying for millions to save Ocean City. And the recent nor'easter is no exception.

When will the public ever learn that beaches are dynamic structures? They move and change. All the human efforts to save them are at best only stopgap measures. The environment will win in the end.

In fact, this movement should be obvious to all. Ocean City's inlet didn't even exist in the recent past. It was opened during a storm. What makes people think that the sea won't break through another area of this fragile strand of sand?

Putting money into replenishment is the same as throwing it down the sewer. It is just a matter of time before a big storm will wipe out the entire city.

This should be obvious from the devastation we all witnessed in South Carolina. Millions of dollars were spent to protect the beach and all to no avail.

The problem is only going to get worse. Sea level is rising and these events will increase in number and severity.

Beach dynamics have been known for a long time. When folks built in these dangerous areas, it must have been with the full knowledge of the inherent instability of the substratum.

Without blaming people for wanting to live on the beach, it is not fair to ask the rest of the population to pay for their folly.

If the citizens of Ocean City insist on remaining on that tenuouslyfrail "ribbon in the ocean," then it is their responsibility, and only theirs, to pay the exorbitant costs to maintain it. Are we looking for another never-ending "welfare for the rich" program?

Martin Freed.

Dames Quarter.

Onward at 80

Editor: National Woman's Party members may chuckle at Susan Baer's idea that the National Organization of Women may have peaked at the tender age of 25 (January 9).

The National Woman's Party, founded in 1913 by Alice Paul, who wrote the Equal Rights Amendment in 1923, will celebrate its 80th anniversary next year.

After securing the 19th Amendment in 1920, which guaranteed women the right to vote, the National Woman's Party carried forth the banner for the Equal Rights Amendment and continues to do so in its headquarters on Capitol Hill.

In the movement for the women's vote, the National Woman's Party was considered brash, radical and anti-establishment.

Now, historians view this movement as a human rights movement. There is no "prime" for organizations concerned with equality and fairness.

The National Woman's Party won't "peak" until the Equal Rights Amendment becomes part of the Constitution.

- Dorothy Ferrell-Gevinson. Washington, D.C.

The writer is president of the National Woman's Party.

Next Shot

Editor: Many Marylanders, including your Gallimaufry writers,

wonder what we accomplished in 1988 with our landmark law banning Saturday Night Specials.

With this law, our state has banned over 110 models of handguns which are only of use to criminals.

Among those banned are two of the top five crime guns in America, the Jennings J-22 and the Raven Mp-25.

In addition, Maryland is the only state to ban all derringers, those very small one or two shot weapons which are truly "belly guns."

Beyond this, our defeat of the National Rifle Association's $7 million referendum campaign against our law gave other states and the United States Senate and House of Representatives the courage to pass important gun control legislation.

We never said in 1988 that our Saturday Night Special ban would by itself end gun violence.

Having banned this one type of crime gun, we must now work to ban even more dangerous assault weapons.

To do so, we must galvanize that unbeatable coalition of Maryland law-enforcement, labor, religious and community organizations which defeated the NRA in 1988.

Vincent DeMarco.

Baltimore.

Irritating Myth

Editor: It is irritating for your reporter, William F. Zorzi Jr, to continue to perpetuate the myth that former prison records supervisor John O'Donnell erroneously applied a Division of Correction policy and released a dangerous felon to deprive three more innocent Marylanders of their lives.

Mr. Zorzi knows better because I have personally given him the facts.

For the edification of your readers, an assistant attorney general assigned to the Division of Correction originated this hare-brained scheme to compute "good conduct" time based upon an incarcerated felon's unexpired prior sentences.

The scheme was conceived at a meeting at which "freeing up" beds in order to alleviate prison overcrowding was the primary topic of discussion. The attorney general of Maryland officially approved this policy in an opinion. Unfortunately, the opinion was classified as "privileged" and, when last I asked, it had not been released. So much for open and honest government in the good old "Free State."

It is quite clear to me that Mr. O'Donnell, an able, intelligent and articulate civil servant, has been sacrificed in the interest of political expediency; so have the lives of the three teenagers whom the released inmate, John F. Thanos, brutally murdered.

Edward L. Blanton Jr.

Towson.

Japan Inc.

Editor: Your recent editorials and news stories concerning international trade barriers, although enlightening and sometimes amusing, fail to get to the real root of the problem -- how to manufacture a quality product at a competitive price.

Bashing Japan is not the answer. What this issue is really about is the accountability of corporate executives and labor leaders.

When Volkswagen "Beetles" hit American shores during the 1950s, this presented a golden opportunity to the "Big Three" automakers to bash Germany and Japan.

But what happened? The United Automobile Workers of America went on strike and the automakers gave in at every turn.

Outrageous executive salaries became the norm along with the Golden Parachute.

Damn the public was the attitude of the day, and still is. They believed the public would pay a premium price to buy a bucket of bolts.

It took American consumers a long time to catch on, but they did. Japanese and German automobile makers have reaped the rewards.

Forget trade barriers, intrigue and politics. Until big business and big labor stop lining their own pockets, no amount of bashing will sell inferior and high-priced American products here or abroad.

Eliot P. Hurd.

Baltimore.

Too Many Convicts

Editor: Congratulations on your Jan. 9 editorial on the prison situation in Maryland.

For the last few years I have read with increasing dismay about the population explosion in the prison system. The public's fears for its safety and elected officials' fear of being seen as soft on crime have combined to make a bad situation worse.

Certainly, violent and dangerous criminals must be kept off the streets. Also, society needs to show its disapproval of certain anti-social acts by punishing those who commit them.

It seems to me, however, that we are relying too heavily on incarceration as punishment for non-violent crimes. Moreover, we are putting people in prison for longer and longer terms, sometimes without hope of earning release for good behavior.

If the current trend continues, we may eventually find that there aren't enough of us on the outside to support the prison system.

We need to rethink the entire question of criminal justice, all the way from the fairest and most effective punishments for those convicted of crimes to the criminal code itself.

Does it really make sense to imprison people for simple possession of illegal drugs? Wouldn't addiction treatment make better sense?

Wouldn't it make even better sense to remove altogether the criminal penalties for possession? Not every illegal drug causes violent behavior, and even the most dangerous drugs don't always result in violent behavior by their users.

The biggest problem with illegal drugs is the violence associated with their marketing. Drug addiction is a health problem. We have turned it into a crime problem. Once we recognize the real problem, we will be well on the way toward solving it, or at least minimizing its extent.

Isobel V. Morin.

Baltimore.

Shouldering Responsibility

Editor: You profiled John O'Neill of the Maryland Taxpayer's Association (Jan. 5) rather favorably.

His organization's message is, "cut the fat in government, don't raise taxes." This is an irresponsible and cruel position.

True, there may be fat left in Maryland government, but where? The great majority of state employees are dedicated public servants. If you asked them where the fat is in their agency, each would answer differently.

One person's fat might be another's lean. The same is true of projects.

The legislature listens to the articulate Mr. O'Neill, and then they refuse to raise taxes and cut programs instead. Cuts are often made to programs that help the poor and others without lobbyists.

Wouldn't it be more responsible to admit that government must step in to help the poor? The wealthy aren't going to, nor are volunteers.

Like David Duke and many other Republicans, Mr. O'Neill takes the easy role, that of critic. Unwittingly, he proposes a path that leads to more real pain and violence for rich and poor alike. Unless your reporter missed something, I heard no positive solutions from Mr. O'Neill.

How will needed money be raised? Governor Schaefer has proposed many good ways. Hopefully, progressive taxes.

In your profile of Mr. O'Neill he is quoted as saying he is the "eyes and ears of the taxpayer." More correctly put, he is the eyes and ears of greedy taxpayers, those who would abandon the state's poor and its problems, those who say "we've got ours, too bad for the rest."I hope this is the minority of Maryland taxpayers, but I wonder.

Thankfully, we now have some leadership from Gov. William Donald Schaefer. Can we expect legislators to give him support or must we go through another battle like that over the Linowes tax proposal last year? Does it really take courage to be generous and humane?

I challenge those who are opposed to the governor's position to come up with another way to raise revenues.

Dave Eberhardt.

Baltimore.

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