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Light Rail Crime: Some Reasons WhyLight rail...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Light Rail Crime: Some Reasons Why

Light rail crime on the increase? No wonder.

It can be directly traced to the shoddy manner of fare collection. I have talked to people who regularly ride light rail and never pay for it. They tell me that they are not asked to show a ticket and therefore don't bother to get one. In recent months there are more light rail police in evidence so some board the train, sit up front in the first car and look for them to board. If they are recognized as enforcers, the "no pay" passenger gets off the train at that stop and waits for the next seven minutes for another "freebie." I don't know the answer to this problem but perhaps some type of turnstile operation similar to subway systems will have to be installed at high-crime stops.

There is another problem being experienced by businesses in Ferndale. Storekeepers tell me that many times light rail police "dump" unruly or drunken passengers at that station by escorting them to a bench and leaving them. Needless to say, people in that community are not thrilled by the system.

I know that the light rail was constructed in a hurry and that many of the bugs have not been worked out, but fare collection, it seems to me, is a high priority item for many obvious reasons.

alcolm E. Holt

Glen Burnie

Snowden Thanks

The Fifth Ward Inaugural Ball will be held on Monday, Dec. 6, beginning at 7 p.m., at the Loews Annapolis Hotel, 126 West St., Annapolis.

This event is being held to thank the voters of Ward 5 and my supporters for their overwhelming vote of confidence. I am proud of the turnout that we were able to achieve in the Annapolis general election.

Our voter registration drive and our message to the voters proved to be very successful. Not only did we register hundreds of new voters, but we were also able to get many first-time voters to the polls.

As I prepare for my third term on the city council, I want the voters of Ward 5 and the citizens of Annapolis to know that I intend to continue to be their voice at City Hall.

I take my oath of office very seriously. I want to continue to make the system responsible to all of its citizens. I want citizens to know and feel that City Hall is theirs. As elected representatives, our job is to make sure that the services are distributed equitably.

I look forward to seeing many of my supporters on Dec. 6, where I intend to thank each of them and to announce my goals for the next four years. May God continue to bless us as we move to improve and empower our communities.

A Luta Continua. The struggle continues.

arl O. Snowden

Annapolis

An Unsung Hero

We in Anne Arundel County just lost a remarkable human being in a tragic car accident on Belle Grove Road. This 30-year-old man was not a public leader or a professional athlete. He was what I like to refer to as a person who fell through the cracks. Society missed out on giving him a fair shot at life. He was passed from one foster family to another. He was a student at Marley Glen School from 1978 to 1982. This letter is not about passing blame but to recognize a real hero.

Fortunately, Ernest Sampson had a strong bond with his church which was the one big positive aspect in his life. He had little money, no job at times, no transportation and very few material possessions. He has always been involved in church activities as well as social activities such as the dances for our special population.

We became involved with Ernest two years ago when he discovered Special Olympics. He became very active in sports and participated throughout the year in our Special Olympics program. This became a wonderful outlet for him and it was something he would never miss. He would ride his bike for miles to participate in practice.

What made Ernest Sampson unique in our society and a real modern day hero was his remarkable attitude toward life and people in general. Here was a young man who had little consistency in his life. Yet he was always positive, smiling constantly and ready to say a kind word to everyone. He would never forget a name or face. He appreciated everything people did for him. He was polite, courteous and thoughtful. This young man had a gift to always make people glow and grin from ear to ear. He had this remarkable ability to bring out the best in others.

I wish we could bottle Ernest's attitude, character and disposition and give it to the rest of society. He was a remarkable person who should not be forgotten. He had all the traits we should adhere to -- kindness, sincerity, thoughtfulness, manners, warmth and love to give. All these things are something in the human spirit that has started to decline. Fortunately people like Ernest Sampson come along and make us feel like there is still a lot of good in this world.

On Nov. 15, at St. John's United Methodist Church on Belle Grove Road in the community of Pumphrey several hundred people filled the church to capacity to pay their last respects to this modern day hero. It is ironic that a young man who had so very little could touch the lives of so many people. . . . Anyone who ever met Ernest Sampson came away with a greater sense of love and well being, because of his boundless energy and joy to all.

Clay White

Glen Burnie

Congratulations

I would like to offer my congratulations on the way your Anne Arundel section presents the local news.

Having worked in the weekly newspaper field for more than 50 years, I believe I can offer an honest opinion.

George L. Greenwood

Glen Burnie

The Other Side of Pinewood Dispute

Your Nov. 17 editorial, "Insensitivity at Pinewood Gardens," warrants comment. Perhaps this will help you and your readers to better understand this management issue.

Most public housing authorities in Maryland are independent bodies, politic and corporate. They are not a part of county or city government; they are authorized by state law. They issue tax-exempt bonds which may or may not be supported by federal funds for debt service. Their work is controlled by federal, state and local laws.

They are not federal agencies. A 1969 federal law imposed rent control on housing authorities (probably the only landlords in Maryland having a limitation on the rents they may charge their tenants). As compensation for this imposed income limitation, some authorities may receive some federal assistance to cover operating costs and capital improvement expenses not covered by rental income.

In short, housing authorities are "bricks and mortar" operations very similar to privately owned and operated residential property. The business differences are few, with the authorities receiving cash subsidies and the for-profit entities receiving off-budget tax deductions; the clients of both are human beings. The authorities have a board (called commissioners) as do privately owned corporations (called directors). The management staff is obligated to run cost-efficient and effective operations, because, in the private sector, the taxpayer rightfully expects frugality.

The Anne Arundel County Housing Authority was close to bankruptcy five years ago. It was turned around under the overall leadership of a business-oriented board of commissioners and the sensitive, knowledgeable, informed and very effective management of Larry Loyd, the executive director hired by the board more than two years ago. The properties are now well maintained; vacated units are quickly rented; cash reserves are at a reasonable level, and appropriate capital improvements are timely and effectively put in place at very reasonable cost. Residents are regularly consulted regarding operations and capital improvements and their views influence board and management actions. As in most human endeavors, a few folks don't like the results but the "greater good" prevails. It was such a situation that you chose to editorialize about.

Here are some facts about the Pinewood situation: 96 out of 290 units are being modified. All of the 96 residents were given a choice of three floor plans -- 79 of the 96 residents have made their selection. In March 1993, all residents were invited to a briefing by the Authority regarding proposed improvements for this and all Authority communities. Comments were invited and considered before final plans were drawn and bids requested.

Oral (rather than written) notifications of work to begin were given to residents five (rather than two) days ahead of actual commencement of work on the assumption that the oral method and the longer time period would ease the possible temporary negative impact on the senior residents. This demonstrates compassion, not insensitivity.

The few disgruntled residents initiated legal action to stop the work, using tax-funded attorneys to fight-tax funded work arguing before a tax-funded court. Judges Robert H. Heller Jr. and H. Chester Goudy Jr. appropriately requested bond of the plaintiffs because the requested temporary stoppage of work would add penalty costs (tax dollars) to the contract. At least one of the plaintiffs has more than adequate wealth to cover the ordered bond, the judge knew that and you had the uninformed audacity to criticize the judge for protecting the tax dollars. It is not now, nor has it ever been the law, that a contract for public improvements may be stopped before a hearing on the merits by merely filing a suit and affidavits; a bond to protect defendants is normally required. Do you seriously believe anything in the way of construction would be accomplished if the law were otherwise?

Your proposed remedy for the four allegedly aggrieved Pinewood residents is for the Authority to delay the planned work in their homes until after they move out at some future date. Such relief would triple the per-unit cost in today's dollars. My sense is that the taxpayers don't like that kind of reasoning.

I must conclude that you were not adequately informed when this editorial item was put before you. As a leader of the Fourth Estate, we ask that you and your staff make a reasonable effort to become informed before putting "pen to paper."

We are always delighted to discuss issues with the press. All we ask is that you take the time necessary to understand the issues and then present them to your readers in a balanced manner.

Charles St. Lawrence

Glen Burnie

The writer is chairman of the board of commissioners of the Anne Arundel County Housing Authority.

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