Letters to the Editor

THE BALTIMORE SUN

Find funding to avoid transit service cuts

On behalf of the members of the Town Center Village Board, I am expressing our concern about the budget error that has forced a cut in services to our local bus transit system. Improvements to the system have nearly tripled bus ridership in the past five years. This is a commendable achievement in an era of trying to foster public transportation.

We in Town Center have residents and employees who depend on the bus system to transport them to work, grocery stores and medical offices. Some residents have disabilities precluding them from driving their own cars, but are able to independently use the current transit system. While these needs are the greatest cause for our concern, we also recognize Columbia's Downtown as the hub of commercial and leisure activity for both Columbia and Howard County. Eliminating some routes and extending the waiting time between buses will put a hardship on many in Columbia and Howard County who depend on the bus service.

We implore our public officials to work to find a source of funding to ensure that this reduction in transit services does not occur. We are cognizant of the tight budget that you must spread over so many county services, but we believe this is a program that should not have a cut in funding. We are hopeful you will successfully win approval of a budget patch of $3.3 million or other solution as you have publicly stated.

Lee Richardson

Columbia

The writer chairs the Town Center Village Board

County must address crowded-venue issue

Lowell E. Sunderland's article in The Sun "League Seeks Room To Grow" (Feb. 8) raises an issue that has been re-hashed and re-hashed for at least 15 years - not enough gym space to meet the recreational needs for ever-growing numbers of children and adults. The article mentioned the ongoing debate regarding who should control the allocation of gym space, the school system or Parks and Recreation, the current policy of not allocating gym space on a geographic basis, and the school system suggesting that Rec and Parks build gym space. The problem never gets resolved, the annual "no room at the gym" article runs each year, and the numbers of individuals, youth and adults, participating in rec sports continues to grow.

Simply switching control of the gym space from the school system to Rec and Parks will not fix the problem. This concept is bureaucracy at its best. There is a system in place, and good or bad, it serves several thousands of youth and adults annually. Let's address the issues and not be so naive to believe it is about control. Back in the early 1990s, as battle lines were being drawn for gym space, it was suggested as new elementary schools in the County were being planned, the financial impact of building larger middle school-sized gyms instead of the smaller elementary-sized facilities during new construction be analyzed. The problem was who was going to absorb the cost, and the idea was turned down. Other drastic measures were proposed, including shortening the length of the league play, starting youth programs at a later age, eliminating travel or select teams, limiting adult-group usage to late evening hours, etc.

Almost 15 years later, we face the same problems, the same issues, the same Chuck Parvis bashing, the same Rec and Parks bashing ... and the same old arguments. You can't put 20 pounds of potatoes in a 10 pound sack! Maybe some kids and adults will just have to shovel some snow and shoot hoops on a playground until the County addresses the current system, and develops alternatives that will undoubtedly still leave some folks disappointed.

Jack Burk

Glenelg

It is wrong to use children as lobbyists

It is truly amazing that teachers and other members of the public education establishment can so brazenly abuse their power by using our children to lobby the legislature to provide more funding for education. The article ("Students offered credit for rally in Annapolis" (Feb. 5) detailed the plans to bus children to Annapolis from around the state to lobby for more school funding. Not only do the children get time off from classes but they get credit for participating.

Many people opposed mandating "volunteer" community activities as a curriculum requirement in Maryland schools because such service should be truly voluntary, because it could interfere with instruction time, and because there was potential for abuse. It was also feared that the system would be quickly corrupted and students would get credit for all sorts of ridiculous activities, thereby instilling cynicism in children toward voluntary community activities. The program puts too much power into the hands of the teachers to influence students to become involved in causes their parents oppose. The politicalization of the school system has been going for some time, and has reached its logical conclusion in the lobbying by the students in Annapolis under a mandated school program. It is outrageous to see this happen.

Parents have been outraged in the past here in Howard County when notices and information in support of lobbying efforts by and for the school system have been sent home by teachers in lunch boxes and back packs. It could be argued that only information is being provided that some parents, in fact, like to get. The use of students to participate in a lobbying effort by members of the public education establishment, on school time, and for school credit is an actual abuse of power.

It is time the public education establishment realized that many people view them as a significant element of the liberal political establishment in this country and that a great percentage of the American people do not share their political views. The ever increasing sums spent on education without a visible cost benefit is one area of significant disagreement with large political implications. It is wrong to involve children as tools in this political arena.

David L. Bates

West Friendship

Provisional ballot requirement crucial

Between 1.5 million and 3 million voters were not able to cast a ballot in the 2000 presidential election because of problems in voter registration systems. Too often, citizens who registered to vote didn't have their names on the voter rolls at the polling place. In 2002, Congress passed the Help America Vote Act, which protects these voters, ensuring that every eligible voter who goes to the polls can cast a ballot and have that ballot counted. This is called the provisional ballot requirement. It is the number one good government reform that must be in place for the 2004 elections.

Beginning on Election Day 2004, if you arrive at the polls and there is a question about your eligibility, then you have a right to a provisional ballot. You can't be turned away without an opportunity to cast a ballot. For example, this means that if your name does not appear on the registration list for the polling place or if you do not have the required identification, you still must be given a provisional ballot. Before counting the provisional ballot, election administrators will make an official determination of the voter's eligibility, and after the election, the voter can find out whether his or her voter was counted.

This new federal provisional ballot requirement, if implemented effectively, can keep the country from experiencing another election where voters are turned away from the polls and ballots of eligible citizens go uncounted.

Betsy Grater

Ellicott City

The writer is co-president of the League of Women Voters, Howard County

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