Churches in the Valleys
As an active participant in the attempt to get churches to be responsible developers, I was neither surprised nor pleased to see the self-serving and inaccurate description in Edward J. Veilleux's letter, Aug. 16, about churches and zoning in Baltimore County.
While it is true that churches may be permitted where other building is not, it is absolutely false that most people "are neither surprised nor bothered by this."
Most people are both surprised and bothered to learn that churches can be built in rural zones without limit as to size.
The Catholic church that Mr. Veilleux represents will be, if built, nearly 19,000 square feet and seat 650. Mr. Veilleux doesn't bother to say that most protesters testified that they would not object to a church in the 300-seat range.
In fact, the primary objections to his project are to its size, visual impact on the countryside and traffic congestion on a two-lane country road.
Of those nearby residents polled about the facility, an overwhelming majority were opposed.
Mr. Veilleux's assertion that "they have won every argument on every level" is ridiculous. His complaint of spending money on attorneys to defend their rights conveniently ignores the sums we spent defending our rights.
His comments on the St. Mary's situation displays an ignorance of, or unwillingness to admit, the facts. Here's a brief chronology:
1. St. Mary's received a special exception for a church around 1984.
2. The congregation built a totally different building, not approved by the county.
3. The church rented its facility, which contained a non-approved commercial kitchen, to a commercial caterer. Zoning enforcement stopped this.
4. The congregation began building the courtyard in spite of a Baltimore County injunction against further construction.
5. The congregation applied for a special hearing to:
A. Have over-sized, lighted signs for the church and day care center (which is automatically allowed for churches, even if as here it is run by an outside organization).
B. Seek approval of the 2,500-square foot courtyard with the 12-foot high walls around it. The protesters believe that this looks to a passer-by like another building, and not what the average person thinks of as a courtyard.
6. The zoning commissioner ruled that the original building was illegal and that the requested changes would not be permitted.
7. At no time did the objectors request the existing structure be torn down.
Mr. Veilleux's comments on this case are substantially incorrect and prejudicial:
1. No one "admitted that although they have no objection to this proposal, they will contest it unless St. Mary's agrees never to build a church." There are serious objections.
2. No one, "while tacitly admitting that they have no hope of winning their case on legal merits," is trying to impose his will by bankrupting this small parish with endless legal bills.
As a matter of fact, we won the case on the legal merits. It could be argued that, in appealing, the church is attempting to financially wear out the objectors.
3. His comment that "they claim that their only concern is the stress on well water and septic fields," is untrue.
4. His comments about "the conversion of a nearby historical building into a restaurant" is an attempt to show what hypocrites "they" are.
The conversion of the county-owned building happened years ago. The current zoning effort by Baltimore County (the developer) is to permit use of the property for a restaurant. It is irrelevant to the church cases.
5. His comments about "a development of 20 new homes" ignores that there was nothing to protest.
The zoning was in place. "We" only want to try to keep people and churches from doing new damage to the zoning environment.
6. Mr. Veilleux seems to be upset that we object to every zoning issue, at the same time he criticizes us for objecting to any.
He and others supporting these church efforts attempt to vilify their opponents by implying some vague anti-religious sentiments and by suggesting it is only a small group of people trying to impose their will on the majority.
The truth is that he is a member of the small minority trying to impose its will on the majority of area residents who aren't comfortable with these projects, but don't want to offend friends or neighbors, or seem in some way "anti-religion."
Protecting Children at School Bus Stops
Over 70,000 children are transported by Baltimore County school buses every school day. Baltimore County Public Schools Department of Transportation went to great lengths last year to protect the crossing policy of its school buses.
The policy holds that children be waiting at their bus stops before the bus arrives for pick-up, and upon exiting the children should wait until the bus has pulled away before crossing behind the bus.
The policy is designed to allow children to see oncoming motorists and vice-versa, without the school bus blocking their vision.
A change in policy was sought in the state legislature the past two years by a couple whose child, while going to his bus stop, was killed by a motorist. The parents believe a change in policy would save the lives of other children.
The change parents want implemented is for children who must cross roads with swift-moving traffic to have the help of the school bus' flashing lights. Theoretically, the motorists would stop in both directions, allowing the child safe passage across the street.
Realistically, however, there will always be motorists who run bus lights. Thus, children would be hit.
Over 750 people in one quarter of last year were reported for running the lights of school buses. And that does not accurately reflect the reality that license numbers are often missed and never reported.
To change the current policy would give children a false sense of security when crossing the road. Lights do not stop cars, people do. To change the policy is to injure and kill more children.
It has been noted by the head of transportation that the parents intend to continue their crusade this year, despite the fact that all Baltimore County school buses have been rerouted so that no children need to cross any roads with speed limits of 40 miles per hour or above.
The county has formed a safety advisory committee to determine if a bus stop is safely accessible to a child of a given age. If the committee finds a crossing unsafe, same-side service is given, and the child does not cross the road.
This policy issue concerns me because I am a school bus driver for Baltimore County Public Schools. I can testify to the frequency of my lights being run. I am afraid that to alter the current policy would be a terrible mistake.
Clinton Should Ignore Myths about Cuba
The Clinton Administration sees the flood of Cuban refugees as evidence of the failure of the Castro government. In fact, it is evidence of the failure of U.S. policy toward Cuba.
For over three decades successive administrations have sought the end of the Cuban Revolution and the fall of Fidel Castro. Every means imaginable has been tried from outright military invasion and covert assassination attempts to political subversion and economic destabilization.
In spite of the best efforts of the world's greatest superpower, 35 years later not only is Castro still in power, but the social project of the revolution remains immensely popular -- even among those now leaving. So why the exodus across the Florida Straits? The collapse of Cuba's trade with the former Soviet Union and Eastern Europe sent Cuba's economy into crisis.
As an island nation, Cuba needs to trade to live. Overnight it lost 85 percent of its trade. That trade had provided it with an alternative to its historical markets in the U.S. -- markets closed since the early 1960s by a U.S. embargo.
Now this embargo, which the U.S. seeks to impose on Third World countries as well, denies Cuba the opportunity to live. The resulting hardships are what is driving thousands of Cubans into the sea on makeshift rafts. It is the U.S. embargo that is creating the refugees.
To try to escape responsibility for this, President Clinton is embracing all the myths on which our failed policy has rested all these years.
Myth Number 1: Castro is about to fall, we only need to keep the pressure on a little bit longer. We have heard this wish-dream for 30 years now and it will continue to be believed in spite of all evidence to the contrary. The 1993 national elections were a referendum on the revolution and Castro's leadership. They showed far greater popular support than Mr. Clinton received in his election to the presidency.
Sure, there is discontent in Cuba. There is also discontent in Los Angeles, but that doesn't mean the government is about to fall.
Myth Number 2: Socialism has failed Cuba. In fact, until the collapse of its trade, socialism had created a middle class society in Cuba.
According to a U.N. report, during the 1980s while living standards were falling throughout Latin America, Cuba's living standards went up by 33 percent. Universal free health care and education plus broad economic equality had made Cuba the envy of the rest of Latin America.
Now denied trading partners, the U.S. embargo threatens to destroy the proud accomplishments of the Cuban revolution. Sadly, in that respect U.S. policy is succeeding.
Myth Number 3: The U.S. has the right to a government to its
liking in Havana. This warmed over version of the Monroe Doctrine is frankly imperialistic. Who gave the U.S. the right to choose for another sovereign nation? Certainly not international law. The Clinton administration claims to avoid such interference in Cuban internal affairs by saying that Castro needs to dialogue with his own people. In fact that dialogue has been going on for some time now. Extensive discussions have recently been completed in every workplace in the country to get popular input into finding solutions to Cuba's economic problems.
It is time to stop "wreaking havoc" (as New Jersey Rep. Robert Torricelli says) on our poor neighbors to the south and engage the Cuban government in constructive dialogue aimed at
achieving normal relations between our two countries.
To do that Clinton will have to free himself from these myths about Cuba. If he doesn't, he will find himself increasingly trapped by the failed policy he has inherited, at great cost to himself as well as the Cuban people.
The writer is a professor of philosophy at Morgan State University and organizer of an annual conference of philosophers and social scientists at the University of Havana.
Better Government With Bosses?
A century-long struggle by Maryland voters to wrestle that ancient curse -- political bosses -- off their backs ended with the election of Harry Hughes to the governorship in 1978.
Down with a crash went the Marvin Mandel machine, its greasy little parts strewn variously between jail, the grave, the legislative lobby. Applause seemed general but, apparently, not quite. A lone contradictory voice arises.
Frank A. DeFilippo writes wistfully (Perspective, Aug. 21) of that once-flourishing, now-endangered species. Mr. DeFilippo first states that "this is not a lament for the passing of bossism" and then, eloquently contrary, turns squarely around and writes a lament for the passing of bossism.
What's lost with this vanishing tribe, he insists, is their ability to get things done.
He contrasts their brisk effectiveness of yore with the wayward vagaries he sees on display in state government today. Admiringly, he bunches up a bouquet of blessings -- better state schools, the piggy-back tax, the Convention Center -- which the kindly era of bossism brought to bloom for us happy Marylanders.
Oddly, given that this is virtuously proclaimed to be not a lament for their loss, Mr. DeFilippo's version of government by the bosses is unbroken in its cheers. Nothing even doubtful catches the DeFilippo eye.
He cites not a single instance where a single boss set a single foot wrong. His champions -- Irv Kovens and Jack Pollack, Marvin Mandel and Spiro Agnew and the rest -- stand unblemished in his view of Maryland history.
All this raises a question at least of unbalance, more likely of outright distortion. A look on the other, darker side of this allegedly shining political century offers the beginnings of objectivity.
The time for which Mr. DeFilippo seems to pine -- although he says he doesn't -- was a time when the very foundation of government was gravely stained.
State courts and the justice they meted out were political playthings. Judgeships were all but openly bought and sold. Money changed hands and, where it didn't, a judgeship was treated as one more trophy open to political barter.
Lawyers yearning for the bench knew the sad score. Approval by the Bar Association be damned: What you did was cuddle up to your neighborhood political boss, dutifully perform his assigned chores, then upon boss-decreed appointment, take judicial silk.
Questions of judicial ability and the reverse were left to the legal Nice Nellies, airily ignored. No wonder the most vigorous beginning of the reform era began as long ago as the 1890s, when a posse of outraged citizens launched the New Judge Fight.
Justice was not alone in its shame. The renowned Paving Ring -- springboard for that on-again, off-again boss hater, George P. Mahoney -- presented a similarly cozy scene.
Here a half dozen or so paving contractors simply ignored the statutory requirements for winning a paving job. Meeting together in advance of the competitive bidding procedure, they secretly designated one of their own members as low bidder, or winner. Then they told him what to bid, which he did; upon the public openings of bids: He won.
Next time another paving company would win, and so on. Prices stayed high, paving quality stayed low, taxpayers were stung year after year.
Bankers, stiff collars and all, were quick to catch on. They dipped into the bosses' favored circle via the office of state treasurer, an office available upon appointment by the legislature.
So appointed, inevitably at the discretion of legislative bosses, the treasurer was empowered to determine which of all Maryland banks should house surplus state government funds, thus fattening that bank's profitability.
Why, his own bank would do a fine job, many a treasurer reasoned, so that's where state money went. Rival bankers, out-smarted, ground their teeth. Bosses smiled and smiled.
Not even a field theoretically more stable, architecture, escaped the political jiggle.
City and state governments were chronically in need of large new buildings, hence of architects to design them. Architects knew that award of an architectural commission, largely a subjective exercise, was often eased through by a corresponding award of money to whichever political boss stood dominant.
Much the same relationship existed between purveyors of municipal bonds and state government, ever a hungry consumer of borrowed funds.
In the swan song forced on him as vice president, thus dodging the threat of criminal proceedings, Spiro Agnew confessed how in his years as governor one bond house showed its financial gratitude for being chosen to handle, profitably, multi-millions in state loans.
Many of these cheerful exercises of Maryland's bossy days are now abandoned, others shrunk back under a newly disapproving public gaze. Mr. DeFilippo recommends a "rear view mirror" to reflect the good deeds he says the old bosses performed. His own rear view mirror offers us images improbably one-sided.
The writer is a retired editor of The Evening Sun editorial page and the author of "Thimbleriggers," an account of the Marvin Mandel years.
Talk Sense about Smoking
I am troubled by the asinine arguments that are passed off to prove a point. Gregory P. Kane writes in his Aug. 24 Opinion * Commentary piece about smokers' rights. Let's not argue smoking good or bad, but let's at least make some sense.
Mr. Kane concludes that small amounts of smoke inhaled over a long period of time must have serious
adverse health effects. His proof is that large amounts of smoke inhaled over a short period of time (such as a fatal fire) causes death by smoke inhalation.
With that logic, it would be safe to say that swallowing small amounts of water over a long period of time must have serious adverse health effects. The proof -- drowning, where large amounts of water are swallowed over a short period of time.
Thank Mr. Kane for pointing out this health hazard. It looks like the advice often given when traveling to under-developed nations -- don't drink the water -- should be followed here at home.
Sun's Endorsement Choices Assailed
Given The Baltimore Sun's coverage to date of the various campaigns for governor, your endorsement of Helen Bentley was not surprising. What was surprising was your rationale for supporting Mrs. Bentley.
The endorsement stated that "when it comes to focusing on the big issues Rep. Helen Delich Bentley has a decided edge." My question is how would anyone know?
Mrs. Bentley refused to debate the issues with her Republican opponents or even disclose her positions on the issues when questioned by the press.
On the day you endorsed Mrs. Bentley, you ran an article on the governor's race and the environment subtitled, "All in governor's race on record but Bentley."
The endorsement described Mrs. Bentley as a staunch fiscal conservative, which simply isn't true.
According to independent, watchdog groups such as Citizens Against Government Waste and the Concord Coalition, Mrs. Bentley has been one of the biggest spending Republicans in all of Congress.
On business issues she has repeatedly received poor marks from such groups as the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and Maryland Business for Responsive Government.
Finally, the endorsement also went on to tout Mrs. Bentley's ability as a congresswoman to bring home the bacon to the 2nd District.
No one can seriously question the fact that Mrs. Bentley has represented the 2nd District well.
However, there is a major difference between wringing pork out of Washington and setting the budget priorities for the state of Maryland. When it comes to the state budget, even your endorsement described Mrs. Bentley as "ill-informed."
If The Sun wanted to endorse a Republican candidate for governor who has focused on the big issues (crime and the budget), who is a staunch fiscal conservative and is prepared to handle the coming budget crisis, you needed to look no further than Del. Ellen Sauerbrey.
Don't worry, you'll have a chance to get it right in November.
You have been unfair in failing to cover the campaign of PaSmith for the Democratic nomination for attorney general. Pat Smith was recently endorsed by Maryland presidential primary winner Paul Tsongas at receptions in Baltimore and Rockville. Parris Glendening was also endorsed by Senator Tsongas and attended the receptions.
Did The Sun report on this? No.
The editors of The Sun have every right to endorse Eleanor Carey. They cite her criticism of Joe Curran for not being vigilant when the keno contract was awarded on a no-bid basis. The Sun's endorsement said that neither Mr. Curran nor Mr. Smith can match Ms. Carey.
If that is true, why doesn't The Sun report honestly on the legal experience of each candidate. How many times has Ms. Carey been in a courtroom compared to Mr. Curran and Mr. Smith? Or has Ms. Carey just been a legal writer and administrator?
Thank you, Sun editorial board, for rewarding J. Josep Curran's 38 years of corruption-free, consistently decent and self-effacing public service by endorsing Eleanor Carey for attorney general.
It's OK, The Sun endorsement is just a consolation prize for a sure loser.
Would that we readers had the luxury of dumping The Sun for a less reactive, less complacent newspaper.
Although I was not surprised by The Sun's decision tendorse Helen Bentley in the Republican primary, I was surprised by your view that "more than the other Republicans, she would place economic development at the top of the agenda."
There is one candidate for governor who has consistently supported initiatives at the state level to foster economic development. Her name is Ellen Sauerbrey.
She has a 15-year record in the General Assembly of fighting to lower taxes and foster economic development in Maryland.
The other reasons you cite for endorsing Mrs. Bentley are even less persuasive.
You note she has a long record of supporting organized labor. The instability of Maryland's organized labor has led to a great deal of job flight over the past two decades.
You note she would be a "strong executive." Mrs. Bentley has exhibited many of the same tendencies as Maryland's current "strong executive," and I for one would welcome a change in style.
You praise her for "dressing down a secretary of the navy" and working to secure federal contracts. The flip side of this story is Maryland's over-reliance on state and federal contracts and jobs. Our economy needs more diversity.
Finally, you note that Mrs. Bentley would be "intent on reshaping state government in order to break the tax and spend mentality of previous administrations." Mrs. Bentley's record in Congress suggests quite the opposite.
Joseph L. Holt