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Beware of lobbyists bearing giftsIs there a...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Beware of lobbyists bearing gifts

Is there a similarity between cash payoffs by contractors to influential politicians and gift-giving from lobbyists?

We recall the conviction of Dale Anderson and resignation of Spiro Agnew as examples. There was abuse of public trust.

The question arises of why legislators should condone the practice of lobbyists' gifts, leaving them exposed to public criticism and possibly jeopardizing careers.

Bill Arwady

Towson

Drill instructors have to be tough

This letter is a point-by-point response to Usha Nellore's letter of Nov. 30, "Army's brutish training doesn't produce victories." It takes a disciplined army to accomplish the planning of a capable commander. An effective army -- including Ulysses' -- had both disciplined strength and cunning shrewdness.

Bosnia is a grotesque example of the survival of the fittest, with undefined and ill-equipped lines of conflict: not a good situation for anyone. Had they received the "brutish" training our soldiers have, despite the lack of arms, many more would be alive today.

I do agree that women bring many unique qualities to the military, but strategy and accurate timing are not strictly female attributes. Most experienced commanders, male and female, think before they act and think hard. The responsibility of so many of America's brightest and best is an awesome one.

Every soldier has the right to demand the best preparation to help assure her safe return. This necessitates being pushed and pushed hard during training to find the depths of frustration and fear through which one is able to effectively function and survive. There is not a soldier, officer or enlisted, who does not both cringe and give thanks at the memory of the DI (drill instructor).

Subordination is necessary in the military for survival and therefore so should be the consequences for taking advantage of it. But it is not possible that every woman's complaint is justified and that no woman would ever use her sex to destroy a superior's position.

To believe that sexual harassment is more of a problem in the military than in the civilian work place is beyond naivete. The military will correct this problem, as it has many other problems, with strict, fair discipline and new, stronger policies. And probably no better or worse than it is being corrected elsewhere in our society.

Adele Fryer

Baltimore

The writer is a colonel in the Army reserve, with 22 years of service.

Welcome center needed on I-83

The Nov. 17 editorial, "Accidental tourist," expressed support for the development of a welcome center for visitors entering Maryland from Pennsylvania on Interstate 83. Please know that Gov. Parris Glendening, the Department of Business and Economic Development and the Department of Transportation concur with your position.

In Maryland, highway welcome centers are the result of the collaborative efforts of the State Highway Administration, which designs and constructs the facilities, and the Office of Tourism Development, which provides the exhibits and operates the facilities.

Both agencies recognize the fact that I-83 in Baltimore County remains the last major entry point into Maryland without a center for welcoming visitors and providing the travel and tourism information they require.

The State Highway Administration is presently engaged in the planning and design of a welcome center for Interstate 83.

We look forward to the completion of that work and the eventual budgetary approvals that will enable us to bring this facility on line so that Maryland can expand upon its already very aggressive tourism marketing efforts.

R. Dean Kenderdine

Baltimore

The writer is assistant secretary of tourism, film and the arts for the state Department of Business and Economic Development.

Business growth causes benefits

Congratulations to the editors of The Sun for two outstanding and farsighted Dec. 2 editorials -- "A company on the move" and "I-95: 'I' is now for investment."

Both editorials have one theme in common -- they are unabashedly pro-business. After years of taking a back seat, pro-business news is getting front-page and editorial page attention at The Sun.

The move of Sylvan Learning Systems Inc. to Baltimore City and the proposed new investments at the Avenue at White Marsh along the I-95 corridor north of Baltimore are examples of good things that are beginning to happen in Maryland.

When thriving businesses choose to locate in our cities and counties, when businesses and governments make far-sighted infrastructure investments and when we create the environment in which businesses can thrive, the entire state benefits.

Such investments create jobs. They also help expand our tax base and generate net new revenues. Such projects and investments help stem the decline of our communities, and help us revitalize our cities.

When net new jobs are created, revenues in most cases more than offset additional costs of growth. Business development and infrastructure investments also help generate the revenues we need to better fund our schools, roads and parks.

radeep Ganguly

Rockville

Air bag safety prompts concern

This letter concerns the safety of air bags.

A newscaster stated that we do not have to improve the quality of air bags if children and small, frail women would sit in the back of the car.

What if the small, frail woman is the driver?

Osna Raskin

Baltimore

Glendening gift will leave the bill for others to pay

Again, Gov. Parris N. Glendening is playing Santa Claus with tax breaks and promises. But the next governor would be saddled with the resulting bills.

Is Mr. Glendening's "tax break" actually a "tax fake"?

Mr. Glendening has proposed a back-end-loaded "tax cut" that actually raises taxes during his term in office.

First, he proposes doubling the tobacco tax, which he predicts would generate about $100 million for fiscal '98.

Then he proposes a 10 percent tax break that will not fully phase in until after the turn of the century.

Only a 2 percent income tax reduction will occur immediately, passing along $35 million to taxpayers during the remainder of the governor's term. The remaining $65 million of increased tax revenue from tobacco sales would be available to the governor to spend on special interests during an election year.

Mr. Glendening's tobacco tax increase is being disguised as a health measure. If it reduces smoking, especially among teen-agers, great. But the projected revenues could then prove to be smoke and mirrors.

Democrat Wayne Curry, who succeeded Mr. Glendening as the Prince George's County executive, is all too familiar with Glendening gimmicks.

Leading up to the gubernatorial election, Mr. Glendening lavished goodies on the Prince George's County labor unions and proposed cutting some of the taxes he had previously raised. Mr. Glendening boasted that the county had a $45 million surplus.

But County Executive Curry got the bill after Mr. Glendening had moved on to Annapolis. There was no surplus; instead, a $110 million budget shortfall.

Mr. Glendening's budget numbers were phony by a full 10 percent. As a result, the labor contracts had to be re-negotiated and the tax cut never saw the light of day.

Midterm, Mr. Glendening is being forced to react. He is faced with the threat of losing his own Business and Economic Development secretary, an outspoken champion of tax cuts; by an outraged business community that may still sue him over collective bargaining; with a speaker of the House itching to announce his bid for the Democratic nomination and, most importantly, with the voters of Maryland who continue demanding tax relief.

The governor is also making headlines by promising "free" college tuition for Maryland students. The cost of that, too, will be minimal until after the next election.

That bill will come due along with the promise to Baltimore City for more school money and the cost of state employee collective bargaining. These are major financial obligations to be funded by the next governor.

But let's be optimistic and assume that the 10 percent tax cut will ultimately occur. While any tax relief is welcome, if the purpose of this cut is to improve Maryland's competitive posture, this is a totally inadequate measure.

Maryland, which is currently ranked as the fourth highest income tax state in the country, collects income taxes of $873 per capita from its citizens, nearly twice the national average of $452. A 10 percent reduction takes us from fourth highest to fifth highest -- barely moving the needle on the competitiveness scale and leaving Maryland well above the states in the region with which we compete for jobs.

As the next election looms, Mr. Glendening's promises appear like deja vu. Perhaps he should be reminded that "you can fool all of the people some of the time and some of the people all of the time, but you can't fool all of the people all of the time."

Ellen R. Sauerbrey

Fork

The writer was the Republican nominee for governor in 1994.

Sharp budget cuts threaten services

The Nov. 19 Sun ran a story on a proposed income tax cut by Gov. Parris Glendening.

This comes at a time when state agencies are being asked to submit budgets for the next fiscal year with cuts that amount to up to 10 percent of current expenses in some cases.

For the Maryland Mental Hygiene Administration and the service it funds, a possible 10 percent cut, on top of ongoing reductions, would be devastating.

Such a cut would mean a tremendous loss of mental health services and staff positions throughout the state. This would result in a heavy toll on individuals with chronic mental illness.

Without continued funding for at least the existing community programs that provide a 24-hour system of treatment and rehabilitation services, homelessness will increase.

Arrests and incarceration for petty crimes will rise.

Hospitalizations will also increase, at a much greater cost to the taxpayer.

Yvonne M. Perret

Baltimore

The writer represents the Coalition for Citizens with Long-term Mental Illnesses.

National debt is misunderstood issue

The balanced budget sloganeers are wrong. The American people only think they want a balanced budget because they have not been told the truth about the issues.

The fact is that the national debt is proportionately about half of what it was in 1947.

The debt service costs of the federal budget are 14 percent of the total expenditures. The average in businesses (excluding financial companies) is about 24 percent of expenditures -- the wrong way to go.

The main problem of the budget is of a structural nature.

For example, if only the general funds portion of the budget were used and the trust funds and government corporations were excluded (the method used prior to 1969), the general funds budget would show a huge and unacceptable deficit.

But that would show the true deficit. And it would expose the tax shift from progressive income tax to regressive FICA that has occurred.

Establishing the unified budget structure, which includes all accounts, in a balanced budget amendment will merely leave to a future Congress the mess that this structure is causing.

FICA taxes far in excess of current need and transfers from general funds to the federal military and civilian pensions systems create vast year-to-year surpluses in the trust fund accounts.

The cash is then used to cover over the severe deficits in the general fund income. The trust funds have been increasing their share of the national debt. Their reserves are federal bonds. They are debt held by the government; they are not classed as debt held by the public.

Section 2 of the proposal reads: "The limit on the debt held by the public shall not be increased, unless three-fifths of the whole number of each House shall provide by law for such increase by a roll-call vote."

A similar provision applies to any tax increase. A mere 41 senators are enough to block either a change in debt financing or any tax increase.

When a trust fund account needs to draw upon its reserves to meet benefit commitments it converts part of the reserves to cash. That often means some debt is transferred from the government to the public.

Just 41 senators could prevent any such corrective financial actions to meet the obligations, even if the total debt were not increased.

This would in effect "freeze" the trust fund reserves and effectively cancel a huge portion of the national debt.

It would trigger a steady decline in retirement annuities and Social Security payments, perhaps destroying these earned right programs.

I doubt that the public really wants that small minority of people to control the "full faith and credit of the United States."

Ronald P. Bowers

Lutherville

Tee'd off at city golf course policy

The latest decision of the Baltimore Municipal Golf Corporation to exclude the white tees from Mount Pleasant Golf Course (among others), and restrict play to either the red or blue tees, is not in the spirit of golf.

The course was not designed to be played from the red tees by men. This is not a sexist statement. It is meant to convey that reducing the course by almost 1,000 yards reduces the challenge and the beauty of this magnificent course for long hitters, and the women have missed seeing the best parts of the course over the years.

I am a frequent player at Mount Pleasant, at least once a week. My last round was from the replaced white tees. It was very disappointing, not the same experience.

The dog-legs were removed, the creek was taken out of play, the thrill of hitting from the 16th tee was gone.

The option of playing from the blue tee is left as a choice. As an average golfer, I haven't played the blue tee before this change. I expect I will, though. I also expect a lot of other average and below players will, too.

It is not certain that this will speed up play. The marshals will become tee troopers, looking for people playing from the blue tees who paid the differential price for the white tees. Good luck.

I don't know a lot about the politics of the BMGC, but there seems to be a hint of arrogance in the air. Even the rules and regulations on the score card state the "BMGC fair play rules govern all play."

Generally the USGA rules cover play. We players can only hope this event is similar to the "experiment" of allowing groups of six players in a "foursome." Remember that one?

The BMGC has done a lot for Baltimore golf, in a municipality with a poor golf environment. Its courses are generally in great shape, and it is making money. So much the mayor wanted a larger cut for the city.

Perhaps this is an effort to reduce BMGC's profit margin. In any event, it is not the way golf is supposed to be played. Do you think St. Andrew's or even Pebble Beach would move the white tees to the red markers?

Granted, Mount Pleasant is no Pebble Beach, but come on. Has the customer been considered?

A very unscientific poll of people at the course found no one who thought it was a good idea. There wasn't even a logical reason for the change brainstormed.

So the latest joke around the clubhouse is that this is the new pitch and putt course. It's a sad joke.

Richard Rosenblatt

Baltimore

Spread the holiday spirit every day

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus . . . You can see him or her (I was a lady Santa for 25 years) in all shapes and sizes, young and old, fat and thin, in hospitals, homes, department stores and street corners.

However, Virginia, while I'm certainly not a Scrooge-type character, at this time of the year I admit without guilt or shame to a love and a disappointment with Christmas and Hanukkah.

I love the history and true meaning of Hanukkah, the miracle of the oil that burned not one day but for eight days and nights. I love the songs that are sung of the glorious victory of the Jewish people and freedom of worship restored.

I love the idea that one candle is lighted each day for eight days symbolizing the wondrous miracle of the Hanukkah lights and ever restoring our faith in religious freedom.

I love to see children light the candles and their precious faces light up with pride and joy.

I love the true spiritual meaning of Christmas -- the birth of Jesus Christ. I love the carols and the people who bring merriment to our hearts by singing over and over again.

I love the special songs written just for Christmas. I love the mistletoe, the brightly decorated trees, the snow -- if God decrees it so.

But I intensely dislike the vast commercialization of these sacred holidays. Especially Christmas and the frantic fury and fuss in purchasing gifts for people you don't even like.

My aged heart cries out for people in nursing homes or hospitals, or the poor who are treated so kindly on the "big day" and then forgotten until another "happy holiday" rolls around.

I do not wait to tell those I love or respect or give a gift on a holiday, whether it be a poem (often to a stranger), a specific something, a hug, a kiss or a package wrapped in fancy paper. I do not wait for a holiday.

Life is far too short and so uncertain. Flowers on a coffin are beautiful, but I'd rather get them and give them while I'm still alive and able to smell, enjoy and touch their beauty.

Rae Miller Heneson

Baltimore

Holidays' gloom is no cause for cheer

I read the Nov. 27 article by Carl Schoettler, "Doom for the holidays," and was very disappointed by its approach.

For those of us with clinical depression, the holiday season can be a very trying time.

What would be helpful for the estimated 25 percent of the American population who have had one or more episodes of clinical depression is a serious article discussing the emotional hazards of the season and listing sources of screening, help and support.

I understand that the purpose of the article was to entertain.

I believe, however, that the problem is too serious to make light of. I hope that The Sun will consider offering information to the public that can help people face the stress of the coming holiday season.

Gary Blanchard

Catonsville

The writer is the director of Heartstone Counseling Center.

Pub Date: 12/07/96

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