MRRA racetrack is viable, with a few conditions
I have been following your continuing coverage of the Middle River Racing Association's proposed speedway and the debate among surprised neighbors.
As I go door-to-door throughout the district in my campaign for the House of Delegates, I find a real division among men and women in their beliefs about the track. Searching for a middle ground, I believe that the speedway could be a complement to the community, but only if the following two conditions are met:
1) Access to and from the raceway is limited to Interstate 695.
2) The raceway commits to building and maintaining a "major-league" standard in the racing industry. The last thing people want is a track similar to the Capitol Raceway in Crofton, where I grew up and heard the roars three miles away while neighbors have complained for 20 years.
We do need to be more sensitive to brownfields restoration and economic development. Every politician espouses those two until a project pops up in his district. We must consider the alternatives, such as letting the area lay dormant when people need jobs or bringing in more heavy industry and turning the area into Curtis Creek West. We can also demand that the raceway project do justice to our community and that the community's needs be implemented in the final design. Otherwise, the MRRA can take a hike.
Stephan W. Fogleman
The writer is a Democratic candidate for the House of Delegates in District 31.
In school debate, one group suffers
I have been studying the Anne Arundel County school system for 43 years, nine of them as a volunteer in Brooklyn Park Elementary School. In those years, nothing has changed regarding budget procedures. It isn't about money, but about who is going to control that money.
The taxpayer has absolutely no recourse. You can't have a tax rebellion.
Most taxes are withheld automatically. Too much damage is done if you wait to vote the rascals out in the next election. In the meantime, who suffers? Children.
For too long, the media has written accounts of council and school board meetings with their innuendo and posturing. The media is the public's conscience, representing us in absentia.
I think it is time for the media to ask the governor to create a blue-ribbon panel to overhaul the entire school system and how it does business with the local jurisdiction.
Gary stingy on subdivision waivers
Far from "liberalizing the issuance of subdivision waivers," as some have suggested in recent news accounts, Anne Arundel County Executive John G. Gary's administration has been relatively stingy.
Since taking office three years ago, Mr. Gary has tightened the standards for granting waivers to subdivisions proposed in areas with crowded schools. He established the first ceiling or cap on the number of waivers that could be issued in 1996, and further tightened the standards last year by requiring the Department of Planning and Code Enforcement to consider not just the impact of proposed subdivisions on multi-school feeder systems, but on individual schools as well.
As a result, the county has granted half as many waivers during Mr. Gary's three years in office as during the previous three years.
The writer is land use and environmental affairs manager for Anne Arundel County.
Executive's response to school budget criticism
A letter written by Lee Lears of Annapolis regarding my fiscal year 1999 proposed budget made statements that are incorrect ("Calendar glitch shorts the budget," May 31).
Mr. Lears also confuses funding the operating budget with funding the capital budget.
This is a common mistake. You cannot use "one-time cash" to fund ongoing pay raises in the operating budget. That is exactly why I proposed more money for capital projects than requested. If you placed one-time money (a fund balance, for instance) in the operating budget to be used for pay raises, the county would have a severe problem in the following years.
Mr. Lears states that we did not fund increases for health benefits and pension in the Board of Education budget. This is not factual. The school system's proposed $7 million for "projected" increases could not be supported by its own numbers. Instead, we gave the schools the corrected number of $3.5 million, based on facts and agreed upon by the County Council.
With regard to the pension funding, again, after in-depth review, the original number projected was wrong. I funded the correct amount and the council agreed. Including step-increase pay raises and longevity pay, the school system received more than an $18 million increase.
Last, the issue of 27 pay periods is a nonissue. If your total yearly salary is $45,000 (the average salary of a teacher), it does not make any difference whether you receive 26 paychecks equaling $45,000, or 27 paychecks equaling $45,000 for that year. What the school system was proposing would have resulted in a de facto increase of the person's salary. Everyone is receiving the pay he or she is entitled to. I did not reduce the budget or paychecks.
Also, I read with interest the "open letter" to me by the citizens of the Brooklyn Park Middle School project (May 31).
I also understand the confusion surrounding this issue, as the County Council debated removing the funds. However, I had nothing to do with the efforts to remove the funding.
I have supported this project since my days in the House of Delegates. In fact, I helped to secure the funds to begin the North County Equity Program in 1988.
I have never changed my position, and I still fully support this project. This issue was an internal debate within the County Council.
When I was made aware of the attempt to remove the funds, I personally contacted two of the proponents in an effort to change their position. As a result of my efforts, $8.5 million in bond money was placed in this year's budget.
This is enough to get the project started this year, and, in fact, is $1 million more than needed to begin Phase I. The $5 million in cash that was placed in the contingency fund has no effect on the project. It is my understanding that the council wants to review the results of the "Secondary School System Study" requested by the Board of Education and due to be completed in December.
I do not believe that the study will produce any new information regarding Brooklyn Park Middle School, and thus the continued funding will be in the fiscal year 2000 and 2001 budgets. There is no reason for alarm.
The project will start this year. I will continue to pursue additional state funding to help the fund the next two budget years. If we are unsuccessful in obtaining state funds, I will find the necessary county funds to complete the project. Provided that the school system continues its plans, as proposed, this project can begin July 1, 1998.
John G. Gary
The writer is Anne Arundel County executive.
Article captured Georgia Ave.'s light rail fears
On behalf of the 120 families in the Georgia Avenue neighborhood of "olde" northwest Glen Burnie, I would like to express our deep appreciation for the May 24 article by Laura Sullivan concerning our plight ("Georgia Ave. threatened by light rail").
We have been in a five-year battle for existence with the threat of light rail dividing and destroying our 85-year-old neighborhood.
Ms. Sullivan's article clearly depicted the closeness of the neighbors and the anguish we share.
Suzanne Dietz Patrick
Congratulations to The Sun for the recent article on the threatened destruction of the Georgia Avenue community in Glen Burnie by the expansion of the light rail system.
It is simply beyond belief that Gov. Parris N. Glendening wants to wait another 10 months before deciding Georgia Avenue's fate. Light rail expansion has been studied for more than four years. During that time, dozens of families in the neighborhood of Georgia Avenue have been left wondering whether or not their neighborhood will be destroyed by the state because of light rail expansion.
Why would anyone want to destroy this wonderful neighborhood? Even worse, how can any feeling person leave these families in limbo year after year?
I don't understand how the governor and other state officials can continue to put these people through this.
This nonsense has already gone on far too long. How can the governor seriously consider spending $30 million to build less than one mile of light rail into Glen Burnie? What an incredible waste of tax dollars. A beautiful part of the history of our area would be destroyed as well.
The idea of putting light rail down the B&A; Trail also makes no sense. Why destroy the trail for light rail?
I remain committed to the only rational light rail alternative: No build. I and the residents of Georgia Avenue and surrounding communities only wish the governor would get the message.
Michael W. Burns
The writer represents the 32nd District in the Maryland House of Delegates.