Racing panel ignored harness tracks
The governor's commission to study ways to improve the financial viability of the horse racing industry released its report Sept. 30. It should have been called the thoroughbred industry report, because it practically ignored Rosecroft Raceway, the Maryland harness track, while thoroughly exploring options and plans for the thoroughbred tracks.
The consultant from the Institute for Governmental Services, D. Wayne Rhodes, who helped formulate the report, has not visited Rosecroft or, by his admission, thoroughly researched the harness racing industry in Maryland.
Gov. Parris Glendenning did not appoint one person to this committee to represent the Maryland harness industry.
Maryland needs to recognize Delaware's strength in harness racing, according to the report, "A Public Policy Framework for Examining and Responding to the issue of Horse Racing's Future in Maryland."
Maryland has an established, successful standardbred breeding industry. Delaware is attempting to organize one. Maryland has qualified, competitive horses on track. Maryland standardbreds are racing and winning in New York, New Jersey, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Florida and Canada.
Some $8,000 Delaware claimers were racing in $3,000 claiming races in Maryland two years ago. Those horses are now two years older and one second slower. So where is Delaware's strength?
Delaware's strength is in its purses, which have escalated dramatically because of slot machine revenue, not an increase in the nightly handle. That kind of "strength" could easily be attained with slots at Rosecroft.
The sad truth about the report is that it mirrors the state's opinion and attitude toward the standardbred industry in this state.
Maryland has lost millions of dollars by sending the banking industry to Delaware. Obviously the present administration learned nothing from that mistake if it is willing to sacrifice more employment opportunities and state revenue.
Cut in gasoline tax would mean little
Stephen Moore's Nov. 20 Opinion Commentary article, "A taxing situation," regarding the increase in federal gasoline tax, is very misleading.
Mr. Moore calls that tax "the fastest growing federal tax imposed on middle-income Americans." Of course, the percentage increase appears very substantial since the tax started from a very low base (only 4 cents per gallon as far back as 1959). However, we pay our taxes in dollars and cents, not in percentage points.
Mr. Moore proposes reducing the federal gasoline tax by 5 cents per gallon, which he says "would place $3 billion to $5 billion a year back into the pockets of American motorists."
This may be true, but how much would go into the pockets of each motorist? Very little, since the average motorist drives about 20,000 miles per year and burns about 1,000 gallons of gasoline. Therefore, a reduction of five cents per gallon would save middle-income Americans approximately $50 per year.
I would suggest that most motorists would prefer driving on safe roads and bridges rather than save $50.
Faulty system caused inmate releases
Your Nov. 17 editorial, "Prisoners released too soon," was correct to raise the possibility that the mistaken release of three prisoners might be the fault of the system, rather than the case management workers involved.
Unfortunately, since that editorial was printed a fourth inmate was mistakenly freed. These incidents prove something is terribly wrong with the current system.
As the union representing Maryland's correctional employees (in partnership with the International Brotherhood of Teamsters), we know only too well the problems with Maryland's prison system.
Several factors contributed to the accidental releases. First, the existing system to track inmates from their initial incarceration to the time they leave the prison system is severely antiquated and lacks centralization.
Many different individuals provide input about an inmate and this information comes in at different times. It is not possible to access a computer or a file and obtain all current and complete data on an inmate. There are no checks and balances built into the system.
In addition to centralization, a gatekeeper who oversees the entire process is needed.
Other factors exacerbating the situation are not new to the Maryland prison system. Budget cutbacks, under-staffing, overcrowding, inadequate training and a lack of proper equipment also burden an already taxed system.
Disciplining an employee at the bottom does little to remedy a dangerous set of procedures created by those at the top. We continue to meet with corrections officials to assist in any way we can.
Thankfully, the first three inmates turned themselves in. If we don't fix this problem soon, we may not be so lucky next time.
George T. Johnson
The writer is special representative for the Maryland State
Employees Union, AFSCME Council 92.
Congress wants too many new laws
A Nov. 19 headline said, "Congress did not fare well on getting new laws this year." In reading the story I see that the House and Senate combined introduced 4,604 bills, of which 78 have been signed into law.
Well, maybe Congress didn't fare so well, but the citizens did just fine. Can you imagine Congress wanting to put 4,604 more laws on the books? Soon it will be against the law to step out on the front stoop to pick up The Sun -- unless you are wearing a
R. A. Bacigalupa
Pub Date: 11/28/97