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A civic group that has betrayed citizen...

THE BALTIMORE SUN

A civic group that has betrayed citizen activists

Two weeks ago 1000 Friends of Maryland demonstrated that they are also the 1000 Enemies of Civic Activism. After two years of public debate regarding the 508-acre mixed-use development proposed for Fulton, our "friends" decided to jump into the fray ("Group backs project density," Sept. 7).

They rolled into Howard County, called a press conference at the Route 216 park-and-ride lot, stamped a Smart Growth label on a project they knew little about, decried "angry residents" they had never met or even bothered to speak with and rode off back to their enviro-fantasy world.

Not only did our "friends" not bother to discuss the competing viewpoints with local civic leaders, they ignored the county Sierra Club, which is adamantly opposed to the project.

This seems like odd behavior for a group which claims among its goals: increasing public awareness and sensitivity to issues regarding revitalization and directed growth; advancing a legislative agenda, based on broad public input, which supports revitalization and directed growth; and increasing the capacity of local civic, business and environmental groups to undertake planning, education, organizing and advocacy activities on revitalization and directed growth.

How do you advance goals involving public input and increasing the capacity of civic and environmental groups to become involved in growth issues, when you treat such groups with an absolute lack of respect and accuse them of irresponsible acts without even discussing the matter with them?

Considering that our "friends" did not testify at the public hearings, and thus, had no legal input, it seems that the timing of their press conference (shortly before the Zoning Board was to rule on the project) was an unethical attempt to influence the decision-making process outside procedural bounds.

I have provided legal services to community and environmental groups all over Maryland, including to the Sierra Club, on several occasion; therefore, I will not be lectured to by "friends" who serve at the pleasure of developers.

With "friends" like these who needs enemies.

Maryland civic and environmental groups would do well choose their "friends" wisely.

Thomas Dernoga

Laurel

Friends of Maryland stood up for what's right

As a Howard County resident and business owner, I must applaud the courage and clarity of the message delivered by the 1000 Friends of Maryland during their announcement regarding Smart Growth and the Maple Lawn Farm development ("Group applauds project density," Sept. 7)

If we are truly attempting to control sprawl, one of the clear solutions is to make efficient use of land that has already been planned for future growth.

For some to call 1000 Friends of Maryland busybodies and a "thousand enemies of common sense" is not only self-serving but disingenuous.

George L. Doetsch

Columbia

A typical boy, put in danger by his parents

When I read The Sun's front- page article "A deadly safari ends in a cry for answers" (Sept. 17)) and Brucie Jacobs' article on her son's very tragic death while on safari in Botswana, ("My son Garrit, 'Little Bum,'" Sept. 17), I saw a very typical little 11-year-old boy taking chances, as boys will do.

He was obviously wealthier than most boys, but typical in his ambitions, dreams and games and his potential and intelligence.

While other young lives are cut short by means of auto accidents, falls out of trees, unsecured firearms and other perils of domestic risk taking, this one was lost to hungry wild animals in the jungles of Africa.

I also saw a parent who doesn't seem to understand that it is usually a lack of common sense on the part of adults that puts children's lives in jeopardy.

While Ms. Jacobs can note "the half-baked police investigation" and the "unresponsive Wildlife Department and HATAB organization," one truth is rather painfully intuitive: An 11-year-old child was left essentially alone and unguarded in a tent in the middle of the African jungle.

He wasn't camping out in his back yard and he didn't go on safari in Disneyland.

Guess who owns the shoulders which carry the responsibility for this young man's death?

William R. Ward

Ellicott City

County school board must mend its ways

I have been following the recent progression of articles concerning the Howard County School Board and the "Listening Post" ("School board not happy with forums," Sept. 6).

I would suggest that the "Listening Post" always was a sham. There is no ability to have a voice about anything on the agenda of the school board's meetings.

If the school board truly wants to redeem itself, I would suggest that it do the following.

Take the $16,000 it gave former superintendent Michael E. Hickey out of members' own pockets and put it back in the budget;

Rescind the raises and automobile perks it granted the assistant superintendents, who are being rewarded for having been good soldiers for Mr. Hickey;

Reduce the number of assistant superintendents to one.

I am quite certain that the new superintendent is a very capable educator who would survive very nicely without the other two. That is why he makes such big money.

The president of the United States has only one vice president to run the entire country.

I also find it unconscionable that a portrait of Mr. Hickey was commissioned at the cost of $48,500.

A message to the school board: get your act together, make amends for your past transgressions or resign.

The citizens country are aware of your less than righteous ways and it won't take much more before someone decides to follow the procedure to remove some or all of the board members from office.

Bernadette I. King

Woodbine

Inattention to studies dims black achievement

Kudos to Gregory Kane for continuing to "tell it like it is," even when it's not what people want to hear.

Of course the SAT scores of African-American males reflect the amount of interest and effort they put into learning, not the amount of interest and effort put forth by the teachers and the education system ("Addressing black teens' ills carries big burden," Sept. 9).

As a second-grade teacher, I have taught many students of diverse ethnic origins.

The most devastating and shocking experience of my teaching career was when an African-American parent of an arrogant and disrespectful student told me that her son could not possibly learn from me, because I did not know how to teach black students.

When I questioned whether she was asking me to teach her son differently than I taught other students, she readily verified that indeed this was her intent, and reiterated that black students learn, and therefore must be taught, differently than white students.

Correct me if I am mistaken, but would that not be counter to everything the African-American community has spent a lifetime attempting to achieve?

As long as parents harbor such an attitude and allow children to use it as an excuse for disrupting classes and failing to achieve, what Mr. Kane describes as "the great black youth drift into tater-headedness" will continue.

Those parents who perpetuate such attitudes have no one to blame but themselves for the poor academic achievement and SAT scores of their children.

Karen McDonald

Ellicott City

Muslims discriminate against Christians

Mark Matthews was on to something in his article "Christians hope for a presence in a peaceful new Jerusalem" (Sept. 6). Concern on the part of the Christian community in Palestinian areas is real. The population of Christian Arabs is diminishing as many Christians emigrate.

The reason is simple: Palestinian Muslims regularly discriminate against Christians and, given the opportunity, push them out.

But Mr. Matthews was wrong to praise the relationship between Muslims and Christians in Bethlehem.

There, too, the Christian community is dwindling.

The only reason that Christians have not disappeared altogether from Bethlehem is that the Palestinian Authority fears that, if they did, the benefits from tourism would be lost.

The recent insistence by Muslims in Nazareth on building a mosque on the site of one of Christianty's holiest places is typical.

Only Israeli control of Jerusalem's holy places in Jerusalem will assure free access to them by members of all religions.

David Kross

Columbia

Pointless deployments don't serve our interests

I must challenge the shallow analysis provided by Ivo Daalder and Michael O'Hanlon in their recent column "Where to cut U.S. military presence?" (Opinion

Commentary, Sept. 11).

Why shouldn't we cut the 100,000 troops we have in Europe?

Their number exceeds the size of most European armies. Their presence comes at great expense and is of dubious value -- no one threatens to attack central Europe anytime soon, the Soviet Union has disappeared and Europe is increasingly integrated and stable.

The United States can still maintain an active role in NATO, just as the Canadians do, without large forces stationed in Europe.

The real question these gentlemen and the Clinton-Gore administration should answer is, why are our troops deployed?

Have we achieved peace in the Balkans, democracy in Haiti, stability in the Persian Gulf? In every case, the answer is no.

The administration has committed the military to a rash of quick fix operations without considering long-term goals.

It has also failed to follow up opportunities created by the military with economic, political and social efforts that could have achieved our long-term strategic interests.

The result is the commitment of U.S. forces in a variety of locations with no clear purpose.

Frederick J. Brosk

Columbia

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