Clearing the Air on Emissions TestingYour editorial...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Clearing the Air on Emissions Testing

Your editorial "Sharing Clean Air Costs" in The Sun (July 31) indicates a serious misunderstanding of the emission inspection industry in the United States and, particularly, the Maryland Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program (VEIP) as currently operated.

Many of the facts stated in the editorial simply are not true.

Envirotest Technologies Inc., a Bethesda-based company and the successor of Systems Control Inc., is the current operator of the VEIP. Your representation that Envirotest "earns" $7 million a year from the VEIP is simply not true. That figure relates only to revenues received per year.

Earnings are substantially less than revenues because we pay operating expenses such as payroll for the over 100 Maryland citizens we employ and property taxes paid to Baltimore City and each of the counties in which our facilities are located. Our earnings are a fraction of the $7 million figure.

Your editorial says Envirotest was the sole bidder for the contract, implying that the state overpaid for the contract. Four or five companies participated in the bid process, and two submitted bids. In 1988, the Maryland Department of Transportation felt Envirotest's bid was the only responsive bid. Envirotest did not anticipate this would happen and submitted the lowest bid possible in order to retain the contract.

It is significant that no other state with a centralized VEIP operated by an independent contractor owns the sites and facilities. Indeed, some states, such as New Jersey, that own and operate their own VEIP system are looking to privatize it entirely.

Moreover, under existing state legislation, the transportation department has no authority to own VEIP facilities operated by an independent contractor.

State ownership of the VEIP sites and facilities is no guarantee that the procurement will result in a better Maryland program. What is certain is that the taxpayers of the state will suffer because of the unnecessary expenditures of state funds.

You correctly observed that the legislators werer right in questioning the "limited financial analysis of DOT's $60 million plan" and its failure to show that "direct state ownership is cheaper than private ownership."

As a 20-year Maryland resident, I fully support the efforts of the state of Maryland to clean our air. But I must confess I was as shocked as the members of the legislative committee to learn the transportation department intends to spend $60 million, at a time when state funds are scarce and priorities are being sharply trimmed, with no consultation, no authority, no knowledge of what was happening in other states, and no firm facts to support a guess that this might lower the cost of the program.

Chester Davenport

Bethesda

B6 The writer is chairman of Envirotest Systems Corp.

Blind Hatred

The Baltimore Jewish Council, representing more than 50 synagogues and Jewish organizations, strongly condemns the policy of "ethnic cleansing" which is being conducted in the midst of Yugoslavia's civil war.

This blatant violation of international human rights -- the forcible removal of people from their homes, the subsequent systematic erasure of all symbols of nationality (churches, monuments and graves), torture and imprisonment of those who resist -- is being conducted by all sides in this conflict: Serbs, Croats and Muslims.

For the Jewish community, such blind hatred of the "other" inevitably recalls the atrocities of the Nazi Holocaust. These painful memories prompt us to urge a vigorous response by the United States and the United Nations.

Sanford V. Teplitzky

Baltimore

H

The writer is president of the Baltimore Jewish Council.

Not Emperor

In "The Almanac" section of The Sun (July 12), we were informed that "the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar" was born on that date in the year 100 B. C.

Wrong. Julius Caesar never was emperor.

He may have had such an ambition, but if so, it was thwarted by the Ides of March assassination.

It was his great-nephew, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (63 B.C.-A.D. 14), better know by the title Augustus awarded him by the Roman Senate, who was the first Roman emperor.

Gordon H. Himmer

Baltimore

How Olympians Inspired and Embarrassed Us

In The Sun of July 30, there is a most inspiring quote.

It personifies the way Americans should look at themselves, their problems, the country's problems and the attitude we should encompass to solve our problems. The quote is buried on page 14 in the Sports section. No story follows about it, no column, no commentary. But the quote is chilling.

It comes from Betty Okino, a young gymnast on the American team, who was doing quite well in the Olympics. She was responding to reporters, who asked her how it feels to be one of two Afro-Americans on the U.S. women's gymnastic team.

Ms. Okino simply states, "I consider myself an American, not a color."

Often the press writes stories depicting people as Afro-Americans, Hispanic-Americans, Native-Americans and any other ethnic/religious/political tag you may want to apply.

However, Ms. Okino's statement is pure and simple. We are all Americans . . . If, in stories, the news media were to drop the typecasting of people, maybe the rest of the world would do so.

Speak of people as they are, young, old, middle age, or by profession, such as doctor, lawyer, cab driver, but never by ethnic or religious affiliation.

We are Americans. We are humans. We are not colors. We are not foreigners. Ms. Okino's quote is as significant as "In God We Trust."

John W. Cullum

Darlington

____________ Once again, I found myself sitting in front of my television and anxiously waiting for the Olympic coverage to begin so that I might enjoy watching the men's basketball team. Unfortunately, once again I found myself embarrassed for my country. It did not take long for Charles Barkley to again show why he should have been overlooked for the "Dream Team."

I am finding it difficult to understand why a player as talented as Charles Barkley finds it necessary to elbow an unsuspecting player, who more then likely could not wait to get his autograph and picture with him after the game. I don't understand why Barkley has had such difficulty with the officials in the games played.

More importantly, I don't understand why the U.S. Olympic Committee, his coach and the other players are continuing to

tolerate it.

The U.S. has always been looked upon as "those ugly Americans" when competing internationally. I find myself asking why don't we send Barkley home and offer some truly deserving college player a chance to proudly represent his country and play the game with enthusiasm and true competitive spirit. I can answer my own question: Charles Barkley "sells" and some college player does not . . .

As an amateur athlete, I am proud to have represented my country while playing on several U.S. Olympic wheelchair basketball teams. I, along with my teammates, truly know the meaning of amateur athlete. I must admit that I was interested in seeing some of the game's best players represent America and the sport itself. It's unfortunate that I have to settle for what Barkley has given me to date, both as a wheelchair basketball player and as an American: a black eye.

James Leatherman

Baltimore

____________ Rumors are not only annoying and detrimental but many times infuriating to those accused and their countrymen. I was angered by NBC's coverage of the Chinese women's success in the 50-meter freestyle swimming competition at the Barcelona Olympics.

Some announcers and journalists insinuated that the incomplete drug testing in swimming events may have helped Chinese players evade detection. Then, after all Chinese medalists tested negative for any performance-enhancing drugs, charges were raised that Chinese athletes might have taken drugs in a complicated way to escape the test.

Furthermore, ignoring that the Chinese began to break world records as early as 1988 and scored several world championships during the past several years, the commentator said Chinese swimmers "have never achieved a single world championship before this Summer Olympics."

I understand that it is not rare at all to experience anxiety and frustration in sports, especially after failing to secure a long expected medal. But that is just not the right way to respond . . .

It is important for NBC Olympic coverage to be unbiased and objective. We are trying to broaden our friendships throughout this magnificent sports competition, not to further spread unsubstantiated rumors.

Yigong Shi

Baltimore

____________ I started my job at Towson Catholic High School last November, just a few weeks before the arrival of Olympic swimmer Anita Nall. Of course, at the time, Anita was not an Olympian. The students and staff knew she swam; we just didn't know how well. After March, when she broke the world record in the 200-meter breaststroke and secured a trip to Barcelona, we had a good idea.

Long before the Olympic trials in March, though, I knew Anita Nall was something special. Like many of the girls in our school, she is bright, intelligent, caring and an all-around great kid. I applaud her parents, Marilyn and John, for the outstanding job they have done in raising her. She's mature beyond her age, keenly aware of what her priorities are in life and an inspiration to many generations: her own, mine (I'm only 10 years older than she) and others.

The next few weeks will be hard on Anita. Endorsements will come pouring in along with congratulatory notes and cards, all while Anita tries to prepare for the beginning of her junior year, just a month away. Fortunately for us here at Towson Catholic, we know Anita will come back to school the same way she left in June: modest as always about her accomplishments.

I hope Anita will continue to inspire others, especially those her age, to stay disciplined, drug-free and studious. If it's possible for someone to have a hero a decade younger than herself, than Anita is that to me, and, I know, to many others.

Kelly J. Sheridan

Timonium

The writer is development director at Towson Catholic High School.

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