Capital Gazette wins special Pulitzer Prize citation for coverage of newsroom shooting that killed five

No paved trail for Patapsco GreenwayRe: "The...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

No paved trail for Patapsco Greenway

Re: "The Patapsco Heritage Greenway needs vigorous public oversight" (The Sun, Jan. 28).

Both the Maryland Conservation Council and the Relay Improvement Association have objected to the Patapsco Heritage Greenway and its plans for the valley.

One would hope that this would awaken the public to the need for close oversight of this quasi public/private group before they spend public tax dollars on ill-conceived plans that threatens the natural beauty of the valley that they are allegedly protecting.

There is no justification for a million-dollar, 10-foot wide paved "trail" on the Baltimore County side of the Patapsco River.

A paved trail will clearly damage the Patapsco River and Chesapeake Bay.

There is an existing, paved trail on the other side of the river, as well as the existing dirt trail on the Baltimore County side. The trails on both sides of the river link together, making a full circuit loop a reality right now.

A far better use of tax dollars would be to stabilize the existing trails with erosion control measures and new plantings.

One only has to look at the success of the packed dirt and stone Northern Central Trail in Cockeysville to see a more sensible model.

A packed dirt and stone trial is better for the environment, less costly and far healthier on the legs of the hikers, walker, runners, dogs and horses that would use it.

Geoffrey S. Baker

Ann Hackeling

Ellicott City

Students not pawns in tobacco fight

I was disturbed with elements of your Jan. 26 article, "Howard students, legislators launch cigarette tax campaign."

The article made it seem as if anti-smoking advocates were "using" young people as pawns in our attempt to raise the state cigarette tax. Nothing could be further from the truth.

The Smoke Free Maryland Coalition joined forces with the Maryland State Association of Student Councils and three other organizations in 1998 to jointly fight for a $1 increase in the cigarette tax to reduce teen smoking.

The MASC and many of its local affiliates discussed the pros and cons of joining in this battle and voted as a body to join with us as a lead organization in the Maryland Childrens Initiative. As a lead organization, MASC and its elected officers pledged to make passage of a cigarette tax increase a priority.

The students at Wilde Lake High School who spoke at the event did so at their own choosing. They prepared their own talks. They spoke from the heart.

As a society often cynical about our younger generation, we should feel proud that students at Wilde Lake and most students statewide are sincere, motivated, intelligent and care about our state, its public health and the health of their peers.

Maryland students in the battle to raise the state's cigarette tax by $1 per pack are not pawns.

They are, in fact, key movers and shakers willing to fight Big Tobacco.

Albert L. Blumberg, M.D.

Baltimore

The writer is president of Smoke Free Maryland.

Troubling patterns in police shootings

The recent shooting by Howard County Police Sgt. A. J. Bellido de Luna left John R. Sierra dead after being shot once in the chest.

Not too long ago, Sgt. Pagotta of the Baltimore City Police Department shot and killed an unarmed Baltimore motorist. There have been three other police shootings in recent memory: the Howard Street knife-wielding incident, the 65-year-old mentally-ill woman armed with a kitchen knife and the motorist on Interstate 83 who was shot and killed by a state trooper because he was reportedly getting out of his car in an unusual manner.

Last year, the Frederick County Sheriff's Office roughed up Ester M. Pena, a 58-year-old teacher on the same day that Frederick Moore, a diabetic, was beaten, bitten by a police dog and sprayed with pepper spray because of erratic behavior caused by hypoglycemic shock.

In Harford County last year, Robert Brown was shot because he had his hands in a "defensive position."

All the victims had one thing in common: No criminal record.

In less than a three-year period, five Maryland citizens, three unarmed and two brandishing knives, have been shot and killed.

There have been two publicized cases of unnecessary and excessive force and who knows how many have gone unreported.

According to an article in The Sun on July 8, 1998, "Police departments in 14 major U.S. cities fail to hold officers accountable for abusive and brutal behavior, much of it targeted at minorities, according to a new report on human rights abuses."

A group known as the Human Rights Watch, accuses local police agencies and the Justice Department of failing to come to terms with police brutality calling it a "common human rights abuse in the United States." Maybe police procedures are inadequate or are not being followed.

There is a frightening police culture in law enforcement that fosters brutality and is reinforcing the behavior of violence-prone police officers.

The sheer number of incidents of unacceptable police behavior should tell us loud and clear that something should be done. Whether officers should be constantly evaluated psychologically or trained to use nonlethal alternatives or both, the fact remains that this is a dire and urgent situation.

Frank W. Soltis

Fallston

Police put lives on line every day

Regarding the Jan. 25 editorial "Using deadly force," Sgt. A. J. Bellido de Luna supervises the Howard Department of Police, Traffic Enforcement Section, which investigates all serious and fatal motor vehicle accidents in Howard County.

Referring to Sergeant Bellido de Luna as a "traffic officer" erroneously implies that he is trained only to deal with traffic accidents.

This couldn't be further from the truth. Sergeant Bellido de Luna received the same intensive and complete training as every police officer in Howard County.

He is a respected, conscientious and professional officer of a nationally accredited police department.

He has spent many years as a patrol officer and supervisor in the field.

Police officers put their lives on the line every day.

Unless you have walked in their shoes, to second-guess their actions without full knowledge of the incident is not fair to the officer or readers.

Sandy Maselli

Columbia

'Traffic calming' is simply Orwellian

This is in response to the article, "Wilde Lake road to get traffic devices," in The Sun Jan. 26.

One marvels at George Orwell's prescience in describing Newspeak in his book "1984." Newspeak was government's use of twisted language to hide true meaning.

The term "traffic calming devices" is a perfect example. Is traffic nervous or upset or does it simply move too quickly? Why aren't traffic devices like speed bumps and traffic diverter islands called "traffic slowing devices" or "traffic impeding devices?"

Is government afraid that speaking plainly is not to its advantage?

Charles A. Aston

Ellicott City

Analyze effect of tax increase or cut

I was very happy to see the leadership in the Maryland General Assembly decide not to consider an increase in the gas tax during the current session.

No tax increase nor cut should ever be implemented without a thorough investigation of the change in policy on the state's economy and only after other alternatives have been examined.

Of course, in this specific example, the problem will not go away.

The state transportation program will still be under-funded next year, just like this year.

Until next year, many issues must be considered: Should funds from other parts of the state budget be directed toward transportation? How can the current system be made more cost-effective? Should privatization be an option to reduce the state's burden?

These are not easy issues and certainly not ones to be addressed without due consideration.

Whatever course is taken, I hope that an increase in the state's sales tax to 6 percent does not become an option.

The sales tax needs to be kept down for Maryland to remain competitive with neighboring states. More important, increasing the sales tax will hit hardest at Maryland families. Only after all other options are considered should this be put on the table.

William C. Woodcock Jr.

Ellicott City

Columbia Council can't micromanage

Bravo, Joan Lancos. It is about time someone held up a mirror to the Columbia Council.

It does not matter whether it is the gross breach of protocol in the hiring of the new Columbia Association president; the attempted strong-arming of the villages; overly stringent purchasing policies and procedures that have reduced CA's purchasing options; setting policy outside of the public eye through an expansive committee structure; or a host of other actions, inactions and petty and highly personal vendettas -- the Columbia Council is out of control.

Delaying CA's annual audit while seeking multiple (and probably costly) legal opinions is not exercising fiduciary responsibility.

Asking inane questions because individuals do not review materials prior to meetings and seemingly taking forever to resolve anything are not prudent decision-making practices. Demeaning competent staff so that they do not bring forward innovations or other than Band-Aid ideas is not exemplary policy-making.

They go beyond micro-management. They are wastes of precious monetary and human capital resources.

Either stop it, or step aside.

Lanny J. Morrison

Columbia

The writer is a former chairman of the Columbia Council.

Pub Date: 2/07/99

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