Canal no solution for portI must respond...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Canal no solution for port

I must respond to the barrage of personal attacks on me by this editorial page and other state officials in the past several days.

The assertion that I wish to close the port of Baltimore because I oppose unnecessary dredging projects that won't benefit the port is ludicrous. I have supported numerous projects for the port in the past and will continue to fight for jobs there and throughout Maryland.

As chairman of the House Subcommittee on Coast Guard and Maritime Transportation, I deal almost every day with port and international maritime issues.

The port of Baltimore absolutely needs to maintain a 50-foot channel in order to remain competitive. On that we all can agree. But we already have a 50-foot channel from the port to the open ocean from the south. Most container shipping lines already use that route.

So why is the port pushing so hard to deepen a secondary, less-traveled route through the Chesapeake and Delaware Canal, the narrow waterway that connects the Delaware River to the Northern Chesapeake Bay?

I believe taxpayers would be surprised to learn that the Army Corps of Engineers, for the last four years, has consistently failed to prove that any economic benefit will be derived from spending more than $100 million to deepen the C&D; Canal.

This project will never meet the federal requirements to be economically justified and is only still alive from political pressure, wasting $10 million so far.

The amount of container traffic using the C&D; Canal has been declining for more than 40 years. The unfortunate reality of the canal is that many companies won't use it because it's too narrow, while others balk at the cost of extra pilot's fees to navigate the channel.

It also rarely saves shipping companies any time considering there is often a wait to unload cargo at the port of Baltimore. The future in container cargo trade involves ships so massive they would never consider the canal, no matter how deep.

The historic growth at the port of Baltimore has been in shallow-draft barged shipments up the Chesapeake Bay and "roll-on/roll-off" cargo, such as autos and farm equipment - not huge container ships that need a deeper canal.

And while it was a disappointment when Maersk/SeaLand bypassed the port of Baltimore in favor of New York last year, none of those ships could have used the C&D; Canal even if it had been deepened.

Twenty-five years ago, when the canal was last deepened, the port and the federal government assured us that traffic through the canal would increase and therefore justify the expense of that project.

In fact, canal traffic never increased after that deepening and has steadily decreased. As a result, that project was never economically justified. Now we are being asked to buy the same argument and spend another $100 million in tax money. Fool us once, shame on you. Fool us twice, shame on us.

In addition, the environmental costs of that project were significant. Some residents who live along the canal saw their wells go dry while other wells were contaminated. Shoreline erosion worsened and we saw siltation of the Elk River. A dike failed at Cabin John Creek.

Chesapeake City, which is divided in half by the canal, saw its water supply line cut and was forced to build a second water plant and sewage plant on the other side of the canal. Residents there now have the highest water and sewer rates in Maryland. And almost without exception, none of these problems has been fixed.

Meanwhile, the cost to deepen the canal again keeps escalating. When the governor announced that dumping of dredge material in the open waters of the Chesapeake Bay at Site 104 would no longer be allowed, the state lost the cheapest, easiest method of disposal. That decision came after intense pressure from citizens groups and following environmental reports that the same muck the port claimed was "clean sand" actually contained PCBs and other toxins that could kill fish and harm public health.

The Sun's July 13 editorial ridiculed my position against a separate port project involving the straightening of a curved channel that will allow ships to move faster en route to the port. During that debate, I raised the issue of public safety as faster ships cause greater wakes, endangering boaters and swimmers on nearby beaches.

"Pure bunk," said The Sun. Tell that to the parents of 7-year-old Celineg Sajardo, who was killed by the wake of a ship when she was swept off the beach near Tolchester on a Saturday morning several summers ago. A little more research and a little less rhetoric would certainly have served the editorial writer better than blindly following the propaganda handed out by the port of Baltimore.

Let's keep the port of Baltimore open and maintain the main shipping channel at its 50-foot depth. And let's use our tax dollars to make improvements at the port that will yield real benefits.

But let's not give the taxpayers a bath to benefit one or two foreign-owned shipping lines that may or may not increase their own profit margin if we deepen the C&D; Canal.

It's about time we take a serious look at how we spend taxpayer dollars to keep our port competitive.

Wayne T. Gilchrest, Washington

The writer represents Maryland's 1st Congressional District.

Memorial Stadium plan finally carved in stone

Responding to Kay Dawson's letter of July 15 ("Memorial Stadium needs technology park") -- why are people still pretending that a firm decision has not yet been made for the redevelopment of the Memorial Stadium site?

On May 6, 1999, after months of presentations by the three development teams interested in the stadium site, the city concurred with the choice of the four stadium neighborhoods and selected the GEDCO/PHI project. This plan consists of a multi-income senior village, a full service YMCA, community playground, playing fields and acres of green space.

Memorial Stadium is scheduled for demolition in December. The technology park is no longer an option for Memorial Stadium.

The stadium neighborhoods united around the GEDCO/PHI proposal because we collectively feel that this is the proposal that will best stabilize and enhance our neighborhoods. This project will maintain residential character with minimal traffic increase.

Our longtime residents who can no longer easily negotiate the numerous steps in their current homes will have the option of moving to Stadium Place and remaining a part of the community they have called home for many years.

The acres of green space, ball fields, playground and YMCA programs will provide all our residents with desperately needed and affordable recreation opportunities. And our young people will have access to safe, supervised and positive activities as an alternative to hanging on the corners.

The Ednor Gardens/Lakeside Civic Association made every attempt to involve all residents in the discussion of stadium development proposals. All 2,100 households were notified of these opportunities, and residents were not required to be dues-paying association members to attend meetings or express an opinion.

Nearly 200 residents attended our well-publicized meeting for the purpose of soliciting community preference among the three proposals (none of which was a Johns Hopkins proposal).

The GEDCO/PHI proposal was the overwhelming choice of those in attendance, but was not a unanimous choice. Residents thinking about more than their own property values know that our growing youth population needs positive ways to channel their energies, and that our older residents might like to "age in place" in familiar surroundings.

Perhaps uncertainties will be resolved once the stadium is demolished and the tech park rumors finally stop. The plan needs all our support as we work to assure that this project is successful, community-friendly and fully funded.

Barbara Ruland, Baltimore

The writer is a member of the Ednor Gardens-Lakeside Civic Association.

Thoughts on policing scalpers

As a Baltimore City resident and taxpayer, I am outraged at the arrest, strip-search and holding of a visitor, Brian Adams of New Jersey, for scalping baseball tickets -- at less than face value.

To scalp tickets usually means making a quick profit, not to sell at a loss.

To assign police officers to this type of duty, when our city is on track for another 300 murders this year, is an affront to the citizens of Baltimore City and a terrible waste of police power and taxpayer dollars.

I call on Mayor Martin O'Malley and the City Council to hold a special council session to pass legislation to do away with the current law.

If they are so afraid of what Orioles owner Peter Angelos will do, then change the law so that if you sell tickets at a profit, or a loss, the statute would call for a criminal citation and not an arrest.

If you are stopped for speeding or reckless driving, a much more dangerous offense than ticket scalping, you only get a ticket.

R.A. Bacigalupa, Baltimore

Kudos to the Baltimore Police Department for its recent arrest of a New Jersey resident for "scalping" Baltimore Orioles tickets below their face value.

At a time when accused murderers are set free and other serious offenses are plea-bargained down to less crimes due to the clogged judicial system, it's encouraging to see that the Baltimore police continue to devote the necessary resources to vigorously protect citizens from all criminal activity, regardless of the benign appearance of the offense.

The recent pay raise has obviously attracted intelligent, motivated officers who can think on their feet and seek out serious offenders on what must have been an otherwise slow day for criminal activity. Keep up the good work!

Kenneth Packard, Bel Air

Nearly a column's worth of classified ads in Saturday's paper offers tickets to Orioles and Ravens games and to other local events. Many ads were placed by ticket agencies, which routinely charge prices up to hundreds of dollars more than the face value of these tickets.

As I understand it, the practices of these ticket agencies are legal because the law allows them to sell the tickets at face value -- and then charge whatever they wish as service fees.

I find it downright silly, even stupid, that an average person can be arrested, fined and even jailed for simply trying to sell, at face value (or less), a few extra tickets to a ballgame that they, for whatever reason, cannot use.

Meanwhile, actual organizations whose business is to engage in what is essentially ticket scalping on a grand scale are allowed to operate legally.

Baltimore's scalping policies should be revised to include some semblance of common sense.

Stephen Gorny, Baltimore

Portland, Atlanta sprawl examples

Tom Horton's July 7 commentary on the relative successes and failures of Portland, Ore., and Atlanta in handling sprawl was interesting, but he left out what I believe is a key element in the Portland's success story ("Freedom can be limited by unrestricted growth").

Portland did more than make hard decisions about borders, land use and housing; it also decided to de-emphasize automobiles. This included rationing parking, converting a riverfront road into a linear park and building (later expanding) a light rail line.

The city even went so far as to prohibit the establishment of new businesses that encourage sprawl, such as car dealerships. This is in stark contrast to a plan to add parking in Baltimore, a development that appeared in the same edition of The Sun.

This is the weakest part of Smart Growth in Maryland. Public transit and even active automobile de-emphasis will not cure congestion. But Smart Growth will fail without such measures.

Maryland can, indeed must, adopt such a strategy statewide.

The benefits not only include better transportation for people and goods, and more efficient use of land, but also the freedom of pleasant local and inter-city travel without the pains of beltways, high gas and insurance prices and rude and dangerous drivers.

David P. Lubic, Martinsburg, W.Va.

I was pleased by the article "Freedom can be limited by unrestricted growth," comparing the unrestricted growth of Atlanta with the regulated growth of Portland.

Tom Horton states that Atlanta is now "backtracking hard" because of increased property taxes from the high costs of unre- stricted development. In contrast, Portland controls where growth occurs.

Both Atlanta and Portland have comparable growth rates of population, income and jobs, but Portland's property taxes have decreased, average commuting time is lower, and the air is cleaner.

As I read the striking differences between the cities, I wondered where Maryland fits in.

Gov. Parris Glendening's administration has made Maryland a leader in Smart Growth, promoting growth in existing population centers to discourage it in the countryside.

In the small Baltimore County town of Parkton, however, at least five developments are at various stages. I am frustrated and disillusioned by our lack of respect toward our environment, historic structures and future generations.

Interstate 83 has become a surging noise that continues through the night, quieted only slightly by closing windows. Maryland's air quality rate is one of the poorest in the United States, causing health problems for our children. Farmland is rapidly being sold for development because it is the landowners' "right."

We are destroying our unique and beautiful natural resources and leaving our children with a legacy of our mistakes. Limiting growth is essential for the improvement and enhancement of the quality of life.

Page McDonald Crosby, Parkton

Bring back Adm. Larson to academy

When Adm. Charles R. Larson was specifically transferred to the position of superintendent at the U.S. Naval Academy in 1994 to investigate the criminal conduct that was then taking place, he did an excellent job in reversing the cause of those activities.

Now that he is gone, it appears the Naval Academy is reverting to its unbelievably disgusting conduct that Admiral Larson had corrected.

The alleged rape of a female midshipman by two Naval Academy midshipmen is a disgrace for the administration and unfairly brings discredit on the entire brigade ("Two Navy athletes charged in rape," July 4).

It is time for another housecleaning by the Secretary of Defense.

It is not too late to recall Admiral Larson to duty (he retired in 1998) to have him again clean up the ills that are infecting our once highly respected Naval Academy.

The American people should expect and demand that the respectability of the Naval Academy be returned to its World War II reputation and conduct.

Today's administration makes a mockery of those ideals. We will not tolerate the appearance of another U.S. Navy "Tailhook" scandal.

Walter Boyd, Lutherville

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