LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Limited staffing causes overtime for firefighters

The overtime paid to Anne Arundel County firefighters over the last year is not the result of including fire captains and lieutenants in the union ("Arundel fire overtime rooted in 2000 pact," Aug. 24). It is the product of 12 years of neglect by county officials of the need to increase firefighter staffing.

In some county fire stations, fire apparatus respond to emergency calls with only one or two firefighters on board, which is far below the national standard of four firefighters per rig. This inadequate staffing jeopardizes the safety of county citizens and the firefighters themselves.

Add to this the 12 to 20 unfilled vacancies in the department at any given time because of retirements, disabling injuries and other factors, and you have a system that cannot run without overtime.

As The Sun has reported and as county officials admit, it is far less expensive for the county to pay overtime for fire officers and firefighters to work additional shifts than to hire, train and equip additional personnel.

Critics who point to the fact that Baltimore City and Baltimore County have lower fire department overtime costs than Anne Arundel ignore the fact that those other jurisdictions run four shifts of firefighters, rather than three.

Adding a fourth shift in Anne Arundel County would increase the number of firefighters in the department by 25 percent.

But until Anne Arundel officials face facts and hire the appropriate number of firefighters to effectively protect citizens, the county has no choice but to use overtime to even maintain its current inadequate staff level.

William V. Taylor

Baltimore

The writer is fourth district vice president of the International Association of Firefighters.

The wrong answer to our energy woes

There is no question that Congress needs to fix our outdated, unreliable energy grid ("No more excuses, Congress: Fix the grid," Opinion

Commentary," Aug. 21).

However, it should not rush to pass an energy bill that opens the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, leaves consumers vulnerable to Enron-like market manipulation, squanders billions in taxpayer dollars to build new nuclear power plants and does nothing real to boost renewable energy.

Our problem with the energy grid should not be used by the polluting industries and their allies in Congress to forward their own interests while consumers are left defenseless.

In addition, steps can be taken in Maryland to protect consumers by diversifying our energy sources with clean renewable sources of energy.

State leaders should push legislation to increase the use of renewable energies to 7.5 percent of total energy use; this would protect us from the price spikes caused by our excessive reliance on fossil fuels.

Jessica Abramavicius

Baltimore

Pattern of deception about war in Iraq

The Sun's article "Air Force assessment before war said Iraqi drones were minor threat" (Aug. 25) provided a glimpse into how the Bush administration ignored information that was not consistent with its predetermined goals.

The pattern is clear, and frightening. Those with valuable experience and knowledge on Iraqi weapons and threats were consistently overridden by political appointees controlled by the White House.

Even in the face of clear evidence to the contrary, factions within the administration continue to insist they were right. It is unforgivable that this fanaticism has resulted in the ongoing deaths of American soldiers.

The American people are owed a full accounting of the process that led us to this war.

Tim Eastman

Baltimore

Cost-sharing can cut health care expenses

The secretary of Maryland's Department of Health and Mental Hygiene made some excellent points in "A parental responsibility" (Opinion

Commentary, Aug. 21).

I was especially impressed with his statement that "cost sharing encourages people to become more responsible health care consumers. As people are made sensitive to the costs of care, they are more likely to seek out the services that have true value to them."

One example is emergency room care, which is so expensive and overused.

If parents contribute to the cost of providing health insurance for their children, there is a better chance such costly care will be used only when it is absolutely necessary.

K. Dale Anderson

Randallstown

Holly Neck proposal will enhance region

Criticism of the proposed development in Holly Neck as "bad for the bay" is NIMBYism at its worst that is bankrupt of any good factual argument ("Holly Neck petition planned," Aug. 21).

The critical areas law was never intended to stop all construction, and the project proposed for Holly Neck incorporates all the elements agreed on by the experts to minimize any adverse impact on the environment.

It is quite apparent that a vocal minority group of residents will never be happy if a single house is built or a tree cut down. But if they had any foresight they would welcome Leonard P. Berger's proposal.

The upper-income families who could afford these proposed homes should be welcomed with open arms. They would certainly help the economy and solidify the stability of the area for years to come.

The only legitimate concern is the inadequacy of the area's existing road. It definitely needs improvement.

But common sense could bring some needed progress.

Mike Weir Sr.

Baltimore

The writer is a former state delegate and former member of the Chesapeake Bay Commission.

Appalled by remarks about bocce players

I was appalled by the insulting and hurtful comments made by bocce tournament organizers about two of the contestants ("A brouhaha over bocce is settled on the court," Aug. 25). I was surprised there wasn't more of an outcry, at least a few letters to the editor.

The prevalence of incivility has been widely publicized, and I know these sorts of comments are commonly made, even right to people's faces. But what made this incident worse was that the men (who have disabilities) wanted to play in a public tournament on a city-owned bocce court.

My personal reaction was based on the surprising violation of rules of simple human decency and politeness, rules we were taught as children. You don't stare at people with disabilities. And it should go without saying that you don't make insulting and degrading remarks about the disability.

I know I shouldn't be so surprised these days, but these comments were practically Neanderthal.

Evelyn Elizabeth

Dundalk

Sacrificing liberty no path to security

After reading the letter "Willing to sacrifice liberty for security" (Aug. 27), I recalled one of Benjamin Franklin's wise adages: that those who would sacrifice essential liberties for temporary safety deserve neither liberty nor safety.

James M. Kehl

Baltimore

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