Why a 'no' vote on police forceI...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Why a 'no' vote on police force

I urge all Harford countians to vote "no" on Question A -- that is, vote against establishment of a Harford County police force.

As a former member of the Harford County Council, I have followed the issue closely but have not taken any public stance until now, since any stance on the issue might be misinterpreted as being for or against any particular candidate for office. The question of county police force will be decided by referendum and should stand apart from candidate preference.

There are only two reasons for changing a system that has worked well -- first to improve public safety or secondly to decrease costs.

As to the first issue, The Sun in its editorial stated, "Harford sheriff deputies have performed well in spite of political turmoil. There is no immediate scandal in that force." It has only been in the past 12 years that there has been "political turmoil."

Over the years, I have known Sheriffs Fulker, Kunkel, Moyer, Mele and Comes. You might disagree with one's personality or management skills, but each of these men were hard-working, conscientious police officers who have kept the sheriff's office functioning well and abreast of times during a period of rapid growth.

Much of the turmoil has come from a minority number of sheriff's deputies. I am sure there have been some legitimate grievances, but these can be and should be handled administratively.

If you do not feel confident in one's management skills or don't like one's personality, vote in another sheriff, but don't throw the baby out with the bath water.

We all know that with the growth of Harford County, costs of operation will continue to increase. The Sun stated that the cost of changeover will be minimal and that is probably true.

However, this would establish a new bureaucracy under the county executive while continuing to have an elected sheriff responsible for the detention center, legal papers services and courthouse security. In my opinion, this changeover would result in much more rapidly escalating costs of operations without improving efficiency.

In the best interests of Harford County, I would hope that you would vote "no" on Question A.

Dr. Frederick J. Hatem

Havre de Grace

Why a 'Yes' Vote

There has been a spirited campaign waged over ballot Question A, whether or not to have a county police force, or retain the sheriff's department as the primary law enforcement unit. . . .

Under the current system with an elected sheriff, deputies feel they are being pressured to support the incumbent.

They fear demotions and transfers if they do not, and this occurs regularly. This results in a tense work environment months prior to the election, affecting the morale of the deputies.

By establishing a county police department that is separate from the department of corrections and the communications center, it would allow the county executive to appoint managers with expertise in each area.

Another misconception is that the county executive is solely responsible for appointments and dismissals of a police chief. Appointments and dismissals can occur only with the majority vote of the County Council.

We will still be electing a sheriff for Harford County, because that office is mandated by the state constitution. However, the sheriff's primary duties will be serving papers, courtroom security and other duties prescribed by law.

There is also a misconception being encouraged by the opponents' yard signs equating the creation of a police force to paying higher taxes. There would be a one-time transition cost of approximately $300,000, about $1.50 per capita. This figure has also been verified by an outside auditor appointed by the County Council. Increased costs would come about with increased demands for services. Taxes will not increase if a police department is created.

If you want to take politics out of law enforcement in Harford County, and have professional management of the law enforcement function, vote [yes] for Question A on Nov. 8.

Bruce Wells

Abingdon

Pierno's Red Tape

The more Theresa Pierno discusses the issues and attempts to convince us to vote her into office, the more she becomes a study in inconsistencies.

She puts "the people first" until it comes to finances, and then it's expense accounts and salary increases first. Certainly "the people" didn't insist on higher taxes or the 1 percent transfer tax.

Ms. Pierno claims to be pro-business, then blocks business growth at every turn. Harford County needs business to provide jobs and support public services. . . . She's said she's a consensus builder and an agent of compromise, but neither the county executive nor a number of private citizens who have dealt with her believe that.

No, the only area where Ms. Pierno performs with consistency is in her love of bureaucracy. Wherever she has tried to exert her influence, she has left her trademark -- a trail of red tape. Her "innovative environmental legislation," the tree bill, merely echoed state legislation that was already in progress.

She seems blissfully unaware of the number of trees she has sentenced to death by the overwhelming amount of paperwork she has bent on creating with that and her other redundant regulations concerning sediment control and zoning notification. She points to community input legislation, which amounts to an extra layer of red tape that yields no additional benefit, unless further fattening an already bloated bureaucracy is considered beneficial.

What we do not need is another politician in a position of even greater influence who is bent on increasing government just for the sake of convincing herself of her own importance. What we need is a public official who is dedicated to minimizing government and its intrusion on our private lives.

Frank W. Soltis

Fallston

School Condoms

As a Harford County voter, homemaker, mother, and former PTA president, I am incensed at Theresa Pierno's statement, made to a forum of Fallston High School students on Oct. 24, that "birth control devices should be available at the nurses office and condoms passed out." This is completely contrary to the policy of the Harford County Board of Education.

I am comfortable with Joanne Parrott's position that birth control decisions are a family issue and should be discussed and decided in the home. Ms. Parrott supports the concept of family values, and I support Joanne Parrott.

The voters of Harford County need to vote for Joanne Parrott for council president.

Irene H. Wirth

Fallston

Pierno's Pluses

As a resident of Abingdon over the last 12 years, I had a good opportunity to compare the track records of both County Council presidential candidates Theresa Pierno and Joanne Parrott regarding their actions on environmental and community concerns in my neighborhood.

When a 700-unit development was being proposed next to the Bush Valley Landfill Superfund site, a number of residents expressed their concerns regarding the placing of such a high-density community near this facility which had little or no fencing.

There were questions regarding ground water contamination and methane in adjacent properties and issues regarding whether the new property owners would be informed of any potential risks. Ms. Parrott made absolutely no effort to address these problems, even though she was the Abingdon council representative.

Ms. Pierno was pro-active and pushed for more environmental studies at the site as well as a requirement for a disclosure statement to the new people buying homes in the development. Later, Woody Williams from the Harford County Health Department would show that there were three additional landfills within that area. By taking action, Ms. Pierno protected new residents by assuring them a safe environment for their homes and families. She also protected existing Harford County taxpayers from potentially facing a situation, as occurred in Perryman, where their tax dollars might have later been spent to buy out land that had environmental problems.

In 1992, when Spencers rubble fill in Abingdon requested permission to expand its facility in the heart of a residential neighborhood, Ms. Parrott also failed as our representative to address the concerns of her constituency.

In spite of calls from more than 400 residents in Abingdon requesting the council not to vote for the expansion until more information had been obtained, Ms. Parrott ignored her constituents and voted for the landfill operator.

Ms. Pierno demanded a better environmental assessment and voted "no." Research and a report on the facility would later demonstrate a history of serious problems with ground water contamination, illegal overfilling, underground fires, odors, dust, leachate and unauthorized dumping. Ultimately, this landfill was shut down by the Maryland Department of the Environment for some of its various problems.

TH . . . If you want the real thing, vote for Theresa Pierno on Nov. 8.

Jan Pierce Stinchcomb

Bel Air

Hidden Agendas?

A puzzling thing happened on the way to the candidates' forum Oct. 18. The planning for the forum took place during the summer by representatives of seven Harford County organizations: American Association of Retired Persons, American Association of University Women, Harford County Education Association, Harford County Council of PTAs, League Women Voters, Harford County Retired School Personnel and the Harford County Commission for Women.

We often worried that constituents wouldn't attend, but never though that candidates wouldn't.

The day after the filing deadline, all candidates from Districts 6, 35A, and 34 were invited to participate. The day after the primaries, the victorious candidates were sent a letter of invitation with specific details about the forum. The two candidates who did not respond were Scott Williams and Nancy Jacobs.

Why didn't they come to the forum? Could it be that they fit the examples of people who represent the Christian Coalition -- the radical right who want to impose political litmus tests on people of faith and who believe that their message is the only religious voice speaking in America today? Can the moderate be a match for the strident, well-organized and well-funded efforts of the radical right? What are their views? We will never know because Scott Williams and Nancy Jacobs did not come to the forum.

Doesn't the public have a right to know the views of all candidates? Mr. Williams is running on a popular agenda of cutting taxes and giving parents a voice in educating their children, which translates into the voucher system which allows public money to be siphoned off for private schools. He advocates promoting personal responsibility and strong families. How does Mr. Williams intend to have the government do this? He is exploiting sensitive issues in order to ally himself with the mainstream. Is he hiding his philosophies and policy agendas?

Mrs. Jacobs is running a very curious campaign literature. One half-hour before the forum was over, someone brought in her campaign literature. She states that "she is not bound by political commitments or groups, only to the citizens who elect her." Yet, she is a registered lobbyist for Concerned Women for ** America, an organization that works to restore "Christian" values by opposing, among other things, choice, sex education and gender equity.

CWA claims 600,000 members and a $10 million budget. In Cleveland, Tenn., this group borrowed "offending" books from the public library and never returned them. Do we need this kind of censorship? . . .

The ascendancy of the religious right in the Republican Party is sad indeed. They are not as legitimate as they claim to be.

I want my representatives in Annapolis to have a broad perspective, not a narrow agenda, to be balanced, open to different points of view, respectful and tolerant. Not just someone who manages to get up early in the morning, dress in red and stand in traffic.

Anne Brown

Bel Air

Recall the Bypass

A couple of years ago, the citizens of Churchville were engaged in a dispute with the state highway department over the plan to build the Churchville Bypass.

This project was strongly opposed by most of the community. We turned to our elected official s in Annapolis, Sen. Bill Amoss and Dels. Don Fry and Jim Harkins of District 35A.

They listened to our concerns, attended local meetings and had our group present our case to the county delegation. The result was that the project was stopped. This was due in a very large part to efforts of these three individuals. We strongly endorse the re-election of Senator Amoss and Delegates Fry and Harkins. They listen to the concerns of their constituents and act of their behalf.

Patricia Marks

Robert A. Marks

Churchville

Economic Engine

Allow me to preface this letter regarding the proposed Maryland Motorsports Park at Havre de Grace by saying that I am a native and lifelong resident of Havre de Grace.

Secondly, I have never had any interest in automobile racing. However, my opinion of motor sports did change recently after I visited Summit Point Raceway in West Virginia. I felt this trip was necessary in order to find our firsthand what this sport is all about.

What I observed was a thoroughly enjoyable day in a total family atmosphere. I saw fathers and sons walking in the paddock looking at the vintage race cars as drivers and crews enthusiastically explained the safety and performance features of their cars. I watched as more than 800 people paid $5 each in the "Ride For Charity" program, with all proceeds going directly to local civic groups. The races themselves might best be described as a 100 mph museum.

What I did not see were drunks, fights or prostitutes. The Citizens Against the Racetrack would like everyone in Havre de Grace and Harford County to believe that Maryland Motorsports Park will be hosting 52 Preakness-like events a year when nothing could be further from the truth. The highest attendance estimate for any of the seven spectator weekends is 45,000; not 80,000 or higher as the CAR group has been stating.

Having previously never been to an auto race myself, my biggest concern regarding the proposed park in Havre de Grace was the amount of noise that would be generated.

While I realize that tolerance to sound will always be subjective, I was amazed that the races were not louder. Certainly, they were quieter than the hydroplane regattas that Havre de Grace embraced for over 30 years.

Traffic concerns regarding this project are unfounded for several reasons.

First and foremost, the arrival and departure of crews and spectators for these events are staggered over several days unlike an Orioles game where 48,000 fans arrive 30 minutes before a game and leave with the last out.

Secondly, 40,000 spectators annually enjoy the July Fourth festivities in Havre de Grace: If this number of people can exit the downtown, gridlocked area of Havre de Grace within 30 to 45 minutes after the end of the fireworks, certainly major highways such as Route 40 and Interstate 95 will have no problems dispersing event traffic. Many of the surrounding roads (i.e., Chapel Road) will get a desperately needed upgrading with the user taxes (amusement, sales and property) generated by the park. . . .

I encourage the silent majority of Havre de Grace and the surrounding area to speak out and write letters to help make this fantastic proposal a reality.

Maryland Motorsports Park at Havre de Grace could be the single best thing for our area since the creation of the Chesapeake Bay.

Jerry Coudon

Havre de Grace

Vote the Bay

Our coming election is an important time for Chesapeake Bay. Its marshes and creeks, black ducks and rockfish, wild rice and sedges cast a giant shadow over each choice we make in the election booth.

For every one of us who has even contributed to the Chesapeake Bay Foundation, Maryland Nature Conservancy, Save Our Streams, Ducks Unlimited or bought a Chesapeake Bay motor vehicle license tag, participating in elections is a crucial part of putting together enough pieces of the environmental puzzle to save our great resource.

While the multistate bay region has made great strides in improving the bay's health by investing millions of dollars in cutting major public and private pollution sources, these successes will only be temporary if we don't somehow manage the impact of the region's burgeoning population growth.

Every bay progress report issued by both public and private agencies warns that if we don't find the collective will to change our patterns of land use, we will lose our up-to-now successful battle to save the bay as a functioning ecosystem.

Issues of population density, suburban sprawl, storm water runoff, destruction of forests and wetlands all must be scrutinized for their impact on the bay's complex natural system.

We as a society don't have many tools yet to achieve the kind of environmental sustainment a system as vast as the bay will require to remain healthy, but we can find those tools if we have the will to do so.

So far, we have some rudimentary ones: protecting our remaining forests, protecting forest buffers along all streams, rivers and bay edge; preserving tidal and nontidal wetlands; concentrating population away from environmentally sensitive lands, and designing transportation systems to minimize emission pollution.

To make these tools truly effective and find essential new ones is going to require, in part, elected state and local officials with a true commitment to the recovery of the bay, the courage to grapple with these hard issues of land use, and the vision and creativity to find solutions.

We all have an opportunity on Nov. 8 to advance the cause of the bay's restoration by voting for candidates with a proven track record in support of these crucial issues.

The Chesapeake Bay Foundation has a new bumper sticker, "I Love the Bay/I Vote the Bay." I think that says it well.

Jan Schutzman

Street

Sheriff Flaws

For over a year, the Harford County police issue has been heatedly debated with both sides presenting a variety of perspectives to support their positions.

Harford County is no longer strictly a quiet, sleepy, rural community. Its recent growth has resulted in an urbanization, or at least a suburbanization, that dictates the necessity for a well-managed, pro-active law enforcement agency, lead by an managed, pro-active law enforcement agency, lead by an administration that has the credentials and disposition to address the demands of metropolitan policing.

The only way to assure this will be achieved is through a county police force, whose leadership is selected from among qualified candidates who are screened, evaluated and approved by the county executive and County Council.

This position is based on my observations as a resident of nearly 30 years, and a homeowner for more than 20. In addition, I come from a family with a long and proud policing tradition, and I am also a former police officer.

As a risk management consultant for more than 17 years, I have regularly dealt with the operational challenges of municipalities, including their law enforcement agencies. I understand, firsthand, how police agencies function and what is necessary to maximize their effectiveness.

The current procedure of electing the chief law enforcement officer is too often based on emotion and personalities, rather than a realistic assessment of the candidates' qualifications for the position. This process presents numerous issues and concerns that seriously challenge its viability and effectiveness.

As an example, the best possible candidates may be discouraged from coming forward because of the "baggage" associated with the elective process (fund raising, public apathy, popularity rather than credential-based, etc.).

Other issues include:

* Accountability. Those opposed to a police force contend that an elected sheriff results in direct accountability to the public. But in reality, an elected sheriff is really accountable to no one except once every four years.

There are no checks and balances, giving the incumbents free reign to make changes, no matter how detrimental they may be to the department. Witness the personnel changes after the last election which seemed based only on who had supported the winner's campaign. An appointed chief of police would be subject to the oversight of the county administration and County Council as well as the general public resulting in the opportunity to more expeditiously address performance issues.

* Candidate selection. At present, anyone can run for and be elected sheriff, regardless of qualifications, experience, etc. Most citizens would probably concur that a better selection could be made by experts selected by the administration and council. And conversely, under the current process, a well-qualified and effective sheriff could be voted out of office in favor of a less experienced and lesser qualified candidate.

* Dissension. One needs only to reflect on the past several elections in Harford County to realize how agonizing and divisive the current method can be. Appointment of a police chief may not be a perfect process, but it inherently provides an effective procedure for selection of this critically important position without forcing co-workers to choose sides or to suffer the consequences when their candidate is not elected.

* Cost. If operations will stay essentially the same, any cost increase should be nominal. Vehicle colors, uniforms, etc., need not be changed immediately, but gradually incorporated. The estimated additional annual $2 cost per citizen projected by a recent independent study should certainly be reasonable, considering the benefits to be derived.

I can best sum up my reasons for supporting a county police force by using a personal example.

If one of my children or friends were considering a law enforcement career, and asked my advice as to the Harford County sheriff's office, I would advise them to consider the following:

* The agency is not always on a par with other local metropolitan law enforcement agencies from a pay, benefit and administrative resource basis.

* There is no civil protection.

* The election process breeds turmoil every four years. Good people are often lost as a result. A career could literally end if you did not support the candidate who is elected.

* No matter how hard you work, no matter how well you know and do the job, no matter how proficient and effective you are, the only way you will successfully achieve the top job in the agency is by winning a popularity contest with the general public.

I urge all Harford County citizens to conscientiously and carefully review all aspects of this critically important issue.

I believe that a vote for Question A is the only way to ensure public safety and security as well as provide for the best possible law enforcement in the future.

Edward A. Panowitz Jr.

Bel Air

Elegant Red Lining

I, too, like Drs. David Brick and Vijay Abhyankar (Letters to the Editor, Oct. 2), read Peter Jay's column, "An Elegant Form of Red Lining," on the Sept. 15 op-ed page of The Sun.

The two doctors from Fallston rebuke Mr. Jay for expressing "just his opinions" on the op-ed page. I should hope that the Opinion*Commentary section of The Sun is for writers to express their opinions.

The doctors accuse Mr. Jay of spouting "hearsay from the business people of Havre de Grace." The only business people that Mr. Jay quoted in his article are doctors. It has come through in Mr. Jay's writings more than once that Havre de Grace is a town close to his heart. He knows its turf well. He is sentimental and misty-eyed about the place, its waters, its special nooks and corners and its people. Why shouldn't he speak for those who live there, including the business folks?

Drs. Brick and Abhyankar missed the whole point of Mr. Jay's column. Mr. Jay loves small-town politics and knows confrontations between citizens enrich small-town democracy.

Upper Chesapeake Health Systems Inc. would like to be exempted from the certificate of need which the state demands. Obtaining the certificate of need to build a new hospital requires a series of public hearings with some consensus being reached at the county level. Knowing that community debates can degenerate into polemical gridlock, Upper Chesapeake wants to avoid them.

Mr. Jay, a seasoned political observer who has worked the Washington beat, doesn't see eye to eye with Upper Chesapeake on that one. Mr. Jay speaks for many physicians in Havre de Grace when he says that the state should hang tough and make no exception for Upper Chesapeake, that the tried and true steps of democracy must determine the culmination of this affair.

Paternalism, unfortunately, does not work in small town politics. Upper Chesapeake, based on the cold science of statistics, proposed to shut down Fallston General Hospital and "right size" Harford Memorial Hospital. But the emotional and angry citizens of Havre de Grace upbraid Upper Chesapeake, demanding to be heard, wanting their hospital running as it always has. The so-called soundness and pragmatism of Upper Chesapeake's activities simply don't appeal to the citizens of Havre de Grace. The story is nothing new in America -- stagnation vs. progress, the plow vs. the tractor; Upper Chesapeake, in each instance, thinks it is the latter, of course. And I suppose Drs. Abhyankar and Brick, who want "state-of-the-art medicine," also belong there.

But what is state-of-the-art medicine? The two doctors offer no definition. State of the art, I should hope, is preventive medicine which can be practiced anywhere, including under an old oak tree. State of the art ought to be compassion, and willingness to listen to the patient on the part of the care-givers.

How can a new hospital building provide that kind of state of the art? Well, if by state of the art, the doctors imply high-tech medicine, then Fallston General and Harford Memorial Hospitals come stacked. MRIs, CAT scans, thyroid scans, latest lab tests, name them and you can get them at either hospital. Glory of glories, there is even a cardiac catheterization lab at Harford Memorial Hospital.

When Drs. Brick and Abhyankar write that a state-of-the-art medical facility is essential for the well-trained staff and the expert physician panel to deliver excellent care, surely they jest. Two of the best services provided by Fallston General Hospital are through its Home Health and Patient Education Departments. The people who work for these departments do a marvelous job without clamoring for state of the art, proving that state of the art comprises only a small portion of good health care delivery.

Of significance is the fact that when Upper Chesapeake conducted a survey in the community not too long ago most citizens didn't place a new hospital or state-of-the-art medicine tops on their health care wish list. Instead, they wanted dedicated caring doctors.

Mr. Jay raised several important issues in his column which Drs. Brick and Abhyankar failed to address in their letter. Is it necessary, or fair, for Upper Chesapeake to sidestep the required democratic process? Is it true that Havre de Grace is being short-shrifted because of the minorities and poor who live there? Can Harford Memorial remain a viable hospital when it is "right-sized?"

I should admit that the two doctors were right about a couple of points. The Bel Air-Abingdon corridor which has witnessed a baby boom over the past decade could use an easily accessible hospital that offers pediatrics and obstetrics services. What the citizens of Havre de Grace don't understand is why the availability of obstetrics and pediatrics in a new facility should result in the elimination of the same two specialties in their own hospital.

It is also true that the current terms of the lease do not allow the Fallston General Hospital administration to alter or expand the building in which the hospital operates. Many members of the Fallston hospital staff want a larger hospital to ease the space crunch.

But this does not mean that the hearings should be skirted. There is always a possibility that the people of Bel Air and Abingdon will speak up at the public hearings and give Upper Chesapeake the support it needs for its project. Mr. Jay is not wrong to espouse the democratic process or to deplore the regulated monopolies of health care.

Usha Nellore, M.D.

Bel Air

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