NAFTA cost taxpayers too much porkThere has...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

NAFTA cost taxpayers too much pork

There has been much debate about the recently passed North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA), and I will not waste time arguing for one side or another. My bone of contention is with the way that the Clinton administration went about getting this piece of legislation passed through the House of Representatives.

When President Clinton realized that the agreement might not pass, he dug into the pockets of American taxpayers and started to pass out pieces of pork to wavering Congress members. These members of Congress were promised various concessions, such as bridges, dams, agricultural subsidies and roadways, in exchange for their vote in favor of NAFTA.

These favors were just added on to the agreement even though many of them had little to do with with the premise of NAFTA. The total size of these concessions is not a paltry sum, either. These pieces of pork have been reported to cost as much as $1.2 billion.

I'm not trying to question the merits of these allowances, I am just trying to understand why they were added onto an agreement that had little in common with these concessions.

When these pork barrel concessions came to light in the media, many Congressmen and administrative officials were quick to point out that this kind of bartering occurs all the time on large, important pieces of legislation and that this is just the way it is done.

I asked a local retired politician what he thought about this legislative procedure, and he concurred that this is the way it has always been done. But once again I must question the principle of this procedure.

If NAFTA was a passable piece of legislation, why must all of this pork be doled out to representatives? Why must concessions be given to members of Congress to vote on something that they believe is best for the country?

If these pieces of pork are truly essential to the welfare of the country, why can't they stand alone and be voted upon individually? With our national budget deficit expanding constantly, how can our representatives allow themselves to keep voting on pork barrel amendments?

I am not trying to defend or support NAFTA or the concessions that President Clinton had to give up to get it passed. I am just trying to understand why it is that just because something has always been done this way, it must continue to be done?

I believe that Americans have paid for enough pieces of rancid pork. Let bills pass on their own merits and allow unrelated pieces of legislation to be handled separately.

Thomas Kuegler Jr.

Essex

Forestation plan

On Jan. 18 the Baltimore County Council passed the forest conservation law. This act, required by the Maryland Forest Conservation Act, provides for replacement of trees lost due to development by requiring the developer to replant them or to pay a fee.

The county's law, although not as strong as we would have liked, is stronger than the state's conservation act. The Greater Baltimore Group Sierra Club is opposed to any weakening of the forest conservation law.

But an amendment to the forest conservation law was passed by the County Council in November that exempts redevelopment which occurs on pavement or on an unforested tract.

This effectively exempts redevelopment. A significant portion of the money for afforestation is raised from redevelopment projects. So this will be the end of Baltimore County's forestation program unless there are provisions for raising funds by other means.

Brian Parker

Potomac

The writer is vice chairman of the Potomac chapter of the Greater Baltimore Group Sierra Club.

Liberal selection

Janet Kersten as a news junkie (Other Voices, Nov. 23) needs to expand her reading if she does not see the "liberal media" in the three papers and 10 magazines that she reads.

The "liberal media" are not writers and commentators as she suggests; even listing Michael Kinsley, Mark Shields and Sam Donaldson as moderator/commentator is a little far fetched. The "liberal media" refers to the way that the news is presented. For example, for weeks all we have seen on the front page of the papers is about the misconduct of Sen. Robert Packwood, but nothing about Rep. Daniel Rostenkowski. No news (or, if it is, it's buried on the inside somewhere) about Commerce Secretary Ron Brown's misadventures.

Taking responsibility and suffering no consequence is easy to do. If the errors and miscalculations of Attorney General Janet Reno and Defense Secretary Les Aspin were committed by Republicans, the demand for their heads would still be sung.

When reading a news story, you expect the writer to present the facts and not his personal opinion. But in today's world you need to read more than a couple of papers, magazines and watch a few television reports to get the true facts of any story.

Ambler M. Blick

Reisterstown

Drug zones

The residents of the Forest Heights area are rightfully upset when they attempt to fight drug trafficking in their neighborhood and the police response is that the area is "nowhere near the worst" for drugs in the Southwest District.

Though the remarks are qualified by the statement "We're actively involved in drug investigations in that area," the impression remains that the Forest Heights area is not receiving as much attention as other areas.

Our Police Department reacts after areas become drug-infested. Perhaps an ounce of prevention might be the cure for Forest Heights and similar areas.

McNair Taylor

Baltimore

Thanks to all those who try to fight crime

I'm writing to thank the Baltimore Police Department for helping my daughter recently after she was attacked and robbed outside her apartment building.

The officer was very kind to her, even though he could do nothing to help her "after the fact," and said that there was little chance the criminal would be caught or that her belongings and money would ever be found.

She lives near one of the "projects" in South Baltimore. The officer asked her if she hadn't heard the gunfire there. She had to reply yes. When it was close, she called 911.

My daughter has been living in your city for three years and has learned how to take care of herself -- we all thought.

She does all the "right" things -- carries pepper spray, walks as if she is aware of who or what is around her, keeps her car locked, always has her keys ready when she approaches her car or home, and seldom carries more than a few dollars and only one credit card with her.

However, some things are beyond anyone's control. This time she was lucky -- she lost a few possessions and some money, was hit on the jaw but nothing was broken, and her neighbors heard her scream and came to help.

She is a young woman who had to work to get an education, who works for a living, pays off her student loans, pays her taxes and does not have a lot of money.

Her father and I are disturbed by this, but not angry. We do not seek vengeance on the criminal or blame the "big city."

We are, in fact, somewhat thankful that this man has taught us all a lesson. We would even hope that he needed the money for food -- but we all know that's not so.

All over the country, in small or large cities, there are areas where crime is rampant. There are also mothers and fathers in those areas who cannot tolerate what is happening around them but who are helpless do to anything about it.

No one wants to see their son or daughter a victim or criminal. I have no solution to offer -- only that it's time we looked for one quickly. It's time to take back our lives and live without constant fear.

It's not just big cities. It happens in suburbia, when someone is getting out of a car in one's own driveway. It happens at rest stops on interstate highways. It happens on lonely country roads.

And suddenly you wake up to the reality that it happened to your "own" in a city far away from home, and you can do nothing about it.

Thank you, Baltimore police, for being kind. Thanks to neighbors for their help and concern.

No thanks to the court system that allows criminals to go free. No thanks to a government that is ignoring this country's real problems and is concerned only with big business. Thanks to people all over the country who have found ways to combat crime, to take back their neighborhoods and to live in peace.

Mrs. Lee W. Betts

Winter Park, Fla.

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