Skyrocketing cost of construction hurts taxpayersIt did...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Skyrocketing cost of construction hurts taxpayers

It did not take long for the chickens to come home to roost. In the last session of the state legislature, the governor prevailed on our representatives to protect wages for unions, in order to repay organized labor for its cozy relations with him.

No one could spell out exact costs as a result of this change. Figures of $20 million more in construction costs were thrown around.

Our representatives from Anne Arundel County were hesitant to act, but with a push from County Executive Janet S. Owens to help keep her buddy, the governor, happy, they capitulated.

Now what do we see? Just at one school, North County High, construction costs have escalated by $5 million. Building costs per square foot that were $104 are suddenly coming in at $166 ("North County gets a little help," Aug. 16).

As a result, we are told Marley Middle School will be delayed again.

But not to worry: The governor says if necessary he will find more money. And we know where -- from our pockets.

John Miara

Pasadena

In choosing firefighters, credentials must be key

Let me get this straight: In high school they offer a vocational course in firefighting. This is open to all students. Or anyone can go to the local fire station and volunteer.

Volunteers spend about 30 hours a week studying at the fire academy and training at the fire house. At the academy they take University of Maryland sponsored courses on firefighting.

Now people who take one of these ways to become a firefighter should not have this taken into consideration on their application ("Hiring policies to be studied," Aug. 17)?

They should be treated the same as the person off the street, who has no training, no dedication to the job and community they live in? This is so stupid it is not funny.

Carl O. Snowden, a member of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People, said, "It's important that there be more Hispanics, African-Americans, Asians and other minorities in the fire department."

I say, why? Is my life going to be safer because a black person is on the fire truck? Is my house not going to burn because a Hispanic has the hose? The answer is no.

We must stop this political correctness and pick the best human being, the best educated and experienced person, period.

Tim Wright

Pasadena

Del. Leopold is right to reinforce marriage

As a citizen of Anne Arundel County, I fully support the concept behind Del. John R. Leopold's efforts to encourage pre-marriage counseling for all ("Back to 'til death do us part," Opinion

Commentary, Aug. 8).

His bill was vetoed last session and this citizen would like to know why.

While teen-age pregnancy rates are beginning to go down, divorce rates are still too high. Families are being torn apart because adults do not have the communication skills or the willingness to negotiate required to help a marriage succeed.

These skills are reinforced, or in some cases taught, in pre-marriage courses run through churches. Provisions must be in place to accept the certification that goes with completing these courses.

But what happens to the couple with no religious affiliation? What if the couple chooses to have their wedding officiated by a clergyman who only meets with the couple once or twice?

Will these marriages be left to luck and chance?

I propose that we use what we already have in place. Emphasize values education in the elementary school grades. Reinforce values and teach basic communication skills, child development and dating and relationship skills in the middle schools.

We should also make relationship life-skills classes mandatory for high school graduation.

Private schools would need to provide these courses, too.

Then the pre-marriage counseling course at the county, state, or church level could be a workshop instead of a course.

The results of these efforts will not be measurable quickly, something our instant society may have trouble handling. We may not even see measurable improvement within the next administration.

But, if something is not done, we will only see a continuing downward spiral of the family's worth in our society.

All the rhetoric will not cure the problem; action will.

Margaret K. McGugan

Crownsville

The recent letter "Single parents can cultivate happy homes, vibrant kids" (Aug. 19) completely misunderstood the goal of the marriage movement and Del. John R. Leopold's column ("Back to 'til death do us part" Opinion

Commentary, Aug. 8) in support of it.

The point of Mr. Leopold's article was not to dismiss the ability of all single parents to raise children or to suggest that bad marriages should be preferable to single parenting.

Rather, given the stubborn fact of a near 50 percent national divorce rate and the substantial personal and public cost of divorce, our society must begin a serious effort to help build and strengthen marriages.

Far too many people who get married and have children are neither emotionally nor financially prepared to do either -- and it is time to look at this marriage instability crisis honestly and do something about it.

Nancy S. Loveday

Severna Park

Johns Hopkins' real motive is greed

It certainly isn't difficult to figure out Johns Hopkins' motives behind ABC's supposedly heroic documentary ("JHH puts its spin on things," Aug. 22).

"Knotty issues" such as patient confidentiality and the risk of embarrassing patients are supposedly being balanced by the "compelling public interest."

What is compelling here is the astonishing lack of humanity by this institution.

An administrator noted that "when something about Hopkins touches the public attention, we get flooded with new patients."

Well, so much for heroism. This sounds more like plain old voyeuristic greed to me.

Joyce C. Robinson

Glen Burnie

The case for evolution is really quite weak

The media has recently reported on a Kansas decision concerning the teaching of evolution in schools ("Kansans repudiate attack on evolution," editorial, Aug. 7).

But in the ongoing public discussion, people have missed a point: Science does not support this neo-Darwinist theory of evolution as much as many suppose.

Phillip Johnson explains this eloquently in his recent book, "Darwin On Trial," in which he does not launch a defense of creationism but examines objectively, as a lawyer, the evidence offered for evolution.

There is a dilemma which evolution proponents must face: If neo-Darwinism is true, and humans (and all life) developed by accident from inanimate substances, no case can be made for the existence of goodness, right and wrong, self-esteem or even human dignity.

I imagine, however, that some of the most vocal evolution supporters would acknowledge some kind of values and the existence of human dignity.

For these to be, however, there must be something above and separate from evolution.

Jeff Smith

Annapolis

Gov. Bush is the one who can reform schools

Elections are about differences. In a few weeks, voters will have to choose between very different candidates with very different views of how to lead America.

And nowhere is this difference more evident than on education.

Vice President Al Gore is running a campaign of sound bites. Vote for me, he says, because I support "revolutionary changes" in our schools.

Unfortunately, these sound bites don't tell us where the vice president has been during the last seven-and-a-half years. Where has this desire for revolutionary changes in our schools been?

That's why I am so proud to support Texas Gov. George W. Bush for president. He has a specific agenda of improve our schools by insisting on high standards, local control and strict accountability.

As governor, he pursued a similar agenda to Texas schools. The results? Test scores are up in Texas for all students in all grades, especially minority students.

In short, Mr. Bush is a leader who can get things done for our schools.

He is the right man to lead America in the right direction.

Don A. Bender

Glen Burnie

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