Weathersbee defends seizure of vehiclesI have followed...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Weathersbee defends seizure of vehicles

I have followed with some interest Brian Sullam's recent comments concerning the seizure of vehicles which are used to facilitate the transportation, sale, receipt or possession of illegal drugs.

His main theme seems to be that such vehicles should not be seized until an investigation of the relationship between driver and owner has been established. He further tries to make several unrelated, and in my view incorrect, points about the enforcement of the drug laws in Anne Arundel County.

I encourage police to seize vehicles in which they find illegal drugs and, therefore, I fully support Police Chief Larry Tolliver's efforts in that regard. The report of such a seizure is immediately sent to my office, where we determine whether forfeiture or return of the car is warranted.

While there is some inconvenience to some owners to whom we return the vehicle, my office attempts to minimize this inconvenience to the innocent. It is unrealistic to expect a patrol officer to fully investigate the ownership of the car and the driver's relationship to that person when my office is set up to do that. Besides, as you acknowledge, what we do, we do within the law.

More troubling to me are Mr. Sullam's apparent views concerning police and prosecution drug enforcement efforts. He seems to suggest that perhaps police should concentrate their efforts in the fight against illegal possession and use of drugs within our community on those "dealing" in drugs and, therefore, seize only those vehicles belonging to dealers.

For every drug "deal," there is a buyer and a seller. Frequently, the same person is both within minutes. Unless the driver of a vehicle grew or manufactured the drugs in the vehicle, there was a deal to obtain them.

Those charged and prosecuted for illegal drug possession will not generally be incarcerated, at least the first time, but they will be prosecuted. The arrest, the prosecution, the seizure of their property and the seizure of the vehicles are risks those in possession of drugs must take to "deal" in them. I will not reduce those risks.

I suggest that drug abuse occurs in all communities of this country. If people lend their vehicles to others, they run the risk of its seizure, if drugs are found within them. Maybe Mr. Sullam should encourage readers who want to be more secure in the possession of their vehicles not to loan their cars to others without assuring themselves that the vehicle will not be used for the transportation of controlled dangerous substances. Law enforcement need not provide the only risks drug users face.

Perhaps more, rather than fewer efforts, against the "user" may be warranted. Without buyers, there are no sellers.

Frank R. Weathersbee

Annapolis

The writer is Anne Arundel County state's attorney.

Unanswered questions about waste transfer

Recent articles about the proposed waste transfer station in Elkridge have mentioned the one recently opened in Anne Arundel County.

Since one of the two main routes to that site runs almost entirely in Howard County, how much will it cost the county for the upkeep of Guilford Road with the heavy, constant traffic of monstrous dump trucks between Dorsey Run and Brock Bridge roads?

HTC Also, is there some arrangement with Anne Arundel County for road clean-up from the trash that inevitably flies out of the trucks, both before and after tipping?

I travel this road daily and see the evidence already piling up.

Ronald B. Leve

Columbia

Counting the real costs of building as we please

We have the knowledge, technology and resources to do it right. Yet every day we see example after example of the wrong model of development. Historic areas, irreplaceable farmland, critical wetlands, important watersheds, mature forests and rural vistas are being destroyed acre by acre. Traffic gridlock, commuter aggravation, air pollution and water degradation are increasing while the quality of life is decreasing.

We know the right thing to do. Yet we continue to do the wrong thing. The reasons are both complex and pervasive. But three factors are significant. Gaining understanding can motivate and focus our efforts to stop this unthinkable deterioration of our communities.

Rights-oriented culture

We are a rights-oriented culture, often ignoring the obligations that are attached to these rights.

Ellen Goodman, the noted columnist, lamented that we live in a culture in which the natural world has been relentlessly transformed into property. We believe we have an inherent right to receive the highest possible return for that property. But what does it mean for a person to own a 400-year-old tree, or irreplaceable farmland, or critical wetlands?

What does it mean for a person to possess something as enduring as land, just for that person's lifetime? We must move from a concept of ownership to one of stewardship, from a concept of possessing to one of care-taking. We must shift our focus on rights to a more balanced focus that emphasizes our responsibility to future generations.

If we fail to change our values as a culture, we will continue to ask the wrong question. We will continue to ask, "What can we get away with?" rather than "What does nature require of us?" If we continue to ask the wrong question, we will destroy our own habitat and in the process destroy ourselves.

Price vs. cost

In making decisions we often look at the short-term price and fail to recognize the long-term cost.

David Morris, founder of the Institute for Local Self-Reliance, noted the important distinction between price and cost. Price is what the individual pays, cost is what the community pays. For example, the price of rock salt is about a penny a pound. But

when it is used to de-ice highways, its cost to the community skyrockets. It results in the corrosion of cars and steel in bridges, the destruction of roadside vegetation and pollution of ground water and wells. In Minnesota, the price to the highway department for rock salt each winter is about $2 million, but the cost to the citizens is more like $140 million.

There is an alternative to rock salt. It is calcium magnesium acetate, which can be made out of wood-waste or agricultural waste. Its price is about 10 to 12 cents a pound. Its cost is about 10 to 12 cents a pound. It is not corroding and it does not destroy roadside vegetation or pollute ground water. But which are you going to buy if you are the highway department? You will buy the one with the lowest price, even though it burdens the community with the highest cost. And you do so because you have a limited budget.

This same principle applies to the price of development. With few exceptions, the price of new development does not reflect its full cost to the community. We need to quantify the environmental cost of pollution or other degradation. And the cost to our quality of life caused by traffic gridlock or constant noise. In addition, the cost to provide services such as roads, schools, fire, police, water and sewage exceeds the price paid by the developer in up-front fees and the price paid to the jurisdiction in new taxes. If this were not true, property taxes would have declined since World War II. In addition, taxes in cities which have a higher density of development would be lower than those in counties which have a lower density of development.

When the price fails to reflect the cost, then the community subsidizes the difference. This subsidy allows builders to construct projects, entrepreneurs to manufacturer products, or others to make decisions without bearing the full costs. This increases profits by avoiding accountability. It also increases our taxes.

We need to begin to create rules that internalize the full cost into the price of our decisions. The short-term reward must be in proportion to the long-term cost.

Development is big business

Development is big business with lots of big money.

The fate of our quality of life is a public policy decision. However, political contributions and pro-development lobbyists put a lot of pressure on our politicians. Many public officials will not get out on these issues. So ordinary citizens have to say, "Wait just a minute. This is what we want." We need to get involved. We also need to support politicians that share our values.

There is a thing as sustainable development. However, it will only happen if we change our values as a culture, if we create rules that internalize the full costs of our decisions and if we are vigilant and make the effort to require proper development.

!Barbara D. Samorajczyk

Annapolis

The writer is vice president of the Annapolis Neck Peninsula Federation and director of the Severn River Association.

Pub Date: 4/20/97

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