Dogged pursuit needed


LET'S CALL THEM the "take it one step further" stories of 1998.

The first is Gerard Shields' April 7 story on the Baltimore City Council passing a bill permitting the killing of vicious dogs. The headline read "euthanize," of course, but the meaning's the same: kill the ornery fleabags.

Shields' article noted that 4th District Councilwoman Agnes Welch was bitten by a dog several weeks before she proposed the legislation. Welch cited the need "to protect our children, our seniors and all of our citizens from the vicious behavior of dogs." Sixth District Councilman Melvin Stukes had introduced a bill a week earlier that would require owners of vicious dogs to keep them behind 8-foot-high fences.

Good councilpeople, take it one step further.

On any given morning there are dogs roaming the streets. Some are alone, but some are in packs. What happens if the critters get a notion to take a bite out of some little tyke on the way to school? Or a senior citizen going to a much-needed doctor's appointment?

Let's put city resources where they're needed -- in the neighborhoods, rounding up those canines that aren't on leashes. Should the city cry about a lack of manpower, here's a suggestion on where they can get some: from that horde of police officers and Department of Public Works employees who roam downtown Baltimore writing parking tickets.

What's more important, writing up parking violations or protecting citizens? The ticket writers are a zealous bunch. If you offer to move your car while they're writing a ticket, they'll claim they can't stop because they've already started it.

That kind of energy is wasted on sniffing out parked cars, which these characters seem to be able to do within a 20-block radius. People with that kind of energy should be tracking down pit bulls and Rottweilers. And while we're on the subject, how is it the ticket writers are so adept at ferreting out illegally parked cars but never seem to be around when a criminal is breaking into one?

In November came Timothy Wheeler's article headlined "MVA to test older driver; Elderly motorists would be asked to volunteer for exams."

Excuse me? The Motor Vehicle Administration thinks the elderly are the greatest threat to safe roads? The elderly aren't the ones running the red lights. They aren't the ones tailgating, doing 45 in a 25 mph zone, cutting off other drivers, not checking their blind spots or acting as if they've never heard the phrase "yield right of way." Much younger drivers do all those things, and, no, not all of them are teens.

In 1998, I was rear-ended twice. The first time was by a woman in her late 30's. She got me as I tried to enter the Beltway, after she'd clipped two other cars.

The second time was by a guy younger than she was. He got me as I sat at a stoplight.

"I wasn't paying attention," he mumbled between apologies. He totaled my car, forcing me to travel by skateboard ever since.

Take it one step further, MVA officials. If the elderly need to be tested for agility, memory and vision, there are much younger drivers who need to be tested to see if they're psychologically fit to drive. There are people on our streets and highways who are working out their mental issues not on an analyst's couch -- which is where they should be worked out -- but behind the wheels of multiton vehicles.

Take the character who tailgated me in the slow lane of the Beltway when I was doing 60 mph -- five above the posted speed limit.

This unleashed the psychopath in him. He became unhinged. He flashed his high beams. He pulled closer to my car. Mind you, there were two lanes to the left of him he could have switched to and passed, but that wasn't good enough for him.

So he pulled his van closer. I slowed down to below 50, figuring if I was going to get rear-ended again -- and in a rented car, no less -- I was going to get rear-ended at as low a speed as possible.

The idiot finally passed me on the right and honked his horn. Oh yeah, blame the victim.

MVA officials should start developing those psychological tests now. The elderly may have many faults as drivers, but being downright psychotic isn't one of them.

Finally, a word about the saddest 1998 news story not involving death, illness or injury: the finding by a jury against Harford County's Ray Repp, who sued Andrew Lloyd Webber for allegedly plagiarizing Repp's song "Til You," which sounded exactly like the theme to "Phantom of the Opera."

We should still be proud of Repp for fighting the good fight. As for the verdict, what can we expect from a jury pool whose members were picked from a society where Jerry Springer and pro wrestling are surging in popularity? Repp unfortunately brought his suit smack dab in the middle of America's silly phase.

Pub Date: 1/03/99

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