Boos and Jeers
Critics of School Superintendent Stuart Berger and the Baltimore County School Board have accused them of refusing to listen to opposing viewpoints. Some have even gone so far as to say they repress free speech.
These critics were given an open forum where they directed their opinions and grievances to Dr. Berger and the board. They chose to boo and jeer from the security of the crowd those individuals who voiced support of the school board's policies.
Practice what you preach. Our children are watching.
"The law," said Mr. Brumble in Dickens's Oliver Twist, "is a ass."
To appreciate the wisdom of this assertion, one need look no further than Michigan, where "the law" has ruled that 2-year-old Jessica DeBoer, raised since birth by loving adoptive parents, must be taken from them and turned over to her biological parents who live in Iowa and have sued for custody.
The reason given for this insane decision, which violates the well-established principle that priority must be given to the "best interests of the child," are not applicable in this case; therefore, Michigan courts have no "jurisdiction."
Try explaining that word to little Jessica, who will likely be emotionally scarred as a result of this legal intrusion into her life, an intrusion which despite the good intentions of "the law" amounts to nothing less than state-sanctioned kidnapping.
If it were in my power to advise Jessica's parents, I would tell them to take their case to the U.S. Supreme Court and if they failed there as well, to take Jessica and run, or hide, or do whatever it might take to prevent this travesty of justice from ever taking place -- with full knowledge of the legal consequences they might face if caught.
When the law is an ass it does not deserve to be respected, especially when it threatens to harm a helpless child.
If Nigeria is to be considered a "natural leader of West Africa" as mentioned in the editorial June 30, the people of Nigeria must demonstrate their understanding of political democracy and its related principles.
Democracy does not only mean "free and fair election," but great respect for law and order. The latter must be a number one priority for stability and prosperity in every nation.
Why did the election commission hold the election under a complete defiance of a federal court's order? Does the Nigerian law or constitution allow the election commission to operate in disobedience of law and order?
Why did the election commission refuse to adhere to the order of the federal court by another political group prior to the election date? I am sure you can now see why the government voided the election results.
Only God knows what could have happened in Nigeria if the government had ordered the closure of the voting stations. Congratulations to the people and the Nigerian government for their consideration. That is democracy.
The people exercised their rights to vote and the government exercised its authority to insure discipline in Nigeria.
It is very simple. If you want to have Western democracy in Nigeria, operate within the frame of law and order of the Federal Republic of Nigeria.
The views of Western observers should not be the basis for democracy in Nigeria or Africa. Western observers are not accountable to the Nigerian people. Let Liberia and Somalia be a great lesson to Africa.
I look forward to reading Tom Horton's "On The Bay" on Saturday mornings.
It is serious yet diverting, often instructive, seldom controversial and always written in an easy style.
Thank you for publishing the column.
Julia C. Baker
Values and Rights on the Waterfront
One of life's greatest pleasures is living near the water in a good climate and watching the birds dive for their meals, or hopping into the boat for a spin on the water or to go fishing.
But stop your dream and come to reality. Maryland's environmental laws may prevent your dreams from being realized with their many restrictions, which are applied to the small landowners as well as large corporate ones.
Why do waterfront construction problems exist? The question can be answered easily but needs some background explanation.
The Nixon administration's National Environmental Policy Act stated that we must balance man with his environment. Prior to 1969, there seemed to be a trivial relationship between the two.
Advances made in encouraging the environmental protection movement were stimulated by the actions of national and local environmental groups and by John Muir's earlier Western conservation efforts.
The worship of "mother earth and her resources," the philosophy typical of an earth scientist's daily practice, was transformed into federal, state and local legislation designed to force the issue.
But along the way, even though the practice of environmental protection seemed to be a good idea, something was overlooked. In their haste, Washington decreed that states develop environmental protection plans, and they funded this action.
A plan such as Maryland's coastal zone management program was accepted outright, even though it outrageously and purposely stepped on the toes of critical area property owners because it offered Maryland's critical area law as evidence of environmental worship.
The die has been cast. Both Washington and the state of Maryland obviously have no concern for property rights today, probably because no citizen or group has stood up to them.
They have so tangled regulations with layers of bureaucracy and permits that only the court system is empowered to give back the rights taken from the landowners.
The U.S. Supreme Court, in the case of Lucas vs. the South Carolina Coastal Council (June 29, 1992), made it clear that waterfront property rights must be considered. Justice Antonin Scalia, who delivered the majority opinion, sided with Lucas and said "S. Carolina must identify background principles of nuisance and property law that prohibit the uses he now intends . . .".
These and other opinions could be equally applied to Maryland and its Critical Area Law and criteria should someone care to challenge them. This point should not be taken lightly by the Maryland judiciary.
We are dealing with two philosophies, and both are right, which is why neither should supersede the other.
If you live on or own waterfront property, obviously you feel violated and restrained. If you live or own property far from tidal wetlands, you might be heavy into bay protection without considering your fellow citizen.
But since we are such a social nation that cares about the homeless, underprivileged and foreign societies, how come we treat our own waterfront citizens as rich second-rate bay polluters?
This connotation is fallacious. Most waterfronters are very helpful in preservation activities.
But the laws do not support this. Maryland's environmental laws are too restrictive and biased against property rights, both large corporate and small interests.
They do not address the real cause of bay pollution -- sediment flow. Grandfathering is allowed but not in the 100-foot buffer; private ponds and waterways are now non-tidal wetlands; they dictate land usage, development and erosion control, leaving the landowner with a bewildering complex of issues requiring a registered environmental engineer to help with permit application.
The applicant is prevented from making his own decisions on construction, whereas his non-waterfront counterpart has none of these problems.
The 1991, 1992 and 1993 legislative sessions have resisted attempts to correct problems. So the score is non-waterfronters 98, waterfronters 2.
This lopsided ratio gets the attention of state legislators and congressional politicians, who react, get elected, and are largely controlled by non-waterfront interests. It seems, at least in Maryland, that the majority rules out the doctrine of fairness to those citizens the laws are written about.
It is the responsibility of the federal government to stop dividing the nation's people into two groups. President Nixon did not plan it this way, but nevertheless it has happened, by statute.
Waterfront construction requires permission of U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, several offices of Maryland's Department of Natural Resources and Board of Public Works, and county planning and zoning offices, any of which can reject the permit application.
Will this over-emphasis on bay protection ever subside, or is this a tidal wave of feudalism we rejected centuries ago? How can the governor of Maryland desire to make Maryland a model state when what he is really modeling is citizen oppression?
Bay preservation is a necessity and does not affect property rights if applied correctly. If we all work together, it can be done without injury.
People's rights should come before fish rights. State and local government must learn to recognize the two philosophies and apply equal treatment to both. It is easy to say "protect the environment." It takes more effort to show how, fairly.
We are living in times of global change. Our society should by now have discarded the sledge-hammer approach to making improvement and proceed with an equitable process for all.
The writer is president of the Maryland Waterfront Landowners Association.
Maryland's Fair Procurement Law
In its editorial of June 16, "Shredding the Procurement Law," The Sun demonstrates that it does not understand the proper application and uses of Maryland's procurement law.
Further, the editorial does not state the facts of the procurement in an accurate manner. We wish to set the record straight on this issue of great importance to the citizens of Maryland.
At the outset, let us state emphatically that Maryland's procurement laws and regulations are fair and reasonable, and the Board of Public Works applies them impartially and with favor to no one.
The editorial questions the award of a "no-bid contract" to the Vorec Corp. If the editorial had been accurate, it would have stated that the Board of Public Works approved the exercise of an option to purchase equipment under a contract which was awarded after a competitive bid process in 1990.
In 1990, the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services presented the Board of Public Works with a competitively bid contract to lease a 300-unit electronic home detention system from Vorec, which had won the procurement.
In October of that year, the board approved the award of the contract to run until August 31, 1993. That contract included a purchase option, a standard feature in many leases.
In July 1991, the Department of Public Safety and Corrections entered into a noncompetitive contract with Vorec to lease 300 additional units to be used with the Baltimore City Jail's home detention program.
This contract was issued under the temporary exemption from procurement law the General Assembly granted the department facilitate its takeover of the City Jail's operations. The department, in assuming responsibility for the operation of the jail, intended to combine the two home detention programs.
It did not then and does not now make sense to operate two distinct and largely incompatible systems, and it would have been foolish to scrap both of them, and the department's investment.
Believing the Vorec system was significantly more secure than the system previously in use at the jail, the department determined the public's safety was best served through the lease of an additional 300 units from Vorec. This second contract, which did not include a purchase option, also ran through August 31, 1993.
In 1993, with the expiration of the two leases pending, the department chose to exercise its option in the original Vorec contract to purchase 300 units, and to modify the contract to buy an additional 300 units to replace the 300 units leased under the expiring City Jail contract. The department calculated that by purchasing this equipment it could save over $1 million by consolidating the procurement.
Among the issues raised in its editorial, The Sun has questioned the disparity between the cost of home detention systems for convicted adult criminals and juvenile offenders. The systems are very different.
The Vorec system purchased by the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services is a sophisticated, continuous monitoring system that tracks the detainee's movements. The system used by the Department of Juvenile Services is considered a passive system. It randomly dials the juveniles at home and calls department staff if offenders do not answer the telephone.
These different systems provide the appropriate level of security necessary for the two different detainee populations.
The Sun's editorial also unfairly disparaged the procurement process used for the State Lottery Agency's current computer system.
The governor, knowing that this procurement would be unusually sensitive and subject to public scrutiny, directed the involved agencies to go far beyond the requirements of the law to obtain as unblemished a procurement as possible.
There were two evaluation committees, one for technical matters and one for finance. Neither had any contact with the other, and both were composed of individuals from both state government and the private sector.
The private sector participants included senior executives from local firms like McCormick's, Blue Cross/Blue Shield and First National Bank of Maryland.
These were all individuals of unimpeachable integrity, well qualified to make the necessary judgments and evaluations. To suggest that they or their decisions were influenced by anything but the proposals before them is both unfair and unfounded.
Maryland's procurement laws and regulations were designed to address the myriad of goods and services needed by state government. Recognizing that there is no single method of procurement which will work in every situation, the General Assembly has provided several different procurement methods, including leases with an option to buy, contract modifications and other provisions common in government and private business.
Unfortunately, in this instance, The Sun has it confused with a sole source procurement, a different but equally legitimate method of procurement.
As members of the Board of Public Works, we think it is important to set the record straight on this procurement.
Consistently, we have strongly supported the use of competitive bidding in state procurement and have insisted that agencies use that method whenever possible. Further, we have closely questioned the use of sole source procurements whenever they have been submitted to us for approval.
It is in the best interests of the people of Maryland that they receive news that is accurately reported, and editorials based on a reasoned interpretation of those facts. Unfortunately, The Sun has chosen to make some harsh accusations in this matter that do not bear up under a closer scrutiny.
William Donald Schaefer
Louis L. Goldstein
The writers are, respectively, governor, comptroller and treasurer Maryland.
After receiving more than half a dozen annoying telephone calls a day from telemarketers, I came to the realization that this is not what I have in mind as part of the service desired when I send off a check each month to the C&P; Telephone Company. Upon calling their business office, I was given several addresses to write to with hopes of lessening calls. But nothing can be done to eliminate telephone solicitation.
Sequential dialing and other techniques are used by telemarketers, so that purchasing an unlisted telephone number does not offer protection. According to Dick Gelfman of WJZ-TV, simply asking a telemarketer to remove your name from their calling list can help. Recently, when I asked a telemarketer to do that, he argued that this is being challenged under the Fair Trade Act and refused my request.
I suggested to the C&P; Telephone Company that others probably feel the same about telemarketers.
Would it be possible to place an asterisk next to one's name in the telephone directory to show that you are not receptive to telephone solicitation?
Perhaps if others who also find telephone solicitation an annoyance and invasion of privacy would write their elected representatives, a message could be sent that our telephone service is for us and not a vehicle for telemarketers.
Rosalie M. Wilson