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Two at-large commissioners not a solutionI would...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Two at-large commissioners not a solution

I would like to take this opportunity to explain to readers of The Sun why I voted against a proposal to expand the Board of Commissioners from three members to five at a recent public meeting of the Carroll County delegates.

I do not believe electing two additional commissioners through an at-large, countywide election will improve the current system. The legislation advanced by the Republican members of the delegation will merely force taxpayers to pay two more salaries. It will not guarantee a return on that investment in the form of a more representative and responsive governing body.

I would have supported efforts to increase the board to five members if each commissioner were elected from a separate district. Because I favor equal representation from all areas of the county, I would like to see charter government given serious consideration. An elected county executive and a council elected from specific districts would provide a system of checks and balances. And it would offer Carroll County officials the chance to move from micro-managing to policy-making.

I fear that the Republican members of the delegation chose to introduce legislation expanding the Board of Commissioners in order to thwart the charter movement. I trust that the voters will not confuse this meaningless option with the chance for real reform should both proposals be placed on the ballot in 1998.

Ellen L. Willis

Westminster

The writer is a state delegate representing Legislative District 5.

Smooth transition needed for Head Start

The Head Start policy board of Carroll County wishes to express its gratitude for the commitment of the Carroll County Board of Education to the Head Start program over the past years. That allowed at-risk children to get the early intervention they needed to help them begin their education on a more equal footing with their more fortunate peers.

However, we were shocked and deeply disappointed to hear that it decided to no longer serve as grantee for the program in Carroll. While we acknowledge legitimate concerns surrounding the requirements of the federal program which conflict with school board policy, we were ill-prepared for the timing of this announcement.

The contract is due to expire in April and we were notified at the end of January. The board, however, has offered to extend the contract, if necessary, to facilitate a smooth transition.

While termination of the contract releases the Board of Education from any responsibility for the Head Start program, we hope that the mutual philosophy -- of being there for the children -- will prevail during this transition period.

The policy board hopes to work as a partner with the Board of Education and the Head Start administration to keep Head Start families represented and a part of the transition process.

Tonia Pope

Westminster

The writer chairs the Head Start Policy Board in Carroll County.

Driving on the treadmill

In all the ongoing controversy about the treadmill test in the auto emissions program, I have never seen this particular issue addressed: manual transmissions.

The last time I went through the emissions test, the kid who administered it looked to be about 25.

Out of curiosity, I asked if he knew how to drive a stick-shift. He said, "Sort of. I did it once."

Do you think I'm going to let him in my car and drive it on this "thing," whatever it is? Do you have any idea how much clutches and transmissions cost?

I don't see why the owner of the car can't do the "driving" on this machine. After all, we know our cars and we are the ones who drive them.

It could be our style of driving as much as anything else that contributes to pollution. But I know this much: Nobody is going to drive my car but me. Period.

Emily Johnston

Westminster

Resources are finite, not abstractions

Julian L. Simon is at it again. In the Feb. 4 edition of The Sun (Opinion * Commentary, "Why we'll never run out of resources"), he once more propounded his unbridled (and unjustified) optimism about the ultimate availability of resources.

The errors of fact and interpretation, the misunderstandings and false analogies are too numerous to be dealt with in a letter of printable length, so I will focus on the statement that ends his column, which embodies a number of Mr. Simon's mistakes.

Mr. Simon writes, "Just as the number of points in a one-inch line can never be counted, even in principle, the quantity of natural resources that might be available to us, and the quantity of services that they can give us, can never be known."

This is, first of all, a bad analogy. A one-inch line segment of infinitely many points is a mathematical abstraction.

In the real world, where our resources reside and in which our economy must operate, one-inch line segments are made up, not of an infinite number of points, but of a finite number of molecules. We can measure, with any reasonable degree of accuracy, the amount of pigment in a line segment and even the approximate number of molecules.

Similarly, the total quantity of resources available to produce commodities in the real world is finite (the world of economic theory is a different matter, of course). As an upper limit, the total amount of any resource cannot exceed the mass of the Earth (or, granting Mr. Simon his flight of fancy, the mass of the solar system).

In practice, of course, the available amount is much less, since a substantial quantity of material is in use at any given time -- some in other economic activity, but mostly by the natural world, which provides us with many services we hardly ever think about: ground to stand (and build) on, air to breathe, a livable climate, the replenishment of soil and so on. These natural services (or the loss of them) are not reflected in the prices we pay for things. No one keeps track of them.

Sumitomo may have lost more than a billion dollars on the commodities market, but not for the reason Mr. Simon offers. Part of the reason for Sumitomo's losses is that markets are by nature chancy, unpredictable.

But another factor is that prices fail to reflect most of the real costs of resources extraction and use. Even if real costs increase, they won't necessarily show up in market prices.

Given the state of the world, it would be nice if Mr. Simon would use his considerable talents to help deal with the very real problems we face, instead of denying their existence.

Peter Roberts

Westminster

A lesson everyone needs

Rodney Glasgow, thank you for a thoughtful and articulate piece, (Perspective, Feb. 2, "I'm not just a footnote in history books.")

Your determination to expose our subtle prejudices and rise above them in your own life is a lesson every one of us needs.

I hope you will give the history texts one more chance by checking out Howard Zinn's "A History of the Peoples of the United States."

His chapters on native Americans, the landless, slaves, women, immigrants, the poor, labor unions, post Civil War African-Americans catalog the oppression these groups have experienced.

Our true history is indeed a shameful one. But Mr. Zinn's more important message lies in the struggle and victories he also describes. In spite of overwhelming odds, members of these groups have continued to work for justice.

Far from being a footnote, your life is a new chapter in a centuries long struggle.

Thanks for saying so eloquently that the spirit of the peoples is still alive.

Kathryn J. Henderson

Westminster

Pub Date: 2/16/97

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