Change in term might be good for school board
The recent request by the Howard County school board that its salary be increased is a good time to discuss election by district. By board members' own admission, it seems that oversight of the schools on a countywide basis is difficult (Aug. 25, The Sun). The argument for electing the board by districts is based on:
* More direct representation of constituency (currently three of the five members live in western Howard County).
* Relieving candidates from the time and cost burdens of running countywide.
* Reducing some of the burdens and frustrations that the current board highlighted in the Aug. 25 article.
Candidates who are well-known in particular areas of the county are required to run in areas where they are less well-known. Unlike other countywide offices, school board candidates are expected to run a low-budget, non-partisan, countywide campaign. This may preclude some potentially excellent people from running for the school board.
My many years of experience at the congressional and state levels lead me to disagree with those board members who argue that if members are elected by district each member would only be concerned about his or her own schools and issues. Each member has only one vote and must rely on the voting of at least two other members; therefore, he or she must be concerned with issues beyond his or her immediate district to be an effective school board member.
It might be well for salary increases for the board to be considered by amending Article 25 A, Section 5 of the Annotated Code of Maryland, which provides for the Compensation Review Commission. The commission now recommends the salaries for the county executive and the members of the County Council.
rank S. Turner
The writer is a delegate representing Legislative District 13A.
Junket another slap at Columbians
The governance of Columbia just keeps getting worse. The latest outrage is the Columbia Association's two-day junket on the Eastern Shore at taxpayer expense.
Apparently, the Columbia Council and CA's top executives pulled about $5,000 out of the treasury to send themselves far away from Columbia to wine and dine and reach consensus regarding directions in CA's upcoming budget. Such a display of extravagance is a slap in the face of the people who foot the bill. But even if one puts the cost of the junket aside, an equally important issue is: Why is CA conducting its most important public business of the year essentially in secret at a remote location, away from the people of Columbia? People can't believe that this is the kind of government that Jim Rouse had in mind when he founded Columbia. People can't believe that this is the kind of government that residents of Columbia deserve. People just can't believe it.
The writer is president of the Alliance for a Better Columbia.
Tipton fliers must pay their way
I was most interested in the editorial on Sept. 26 regarding the "eviction" of the Fort Meade Flying Club from Tipton Airfield.
Too bad that the members of this club will have to pay their own way like the rest of us. It doesn't matter that they contributed to the bowling alley and other activities at Fort Meade. I daresay that pilots elsewhere are just as generous in their personal contributions to society in general.
Indeed, the Fort Meade Flying Club members should be glad that they were able to use the fine facilities of the airfield with its paved runway, instrument approach, control tower and security over the past 40 years at the expense of taxpayers. The Army's decision is far from a "punishment." Rather, it's a correction long overdue.
Robert D. Thulman
WBAL should turn over tape of fire
After reading the article in The Sun on Oct. 4 in regards to the Clipper Mill fire, I am disgusted with WBAL's David Roberts in refusing to relinquish videotape on the tragic collapse of the wall, which took the life of a brother firefighter and injured 17 others.
Baltimore City Fire Department personnel are trying to help find a cause to the collapse so they, in turn, may learn from this tragic experience. I'm sure their findings will be passed on to their field personnel and to other departments to help make it a learning experience for all. WBAL needs to get off its high horse and help aid in solving the problem.
Firefighters put their life on the line every day so others may have a safe environment to live in. They don't do this job for personal gain. They do it because they care. Does WBAL really care?
The writer is a Howard County firefighter.
The Simpson verdict: embarrassment or a victory for all freedom-lovers?
I am still processing my feelings about "the verdict." I find it is much harder to get a fix on than "the streak." Unless another strong suspect is revealed, I'll always have to believe the worst, that the cops got the right guy and the people let him go.
A useful by-product of this trial is the illustration of what is meant by "institutional racism." Sadly, the Fuhrmans of the world only read this as confirmation that they hold true beliefs and the rest of us who would like to see fair play all around are fools.
O.J. Simpson owes a debt of gratitude to the African-American community for its steadfast support and he ought to show up at the Million Man March to join with his brothers in atonement. Once that is done, and before we slip back to business as usual, all of us in the human race should acknowledge that relations between blacks and whites are better than they were 20 years ago but there is still enough hard work to last for generations if we want to lose that card from the deck.
John J. Snyder
The entire O. J. Simpson debacle was a mild embarrassment for the American criminal justice system when viewed from abroad. However, the intent here is not to lambast the acquittal verdict of Mr. Simpson, but to criticize the inherent problems with our complex legal system.
Alexis de Tocqueville, the French political scientist, once commented that Americans seemed to solve all their conflicts by legal means. This was more than 150 years ago and he could not have imagined the proliferation of laws and regulations that have accrued since he made that observation. Presently, there are so many such regulations and procedural rules that no one human being has the capacity to store this information, let alone follow it correctly.
Thus whether referring to the Occupational Health Safety Administration, the Environmental Protection Agency, or in this particular case, procedures of criminal investigation, we have human beings incapable of flawlessly following correct procedure. Mr. Simpson was fortunate enough to afford a "dream team," which could sift through the criminal investigation minutiae to find the inevitable errors in process and procedure as well as character shortcomings in the investigators themselves. Unfortunately, most poor criminal defendants cannot afford such intensive scrutiny of their cases and are convicted. But if they could afford it, surely in every case there is some violation of standard criminal due process that could result in acquittal.
How are we to address this absurdity where imperfect creatures are held accountable to a perfect standard? It seems we either have to recast the laws of procedure and process in more flexible terms that allow for something we used to call "common sense," or supply every defendant with a "dream team."
There is a far greater menace to a free society than allowing an individual murderer to be set free, and that is in allowing the state to obtain a conviction of murder without having been forced to publicly prove its charge beyond any reasonable doubt. Unless we universally and unequivocally insist on the latter principle, corrupt governments, at every level, can easily get away with eliminating its political opposition, as we have certainly witnessed historically with fascism, totalitarianism and military dictatorships.
The city of Los Angeles was unable to prove its case against O.J. Simpson. Its "evidence" was unreliable. And beyond that, Mr. Simpson was in a position to match the prosecution's $9 million outlay dollar for dollar. All freedom-loving people should rejoice at the jury's decision.
'Steven L. Strauss, M.D.