Eat, drink, be merry, die before the...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Eat, drink, be merry, die before the bill comes

Pity Sewell R. Marsh whose crystal clear logic and obvious concern over the unbalanced budget, as expressed in his letter of Feb. 7, brings him much anguish. Would it not be better to indulge in a little liberal myopia?

Eat, drink and be merry, for nobody lives past tomorrow.

Surely there is a free lunch if you are not around when the bill comes.

Even the fiscally conservative must realize that the waiter

doesn't present the bill until the end of the meal.

So all we need do is to keep on eating and eating and eating, as Gerald Ben Shargel seems with shortsighted vision to suggest in his Jan. 27 letter.

Arthur E. Wheeler

Towson

Trickle down drowns the poor

At last I know what the "trickle down" theory is and how it works.

First, the politicians at the national level are suggesting flat and other forms of taxes that will measurably increase the tax load on the middle class -- a dying species in the U.S.

Then it trickles down in two ways: down from the federal level to the state level and down from the middle class to the "poor" class.

This is evidenced in the news of a Maryland state politician who suggested collecting a fee from the poor disabled when through efforts of state workers such a person is moved from the state program to the federal program of Supplemental Security Income. Never mind the fact that such a move actually saves the state 100 percent of whatever the state was paying.

I certainly hope that more compassionate heads in the state legislature will prevail.

And I cannot wait to see the "trickle down" at the city level.

eorge R. Kibbe

Baltimore

Sorry to see GED abolished

On May 30, all general high-school GED and vocational programs in Maryland state prisons will cease. And so will end the most rewarding working experience of my life.

I've probably learned more from my eight years as an English teacher at Eastern Correctional Institution than my students, although I can proudly report that we have consistently maintained one of the highest GED success rates in adult testing sites in the state since we opened the school in November 1987.

Some of these lessons have been worthwhile; others have been aggravating. I had to learn the difference between an innocent "bump" and frottage; the difference between a compliment and a sexual advance, and how to write a good "ticket" and make it stick. I also learned the joy of seeing someone read and comprehend for the first time -- over and over.

I've seen grown men excited because their friends and relatives are noticing a difference in their letter writing. I've witnessed men so proud to be graduating from high school that you'd think they were getting double Ph.D.s.

I've experienced mothers expressing their gratitude to me for "taking care of their boys," telling me they'd never expected their sons to graduate. They've shared their hopes that high school completion is a sign that their sons have turned around and will be able to stay out of trouble from now on.

Susan Olsen

Fruitland

Two more stores leave the city

On the same day recently, Blank's and Sol Levinson & Bros., two large businesses located within the city for roughly a century apiece, announced plans to move to Baltimore County.

I have seen no written account of Blank's reason for moving. As a frequent customer of their Wasbash Avenue location and their prior Park Heights Avenue location, I have observed only an abundance of customers and easy, safe parking. Its departure will leave Baltimore City with no fabric stores, except for two in what is left of the garment district downtown. I will miss Blank's, but I am furious it is abandoning Baltimore City.

To this native, life-long city resident -- and even to friends from out of town -- Baltimore City seems to have a very odd retail climate. There are parts of town, such as the Johns Hopkins University area and downtown Charles Street, where one would expect an abundance of shops. Instead, a dearth of stores featuring seemingly essential items exists in all parts of the city.

The exodus of old, established businesses such as Blank's and Sol Levinson's only further erodes the future of Baltimore City as a place where people can confidently expect to be able to obtain the goods and services needed for a lifetime. Without such a simple assurance, fewer and fewer tax-paying people will choose to become or remain citizens of Baltimore City.

Donna Beth Joy Shapiro

Baltimore

Emissions tests are already user-friendly

The Sun made several excellent points in the Jan. 21 editorial in which you called for the state's enhanced Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program (VEIP) to become more user friendly.

The Motor Vehicle Administration, which administers the VEIP program, has been working closely with our contractor, MARTA Technologies Inc., to improve customer service.

We believe the planned one-year postponement of a mandatory treadmill, or dynamometer, test will give us time to work with the contractor and the Maryland Department of the Environment to continue to improve the VEIP program.

However, the editorial also included some inaccurate information that needs to be corrected. Although there have been some difficulties in getting the current program up and running, it is now six months ahead of schedule, compared to the implementation of the state's previous emissions-testing program in 1984.

The editorial also pointed out that the test fee, currently $12, is 65 percent higher than the $8.50 per test paid in 1994. Our calculations show that to be an increase of 41 percent. But the editorial does not acknowledge that the current test fee is 33 percent lower than it was 10 years ago. In 1984, cars were tested for emissions every year at a cost of $9 per year, making the total test fee $18 over a two-year period.

Although it is possible that people could wait up to an hour for an emissions test during peak times just before the test deadlines on Tuesdays and Wednesdays, waits of 15 to 20 minutes are much more common. We encourage customers who are not on a deadline to visit VEIP facilities on the non-peak days.

Your editorial says the contractor is performing shorter inspections than specified in the contract.

However, since the new program began last year, we have found that the tailpipe test takes about the same amount of time as the dynamometer test. In fact, some cars can pass the dynamometer test in as few as 31 seconds.

States all over the country have learned the tremendous challenges of implementing any type of emissions testing program. The citizens of Maryland worked with us to make the old program an acceptable part of their vehicle maintenance routine. I believe that together we can achieve a similar level of public acceptance of the new VEIP. We owe it to each other, and to our children above all, to work toward cleaner air for Maryland.

Ronald L. Freeland

Glen Burnie

The writer is administrator of the state Motor Vehicle Administration.

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