CareFirst deal in best interest of workers, firm
As chairman of CareFirst's board, I must respond to The Sun's characterization of CareFirst's executives as looking out for their own interests to the detriment of the company and the community ("In whose interests?" editorial, Aug. 25).
Comparing our management team to others in the news that stand as examples of corporate misbehavior is patently unfair and not justified. The Sun owes our management team an apology.
And in WellPoint Health Networks, the CareFirst board believes it has a partner that shares our philosophy, commitment to corporate citizenship, and understanding of the need for local decision-making on health care issues.
WellPoint also will be a strong fiscal partner, one that can pay a fair price for CareFirst and has access to the capital to enable CareFirst to make needed investments in technology. Mergers succeed or fail on such issues, and the board was looking for a successful merger.
And, in selecting a merger partner, preserving the jobs of CareFirst associates was of particular interest to the board. Despite Trigon Healthcare Inc.'s assurances that a significant number of jobs would be maintained, our financial adviser, Credit Suisse First Boston, advised us that jobs would have to be consolidated for this transaction to work for Trigon.
In focusing on the long-term viability of the company, the board also decided that certain incentives should be offered to reward and retain key executives and top managers. Decisions affecting executive compensation were not then and are not now made by management but by the board.
Any insinuation that CEO William L. Jews or his management team pushed these incentives for their own personal gain is not only patently untrue, but also unfair to a group of individuals who have worked diligently to make CareFirst a company in which all of us can take pride.
Further, any suggestion that Trigon would not have accepted merger incentives mandated by our board as part of the acquisition is also suspect. While Trigon executives voiced concern about the incentives, they did not reject the concept outright. And CareFirst's selection of WellPoint did not hinge on that issue.
Critical strategic and philosophical measures, not executive bonuses, led the board to conclude WellPoint's bid was clearly superior to Trigon's.
Daniel J. Altobello
Freeze isn't enough to balance budget
The new governor will face a budget challenge ("State surplus shrinks by $104 million," Aug. 30).
Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend says that she will raise taxes on cigarettes and place a freeze on additional spending to bring the budget back into balance, while Rep. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. says that he will reduce spending.
Which approach do you think will actually help?
Most families appreciate that when there is a shortage, one must reduce spending.
If the budget is out of kilter, freezing it will not help; spending must be reduced.
And taxes on tobacco will not fill a shortfall because people change their behavior when taxes rise.
Donald J. Myers
What about stipend Townsend receives?
I'm outraged. As a card-carrying Republican, I can't believe Michael S. Steele is being paid $5,000 per month by the Maryland Republican Party ("Md. GOP paying Steele to consult," Aug. 27).
Shouldn't we pay him at least as much as the taxpayers are paying our current lieutenant governor?
These payments "appear legal" (whatever that means) and are made at the expense of the Republican Party.
Kach has sponsored many key bills
The Sun's article "Five challenge Kach for House seat" (Aug. 23) did not mention several other important bills presented by Del. A. Wade Kach and passed by the Maryland legislature.
One bill requires anybody selling an existing home to disclose any environmental hazards on the property. This bill has helped us in Northern Baltimore County when someone has a house for sale that was built on a landfill.
Other bills that passed and were sponsored by Mr. Kach involved the protection of abused children and a crackdown on Medicaid fraud.
All of these bills were very helpful.
David E. Boyd
Educating students on hate, prejudice
After reading the article about the dispute at the University of Maryland, I was very upset ("A cultural battle takes center stage," Aug. 24).
I fully understand why The Laramie Project is required reading. Matthew Shepard was murdered purely because of his homosexuality. He was a victim of a hate crime. All people across America should be aware of the hate that seeps from America's pores.
No matter how old or young, we should be aware of the prejudices of this world. I am 15 years old and have heard more demeaning names and jokes about homosexuals than I care to mention. This isn't a matter of pushing a belief or lifestyle on another person; it is matter of making people aware.
The students at the university do not necessarily have to believe homosexuality is right. But they need to understand and accept that not everyone feels the same way they do.
The writer is a student at Dulaney High School.
Driver's training should be tougher
I tip my hat to Susan Reimer for her telling column on driver's education in Maryland ("Driver's-ed schools can take MVA, parents and kids for a ride," Aug. 11).
Think how refreshing it would be if Maryland drivers and legislators demanded that a strict initial driving test be put in place.
This public support would enable the state's Motor Vehicle Administration (MVA) to place the responsibility for demonstrating driving skills on every new driver.
An enhanced licensing program could be combined with a new look at the way driver's education is delivered. Driver's education would then become a practical necessity, rather than the artificial requirement it has become for many.
Public, private, parent and online instruction could be provided to individuals as needed. But in the end, the responsibility would be on the new driver to get the job done.
Criticism of mergers really hit the mark
For the first time I can recall, a Sun writer had the guts to write what we poor slobs have been thinking and saying for a long time.
I refer to Jay Hancock's column "Remind Hershey: Merging is often a dumb idea" (Aug. 28).
His touching on the huge rewards and golden parachutes for former CEOs, sweet-talking investment bankers and "bighead" managers really hit the nail on the head.
Richard L. Lelonek