Carroll Life has been the target of Westminster officials in recent weeks. We have been accused of wanting to turn Route 140 into an Interstate 795, of preventing a flower beautification program, of wanting to demolish 19 businesses with our upgrade proposal, and now of conspiring with the State Highway Administration. When our integrity is questioned and attacked, it is time to respond.
The Carroll Life group had meetings from May through November at the Westminster VFW each Thursday. These meetings were open to any elected official, county or city planners and business owners. We made no secret that we were working on a proposal to make 140 function as the bypass it was built to be 30 years ago. Our members include owners of small businesses, homemakers, teachers and factory workers as well as other private citizens who organized for a common purpose -- to stop an unnecessary bypass. We have worked since last spring contacting citizens concerning the bypass and have collected more than 1,300 signatures supporting the upgrade of Route 140, instead of a bypass.
The proposal we submitted to the SHA was built upon two existing plans already considered viable by the SHA. The proposals are not new. They were given as viable plans just as the bypass plans were given at a public meeting last spring. The businesses that were affected by these proposals were notified of them just as homeowners and property owners in the proposed bypass route were notified.
Not being able to cross 140 was a concern of then-Mayor Benjamin Brown, with whom Carroll Life met publicly and privately. We tried to address these concerns by asking the SHA to look at utilizing overpasses and underpasses at all intersections. Mayor Brown also asked that the SHA look into whether this would be feasible.
Would the newly appointed mayor and city officials rather see 31 families and businesses destroyed instead of taking a look at other solutions? The hard truth of the matter is that whatever solution is found, someone will be affected.
We maintain that a man's home is his castle and the interest of family homes should come first. The flower beautification program is a good idea, but not spending $75,000 to $100,000 in tax money on an area that may be upgraded is a prudent decision. Would appointed officials rather see 445 acres of woodlands and seven acres of wetlands and natural environments be destroyed rather than see a grass strip in the middle of 140 paved for additional lanes? As Carroll County citizens we have a great love and appreciation for the natural environments of our creator.
A man's home is his castle and family homes should come first.
Since we are not and have not voted to be within the Westminster city limits, it seems wrong that an unelected mayor should be telling the SHA what to do with our properties. Carroll Life will be part of a focus group the SHA has formed to study a solution to the 140 problem -- how to make the existing road function.
We welcome all parties to the table to discuss solutions. We have submitted not only the names of the members of our group, but those of downtown and Route 140 merchants and a deacon from a local church. We call upon our county and city planners and elected officials, as well as citizens, to step back, take another look and keep their minds open to new ideas. We ask the press not to print misleading information or to add any particular slant. It does not serve the citizens of this county to do so.
We hope the public will see that our group is made up of people with integrity. We are not politicians trying to make a name for ourselves. We are ordinary citizens, just like you, trying to protect our homes, our quality of life and our environment for our children and grandchildren. It is our hope that others who attend this focus group will do so with a willingness to find a solution.
We will have more public meetings in the future. We offer our hands in a working relationship with our elected representatives, city and county planners and all appointed officials. Whether they choose to work with us or continue to attack us as some have done is up to them. We will let the public judge whether they wish to find a solution to Route 140 using the existing roadway, or just add fuel to the fire and oppose the will of the citizens of this county.
This letter was submitted by the board of Carroll Life.
How Many Stores Does Carroll Need?
Slightly less than 10 years ago, when I moved out to Carroll County from the Pikesville/Sudbrook Park area, it was mainly because I wanted to get away from the congestion found on Liberty and Reisterstown roads.
At the time of my move, the Eldersburg area had two major food stores. Shortly after the move, a third one, Martin's, was added. Within the past year, George's has been sold to another owner. All three of these very adequate stores are within about one-half mile of each other.
To put it mildly, I was extremely distressed to read in The Sun that two more major food stores are possibly going to be built in basically the same area, but in the opposite direction on Liberty Road and Route 32.
It was bad enough when Wal-Mart decided to build at the intersection, which is an already a fairly busy crossroads. I simply cannot imagine what traffic wil be like, especially on Route 32, if and when these new businesses move in. This end of Liberty Road already looks as bad as the stretch from Woodlawn to Randallstown.
Do the residents of this area of Carroll County really want and need to compete with their more urban neighbors? Sure, this community is growing rapidly, but do we need five (count 'em, five) major food stores within a mile or so of each other? C'mon.
Arts and Tourism
I have been intrigued of late by recent editorials in The Sun for Carroll County concerning the need for more encouragement of tourism in the county and the need for a home for the arts.
For at least the past 15 years, art instructors, students and artists have agreed that Carroll County needs a home for the arts.
What better way to spotlight the talent and work of our county than by displaying our creative efforts in a showcase made for them? Just as a frame shows off a painting to its best advantage, or a spotlight to a performer, tourists would at least be able to see our efforts in their proper milieu. To my mind, these issues are so closely linked, it must be obvious to many others.
What is needed here is a showcase for local arts which in turn could feed the tourist industry; a big reward for county artists and a place where tourists can spend money.
There is, at present, no place in this county which in any way spotlights local art. Carroll County is literally paved wall-to-wall with talented working artists, who must display and sell out of the area in order to gain any kind of recognition. Restaurants, doctors' offices and the like are not safe, ideal environments for encouraging art sales or for displaying it to its best advantage.
The local tourist industry and local artists have many needs in common. Benign attractions which are not commercial or environmentally unsound are sorely needed. It seems to me that an arts center would be just the thing for both.
Gingrich Gang of Grinches
By voting the Gingrich gang of grinches into power last November, the American voters may have done irreparable economic damage to their children and grandchildren.
The Gingrich gang, like the Grinch who stole Christmas, is trying to tear down in 100 days all social programs that have taken middle class America 60 years to put in place, often during painful and bloody picket line battles with management goon squads.
On the pretext of saving tax dollars and downsizing government, the reactionary Republicans would chop, strip and peel away collective bargaining, unemployment compensation, medical coverage and retirement pensions, taking the American worker back to conditions that existed during the 1920s and 1930s.
Our children and grandchildren would be forced to work under terms dictated by management. Poverty-level salaries; dirty, polluted and unsafe shops and child labor to supplement family income would be the order of the day. Our ill, lame, incompetent and demented would be thrown into the gutter, forced to survive by thievery or begging.
By virtue of the carte blanche handed the Gingrich gang, we can expect more polluted air, dirtier water, less police protection, bad roads and poorer schools. We can also expect another Republican trademark, total opposition to all social reforms, as they have done for the past 60 years, from Franklin D. Roosevelt's Social Security to President Clinton's minimum wage increase and health care program.
Looking back 60 years from now, our children and grandchildren will thank us for the great bargain we struck: the sale of their heritage to save a tax dollar.