Reject term limitation
From: Jim Kraft
Limiting the number of terms that any elected official may serve is not an act of empowerment for the people of this county, state or nation. It does, in fact, deliberately take their constitutionally protected fundamental right to vote from them.
Voters all over the country are "taking their government back" by defeating at the polls those elected officials who they feel are not responding to their needs or are abusing their position of trust.
We need look no further than Howard County and the election of 1990 to see numerous examples of the "voters in action."
Even more recently, on March 3, the people of the 6th Congressional District "took back" their seat from Beverly Byron.
Voter turnout continues to fall in this country. In what has been called the world's greatest participatory democracy, not only are we failing to participate, but we are also attempting to find ways that make it unnecessary for us to participate.
What is wrong with this picture?
The New York Times reported on April 15 that in the 20 presidential primaries held from February through April 7, only 29.3 percent of those eligible to vote actually voted. If elected officials are not held responsible to the voters, who will bother to vote at all? Only the activists, the political junkies and those who want something or have something to gain.
Where did this recent term limitation movement originate? It has been a prime objective of the Republican National Committee for over 10 years -- the same Republican National Committee that wanted to repeal the 22nd Amendment to the United States Constitution so that they could attempt to reelect Ronald Reagan in perpetuity. You cannot have it both ways.
The arguments made in Janet Sloan's most recent letter to the Columbia Flier are interesting. She likens the motivations of career politicians to those of workers in the private sector -- "job security, money, benefits and power." She criticizes "a sea of red ink, inefficient bureaucracies immune to change . . . social, moral and economic decay."
Her position, however, smacks of the proverbial "throwing out the baby with the bath water."
The real issue, whether in dealing with government, business, or industry, is that "eternal vigilance is the price of freedom." We will not get better government by giving up our control over whom we elect and how long they serve. We will not get more responsible corporations and businesses by ignoring how they operate.
Our responsibility and our duty as members of this participatory democracy lies in the term itself. We must participate because our responsibilities and our duties in the democracy are without limit.
(Jim Kraft is the chairman of the Democratic Forum.)
Landfill crusader evolves
From: L. Scott Muller
I want to apologize to county residents for my short-sightedness. I have seen the light. I have evolved.
When I started in the crusade to prevent the expansion of Alpha Ridge Landfill last September, my sole purpose was to get the county government to honor the pledge made in 1978 that the landfill would not be expanded, would close by the year 2000, and be turned into a park.
It was on the basis of this promise that we, and so many others, made the decision to purchase a home in the vicinity of the landfill -- so just put the landfill somewhere else!
Months were spent sifting through boxes of documents provided by the valiant neighbors who unsuccessfully fought the original landfill. Finally, I located the promise, in writing, to respond to County Executive Charles Ecker's assertion that no promises were ever made, and certainly not in writing.
As I searched the records, talked to people, and researched landfills, I learned quite a bit about landfills and their impact on the environment.
I learned about construction methods, hydrology, leachate and runoff, pollutants, and more. And now I am scared.
I know that this is not a NIMBY (not in my backyard) issue. This county has no business expanding Alpha Ridge Landfill or constructing another landfill elsewhere. We are leaving future generations a legacy of our stored castoffs -- imperfectly stored so that for decades the impact on ground water and the environment will grow only greater and a massive cleanup will become inevitable.
All three landfills in Howard County (Alpha Ridge, New Cut Road, and Carr's Mill) have been found to have contaminated ground water, and the current facility is poisoning the Little Patuxent River.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to piggyback with the )) Windstar environmental group in an Earth Day exhibit at the Columbia Mall and display graphic pictures of the environmental disaster known as Alpha Ridge and its effect on the Little Patuxent River -- pictures which Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass referred to during council discussions of Alpha Ridge as "very compelling."
I want to thank the Windstar organizers and everyone who stopped to talk with me about the display and the landfill. This was my first real opportunity to talk with Howard countians not directly influenced by the landfill, and they were all outraged by this glimpse of a piece of Howard County. And believe me, the pictures cannot begin to portray the magnitude of the landfill and its problems.
Many asked for a solution. More recycling is one. Baltimore is the first place in this country to open a garbage-sorting facility. Trash goes in, is sorted, and 90 to 95 percent can be recycled or composted; only the remainder needs to be disposed of.
State Del. Virginia Thomas stopped by the display and had nothing but encouragement for this technology. She suggests that Howard County seek to make use of the Baltimore facility and a facility currently being planned for Prince George's County.
Waste to energy is another alternative. But clearly, something must be done on the supply side -- meaning source reduction -- although it is unlikely that major inroads can be made on a county level toward this solution.
One visitor to the Columbia Mall said that this is terrible, but asked what can be done about it. I urge all county residents to write or call County Executive Ecker and their council representative and ask that there be no landfill expansion or relocation, but that new solid waste management disposal technologies be adopted in this progressive county.
I cordially invite each and every resident to attend the Planning Board meeting on May 7 (George Howard Building at 7:30 p.m.) and listen to the county's proposal, hear our presentation, and speak your mind. Tell them enough is enough.
One last thing. The county isn't all bad; we have gotten somewhere. The 1993 county budget increases the number of households with curbside recycling by 7,000, and County Executive Ecker has promised that all households will have curbside recycling by the fall of 1993.
Dr. Ecker has also shown the courage to appoint me, a known aggravation, as a member of the county's Solid Waste Management Advisory Committee. In that position I will take every opportunity to push Howard County away from landfilling and toward a rational solid waste policy. I have seen the light.
Reconsider recycling bill
From: Virginia M. Thomas
I am very concerned about the action the Howard County Council took in tabling Council Bill 33, which would have required the county to develop a plan to increase the procurement of products made of recyclable materials.
As a sponsor of the statewide bill that mandates local jurisdictions create a recycling program, I have been very pleased by the enthusiastic response of Howard County residents.
Both those who receive curbside recycling service and those who voluntarily take trash for recycling to mobile sites are to be commended for doing their part to improve the environment and conserve natural resources.
However, much more needs to be done to close the recycling loop. Saving and sorting our trash is not enough. The glass, plastic, aluminum and paper that we put out for collection needs to be utilized in the production of new items, thus fulfilling the use and reuse principle.
In order to encourage manufacturers to use recycled items in the production of new products, both the public and private sector need to make a concerted effort to create a market for recycled products. This can be done by encouraging procurement contracts to include a percentage of recycled products. Without this market for recycled materials, the loop is broken.
Council Bill 33 would put the loop into action by requiring the county to develop a plan that would increase the usage of recycled products. The state of Maryland already requires that state agencies increase the purchase of such items by 10 percent.
Howard County would be remiss in not setting its own goals for purchasing recycled products.
If you expect your citizens to participate in the recycling (P program, it is time the county set an example on how to close the loop. I urge the County Council to favorably reconsider this bill.
Praise for restraint
From: Earl Armiger
An open letter to County Executive Charles Ecker:
As president of the Howard County Chamber of Commerce, I would like to commend you for "exercising restraint" (April 23 Sun editorial) with your proposed fiscal year 1993 budget.
As you well know, the Howard County Chamber of Commerce has taken a strong position in opposition to property and income tax increases. Our stand is based on several facts:
1) In a stagnant economy, economic stimulus and job growth is needed, and a tax increase at such time only serves to further inhibit economic recovery. As I stated during your budget hearing in December, the recession has been difficult on many Howard County businesses. Nearly all of our companies have gone through a very painful process of belt-tightening. We expect nothing less of government.
2) There is today increasing competition with our neighboring counties for limited new business coming into the state. This impels us to maintain a competitive property tax rate, which at $2.59 is about "topped out."
3) We are finding it more difficult to keep employees who can afford to live here, and an increase in the piggy-back tax would cause added pressure on our workers to emigrate to lower-taxed communities.
Our Chamber's Legislative Committee will be evaluating your proposed fiscal 1993 budget, and a position will be developed for the upcoming council hearings. For now, however, I wanted to personally thank you for your responsible fiscal leadership, both this year and last, during these difficult economic times.
From: Doris Rausch
Your "County Comments" of April 22 addressed the question of repealing some drug prohibitions. In my opinion, laws against the use and sale of drugs should not only be relaxed, but done away with entirely for the following reasons:
1) All efforts to date to stem the tide of drug usage by all other means have failed, even though billions of dollars and many hours of effort have been expended on this.
2) It is an absolute that, as long as there is a demand for a product, there will be a supply. There will always be someone willing to make a buck, no matter what the consequences.
3) This country is disrupting the lives and welfare of citizens of drug-producing countries by creating a drug underworld. On the one hand, Columbian and other farmers are being encouraged to produce the drugs, but on the other hand, it is dangerous, uncertain work because they never know when the DEA will decide to take a stand against them.
4) I do not believe our government is serious about wanting to stop the drug supply. Some very powerful banks in this country
have loaned a lot of money to these drug-producing countries, and the only way of recouping this money is through the sale of these countries' most lucrative product -- drugs.
5) To some extent, drugs are already legal. The police usually know where to look for drug dealing. Certain areas are notorious for drug sales, and police could put a stop to a lot of it if allowed to do so. They usually know where to find IV drug users. Pre-natal clinics see obvious drug users, but these women are not arrested. Is this not condoning use?
The whole scenario is a big joke, and the butt of the joke is the user. Some argue that drug use would escalate if it were decriminalized. This might be true initially, but I think usage would then taper off. Alcohol consumption rose somewhat after prohibition was repealed, but then leveled off.
The major thing which legalization of drugs would accomplish would be that crime would no longer be involved. If drugs were readily available at, say, a State ABC store for a nominal fee, there would be no need for criminal activity in connection with their sale.
The billions of dollars saved by this approach could be used for education against the use of drugs. I do not include rehabilitation, because I believe that rehabilitation is already available at no cost through Alcoholics Anonymous or Drugs Anonymous. Until an addict to alcohol, nicotine, or drugs makes up his mind absolutely that he is going to quit the drug, there is little hope of any rehabilitation program being successful.
I firmly believe that decriminalization of drug use and sales is the
only methods which can have a positive effect.
Thanks for race report
From: Roger W. Jones
On behalf of the Howard County Human Rights Commission, I am writing to express our appreciation for your timely special report regarding racial insensitivity within the Howard County school system.
I would be remiss if I failed to offer a special thanks to Lan Nguyen for possessing the courage, initiative and skills she exhibited in producing such an in-depth and necessary report.
As you know, the commission has discussed problem areas within the school system for years, and we are painfully aware that there are individuals within the school system who are not performing their jobs in a manner that is conducive to a proper learning environment for children of all races and cultures.
I must confess amazement at statements made by principals and other educators who claim they can not define racist behavior.
It is also difficult to understand how a school system can continue to employ a Human Relations director who has never dealt with a race-hate incident in 17 years on the job. Apparently, this person has been retained in that position for other purposes.
The Human Relations director does appear, however, to be an honest person, since I have received numerous reports from parents who say they have brought race-hate incidents to her attention, and to this day she has not dealt with those incidents.
It is extremely refreshing to learn that some students have created their own solutions for dealing with racial insensitivity within the schools in a positive manner.
It is disheartening to learn that school spokeswoman Patti Caplan is capable of explaining that the reason no counseling or psychological services were offered to Mrs. Gbadebo's daughter was because Mrs. Gbadebo was angry. Does Ms. Caplan believe Mrs. Gbadebo should have been elated? Mrs. Gbadebo is 100 percent correct. The behavior of some school officials is TC shameful and disgusting.
Racial slurs are intended to cause harm, and Ms. Pattillo was the only principal featured in the report who was courageous enough to admit that fact. I hope she isn't fired for refusing to cop out, as the other principals featured appear to have done.
In closing, I can assure you that as in-depth as this special report was, it still only exposes the "tip of the iceberg." There are even more serious problems within the school system, and some of these problems and issues clearly boggle the imagination.
I would hope that at some point all employees of the Howard County school system are required to receive sensitivity training relative to racial, religious and ethnic incidents. The Howard County Office of Human Rights is prepared to offer this training.
In my opinion, the very least that should happen relative to problems within the school system is that a shake-up should occur from top to bottom.
(Roger Jones is chairman of the Howard County Human Rights