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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

Rail lines attract new residents and new riders

Thank you for printing Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan's column supporting an expanded subway system for Baltimore ("Baltimore deserves more transit options," Opinion * Commentary, Aug. 7). An effective long-term vision of transportation in the region must include a vastly expanded rail system.

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I recently was involved in a survey of nine rail systems around the country to learn what works and what doesn't. And I was surprised to find that every one of them was highly successful at attracting riders and urban revitalization money.

If you build a rail system, people will ride it and neighborhoods will get spruced up. If our only goal is to shuffle around current city residents, buses might work OK.

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But if we are serious about attracting people back into the city, we need to build an effective rail system.

We urge Transportation Secretary Robert L. Flanagan to include heavy rail as an option along with light rail and buses in all studies of expanded transit in the Baltimore region.

Brad Heavner

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Maryland Public Interest Research Group.

Duncan envisions road to statehouse

Montgomery County Executive Douglas M. Duncan is correct when he implies that he and Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. have much different visions for transportation ("Baltimore deserves more transit options," Opinion * Commentary, Aug. 7). Mr. Ehrlich has focused on building a transportation system that actually works for the people of Maryland.

His administration is looking at less costly transit projects that can actually be built, such as bus rapid transit, instead of expensive underground subway systems that look good on paper but never become reality.

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Mr. Ehrlich realizes that highways must be expanded to reduce congestion. The Intercounty Connector has cleared major funding and planning hurdles because of the governor's personal involvement.

Mr. Duncan's vision for transportation is much different. The county executive leads a jurisdiction that is mired in traffic congestion, a problem that has only worsened over his three terms.

To solve the problem, Mr. Duncan proposed a massive $54 per person vehicle registration tax to fund new road improvements.

Now it seems that Mr. Duncan wants to leave behind his sorry record on transportation by starting an early campaign for governor against Mr. Ehrlich.

Steven L. Wiseman

Bel Air

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Let scanned ballots work for everyone

The Sun's editorial "Ballot sanctity" (Aug. 8) expresses concern about the potential insecurity of the touch-screen voting system.

Then it states: "Maryland ought to look into a system that produces a paper record that can be verified by each voter and is then stored in ballot boxes to be used in manual audits and recounts."

Many of us in Maryland already have such a system -- the optically-scanned ballot. It is much less expensive than the touch-screen system. And it is the system that the State Board of Elections (SBE) has decreed will be used to count absentee ballots.

I commend the governor for putting the $55.6 million voting machine contract on hold.

Now, he should demand that the SBE demonstrate why, if the optically-scanned system is good enough for absentee ballots, it is not good enough for the rest of us.

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John F. Billing

Ocean Pines

Corrupted council needs a shake-up

Hiring family members is nepotism. Accepting gifts from companies gives the appearance that one has been bought.

Does everyone other than the City Council members recognize these things ("Amid questions, City Council to consider revising ethics law," Aug. 9)?

The system isn't confusing, as City Council President Sheila Dixon alleges. It is corrupted.

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The single-party-controlled council desperately needs to be shaken up.

Scott Loughrey

Baltimore

Amazed by raises for school officials

Deciding what part of Jonathan Rockoff's article "Teachers irked over raises at main office," Aug. 7) amazed me the most has proven a challenge.

Is it that Baltimore County Superintendent Joe A. Hairston believes his teachers think that privacy laws governing personnel issues were written to allow officials to sneak pay raises by citizens?

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Is it that these three people averaged 10 percent pay increases, which is more than any single raise teachers have seen in years?

Or is it most amazing that in two weeks Dr. Hairston will send a video out to his teachers telling them how important they are and how much he appreciates their efforts?

The truth is it's all amazing and teachers shouldn't be the only ones "irked."

Taxpayers, students and parents should also be irked.

Ralph Laurence Sapia

Towson

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I read with total disbelief that Baltimore County Superintendent Joe A. Hairston has raised the salaries of his top three deputies by more than $11,000 each.

It is bad enough that Baltimore County teachers and many school administrators have not received cost of living increases for two years. And now the top deputies receive pay increases.

And, it really forces me to wonder: Just what are the job responsibilities of the deputy superintendents and the chief of staff that merit the increased salaries?

B.A. Frantz

Timonium

Check the timing of city yellow lights

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The Sun's article describing the red-light camera that issued two tickets from the same photo also revealed yet another area where the city fails to meet federal standards: traffic-signal timing ("City's red-light citation has couple seeing double," Aug. 6).

How about sending a reporter out with a stopwatch and a copy of the federal traffic-signal timing standards to see how many of Mayor Martin O'Malley's camera-equipped signals have shorter clearance (yellow light) times than federal standards allow?

The results should be very interesting.

Inquiring voters want to know.

Frank Wilsey

Baltimore

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War gives al-Qaida foothold in Iraq?

It is disturbing to read of "The other Iraq fraud" (Opinion * Commentary, Aug. 5) -- misinformation on the links between al-Qaida and Iraq.

As Steve Chapman states the idea "that a secular Baathist dictator would turn over his deadly weapons to religious zealots bent on creating Islamic theocracies throughout the Muslim world could be believed only by those who desperately wanted to believe."

If al-Qaida has weapons of mass destruction, and has formed a deadly alliance with the forces fighting now against U.S. forces in Iraq, our invasion has made it so.

Ruth Von Bramer

Randallstown


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