ChallengeThis letter responds to your editorial of...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Challenge

This letter responds to your editorial of May 24, in which yoquestion my credentials for the position of superintendent of the Maryland State Police and my capacity to perform the duties of the position with the integrity it demands. You conclude your editorial with a challenge: "We hope Captain Tolliver proves us wrong."

Let me assure you that you are wrong in fact, in implication and in prediction, and I shall be pleased to prove it.

Larry W. Tolliver

Pikesville

The writer is acting superintendent of the Maryland State Police.

Shift Tax Burden

Your editorial on May 20 concerning the Baltimore County Council's trying to reach a fragile consensus for this year's budget and saying that I wish to "send a message" was absolutely right.

The message is that after decades of different administrations in the county building up surpluses at the expense of property taxpayers who have seen their property tax bill roughly triple in that period, it is time to shift the burden away from the least fair tax of all, the property tax.

We can and should exercise our fiscal budget oversight responsibility by examining the budget as closely as possible, cutting any excess budgeting we can find. That examination could include our discovery that perhaps there has been excess budgeting to fund fuel oil and gas and electric costs which we could determine to be excessive.

I believed there was upward of $16 million of those types of cuts that our county auditor and other council members uncovered. This information on that excess budgeting came to me since I spoke to The Sun. We could have taken that non-critical excess budgeting and placed much of it in the Revenue Stabilization Fund. We could then have used the rest of that excess budgeting to fund what I term shifting the burden away from that property taxpayer.

Now is the time for a comprehensive study to determine the extent of that unbalanced burden and to lay out an agenda by which we can accomplish the shifting of that burden.

The taxation must be based more on one's ability to pay and/or services rendered through user fees and privatization. This proceeds toward an entrepreneurial style of government.

That is the message that this county ought to be sending and should take action to implement.

Melvin G. Mintz

Towson

The writer is the Baltimore County Councilman from the Second District.

Sue the City

I just read about the ordeal of a school bus driver from Carroll County, and I am outraged at the handling of the incident by the Baltimore City police. As a Baltimore City resident and taxpayer I hope she sues us and gets every penny she asks for.

Can you imagine being strip searched for such a possible minor infraction of the parking laws? I can't. I would hope that Mayor Kurt Schmoke and State's Attorney Stuart Simms will be just as energetic in this police action as they have been when the home of a relative of the mayor's was raided for possible drug violations.

R.A. Bacigalupa

Baltimore

No 'Free Lance'

In a May 13 article about the start-up of Trade & Culture, a magazine about international business based in Baltimore, I was identified as having been "a free-lance writer" when approached by investors about becoming its editor and publisher.

Actually, I was then working full-time, under contract with Little, Brown, to write the narrative history "First Call: The Making of the Modern U.S. Military," which was published May 1. This was the second 400-page history I've written that was published by Little, Brown.

I mention this because my being described as a free-lance writer doesn't fully convey my experience.

I also think it was worth noting that I'm an attorney, since the article generally surveyed Trade & Culture's prospect for success. I've found my legal training indispensable in starting two other magazines, one of which was a monthly that I ran for five years (not "several," as reported).

Thomas D. Boettcher

Baltimore

Nothing Irrational About Prudent Investments

I was surprised by remarks made in Peter Jay's April 12 opinion piece, "Looking at the Bright Side of Doomsday."

Mr. Jay states that one easy way to cut state spending is to make more optimistic actuarial assumptions about the future, thereby reducing the need to put money into the state employees' and teachers' pension fund. He describes the current assumptions as "irrational." He is dead wrong.

The actuaries' conclusions in 1987 were based on trends they had determined from a comprehensive study of state wage growth and inflation since 1980, including the probable cause of these phenomena.

The outside actuaries who studied the state pension plan determined we should assume that eventually there will be an average 5 percent inflation to pay for the deficits that we &L; continue to allow Congress and the president to create. To assume anything else would be "irrational."

Mr. Jay also suggested that the assumed investment return of 7.5 percent was too conservative. Others closer to the problems disagree.

Anyone familiar with the typical, conservative approach to investments that Maryland has followed for years (in part to gain its AAA bond rating) would understand that a modest forecast for earnings is appropriate.

Nearly 60 percent of the state pension funds is in long-term bonds. Many are guaranteed by the U.S. Treasury. The current return to investors in such instruments is averaging around 7.5 percent. The safest short-term investments are only earning 4.5 percent.

When we assume an average return of 7.5 percent, we are only making an educated guess about the next 20 years. Far from being irrational, it is based on history and an understanding of capital market returns.

Herbert L. Dyer

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of Maryland State Retirement and Pension Systems.

Foster Care and Adoption

In 1988, the Maryland Department of Human Resources entered into a consent decree to settle a lawsuit in federal court on behalf of children in the Baltimore City Department of Social Services foster care program. The consent decree set forth in detail a number of requirements to force improvements in the foster care system.

Our department has embraced the provisions of the consent decree as a standard of practice that exemplifies a caring and responsive child welfare system. We are proud of our efforts and progress to implement it.

The Sun's May 13 article, "Adoption delays are increasing," gives the impression that we are failing to meet our goals. This is simply not the case. Through on-going training of foster parents and caseworkers, smaller caseload ratios, and development of a comprehensive health care tracking system, the quality of care to our children has greatly improved.

It is important for the public to know that the vast majority of children who enter foster care are reunified with their parents after successful efforts on the part of the caseworkers to ameliorate the conditions that led to the need for the child's placement.

In 1991, 1,327 children statewide who exited foster care were reunified with parents. For more than half the children who come into care, return home is accomplished within six months.

The decision to terminate parental rights and seek a new adoptive home for a child is a difficult one. This is a decision complicated by emotional, social and legal considerations.

Reluctance of caseworkers in making such finite judgments about parents' abilities to parent, ambivalence of relatives who feel that they should care for extended family members when really unable to, and courts that must assure that the state has provided every opportunity to parents to resume their responsibilities, converge to make a long process even longer.

Our department is committed to reducing any bureaucratic impediments which delay decisions regarding children. With the support of the community, the courts and the legislature, we will be successful in finding permanent homes for all children in a timely manner.

Carolyn W. Colvin

Baltimore

The writer is Maryland secretary of human resources

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