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Plan for Rt. 32 will only extend sprawl, gridlock

The pro-development allies of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and the perpetually enraged Comptroller William Donald Schaefer often tell us that government has no business deciding where people live. Yet these conservative stalwarts did just that when, acting as members the state Board of Public Works, they decided to override existing Smart Growth regulations to commit state funds, and seek federal dollars, to begin the process of widening Route 32 between Clarksville and Interstate 70 ("Rt. 32 widening called killer of Smart Growth," July 22).

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Why should those of us living in the cities and towns of the Baltimore-Washington corridor care about a highway linking the western fringe of our area to the bedroom communities of Central Maryland?

Because Maryland's Smart Growth policies are intended to ensure that the developers who make tidy profits by permanently altering the landscape are not subsidized by the state at the expense of existing communities that need to maintain schools, roads, safe water supplies, police protection and other vital services we have already put into place.

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The decision to widen Route 32 also matters to residents of western Howard County, Frederick County and Carroll County who are content with the open space and quality of life where they live.

The plan to increase highway capacity for cars and SUVs commuting from these relatively rural areas into Baltimore and Washington will undoubtedly encourage many more people to move into housing tracts in the erstwhile farms and forests surrounding existing Central Maryland communities.

The repudiation of Smart Growth will encourage more land-intensive, sprawling, ex-urban development by allowing developers and their marketers to tout the shortening of commute times from their far-flung developments to employment centers in the Baltimore and Washington areas.

Of course these shortened commutes will prove fleeting, as the newcomers crowding out the open space in Central Maryland will quickly clog the new lanes that encouraged their decision to live far from their places of employment.

The heavy hand of the state's executive branch has picked a winner, and that winner is not us, but rather those who profit from sprawl.

Joseph Kershner

Baltimore

Smart Growth aided cites and towns

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A great disservice is done when state Planning Secretary Audrey E. Scott asserts that the previous administration only focused on saving open space ("State launches program to help revitalize areas," July 15). This ignores all the efforts over many years, by countless citizens and elected officials, to develop a well-balanced Smart Growth program.

Indeed, to act as if the idea of redevelopment and revitalization somehow escaped the notice of the Glendening administration is to rewrite history and distort the facts.

The very heart of the nationally recognized Smart Growth program put in place in 1997 was to direct state resources primarily toward existing cities and towns. And a whole host of innovative programs were developed to provide incentives for revitalization.

These included historic preservation tax credits, job creation credits, brownfield redevelopment plans, business loans and grants for small retail stores, the Community Legacy program for community revitalization and a variety of housing assistance programs.

Revitalization -- in Baltimore, North Beach, Mount Rainier, Westminster, Frostburg, Easton, Frederick and scores of other communities large and small -- was a central focus of Smart Growth for the previous administration.

The Glendening administration was also very successful in protecting thousands of acres of farmland and natural resource land from development. This was one of the most aggressive land preservation efforts in the nation. And, unfortunately, this vital effort has all but evaporated under Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.

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So while we welcome Mr. Ehrlich's Priority Places strategy as another piece of an ongoing effort to rebuild existing communities, we must not ignore the work that came before.

Dru Schmidt-Perkins

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of 1,000 Friends of Maryland.

Gambling wrong way to support the state

It is growing ever more apparent the states are buying into an inane argument that state-sponsored gambling is a cure for fiscal woes -- as if that is the only remedy.

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But gambling is a vice. It is not an industry. The jobs created by gambling are not high-paying. Gambling is a quick fix.

There are now 12 million pathological gamblers in the United States. When states introduce forms of gambling such as slot machines and casinos, this does not impact tourism as much as create new gamblers in the immediate area of such establishments.

Casinos prey on the people who can least afford to lose the money. The majority of these sad souls become even more desperate, and a vicious cycle of family problems, substance abuse and crime ensues from gambling.

The state should not be in the business of rewarding greed. This is at war with the values of our capitalist society, in which one is supposed to be rewarded for effort, not get-rich-quick schemes.

Rebecca Howell

Timonium

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Pursue parties to MTBE leaching

Interesting that the president of the National Petrochemical and Refiners Association jumped all over an editorial from Baltimore about MTBE, isn't it ("MTBE provision isn't impeding the energy bill," letters, July 19)?

It's also interesting that he claims the provision in the federal energy bill that shields oil companies from liability for MTBE contamination wasn't related to its failure.

But the energy bill failed when the provision was in it because immunity from liability was an outrageous proposal. It failed when the provision was removed largely because the refiners association lobbied so hard against it.

MTBE is listed as a potential human carcinogen because of lab tests showing its cancer-causing potential. It is now being detected in drinking water wells around Maryland.

The reason liability is such an issue is that oil companies had studies showing that MTBE is highly prone to leak into groundwater, but hid them from public view when they were pushing MTBE as a way to comply with the requirements of the Clean Air Act.

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State agencies should deal with this problem in a wholesale manner by being forthcoming about all cases of suspected MTBE contamination and aggressively pursuing responsible parties.

Brad Heavner

Baltimore

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

Tougher standards wouldn't improve air

The Sun's July 13 "Political Game" column suggests that legislation "mandating that hybrid or alternative-fuel vehicles make up 2 percent of auto sales" failed because of pressure from the auto industry ("Plenty spent, study says, to keep air foul," July 13).

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What the writer misses is the fundamental point of automakers' opposition to the California emission standards: These standards would not bring any air quality benefit to the state, but would cost Maryland and consumers money to implement and could limit the cars available to Marylanders.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency issued new emission control rules for the auto industry in 1999 that take effect this year. These standards are extremely stringent and will reduce emissions from cars and light trucks by 99 percent over those from the cars of a generation ago.

There is no longer any air quality benefit from adopting the California emissions standards.

Gregory J. Dana

Washington

The writer is vice president for environmental affairs of the Alliance of Automobile Manufacturers.

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Bicycle activists seek livable city

I thought some of the criticisms in the letters regarding Critical Mass were a little heavy-handed, especially when one realizes that bicycle riders can offer solutions to problems in Baltimore ("A mass of cyclists takes to city streets," letters, July 17).

I ask those readers who criticize folks fighting for more decent, bicycle-friendly approaches to transportation to think of the wars we've fought for oil in our lifetime and the gigantic costs to our society.

Think about the solo drivers pushing a ton of metal at 5 to 10 miles per hour in congested traffic and what that is doing to our air and the health and stress level of the population of our city.

Think of articles on the problems of obesity and premature health problems related to excess weight.

Critical Mass is an event that occurs for about one hour at the end of the month on one day.

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So are these bicycle advocates the meatheads, or do they deserve to be in critical care for pushing for a more livable planet?

Instead of inveighing against bicycle riders, I recommend that readers get out of their cars -- or at least liberate themselves from their cars at least one workday a month -- so that we all can have a more livable city.

Dave Schott

Baltimore

City College success serves the city best

Gregory Kane shortchanged his alma mater, City College High School, in his column welcoming the new director of Baltimore Polytechnic Institute ("New director aims to take Poly into the top-10 realm," July 17).

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Because 90 percent of City College's more than 1,450 students are African-American; because its percentage of African-Americans and its overall enrollment are both greater than the figures for Poly; because it sends more African-Americans to college each year; and because it has more African-Americans in its internationally certified advanced program, the International Baccalaureate, City College is, in fact, "the most important school" to African-Americans in Baltimore.

Moreover, because it sends more students of any race to college than any other high school in Baltimore, it is the most important high school to the city.

These facts are among the reasons that City College -- not Poly or any other city, county or state high school, public or private -- has won the following combination of awards over the last five years: It has been named a state Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, a National Blue Ribbon School of Excellence, and a Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation "Breakthrough High School," it received the Maryland State Department of Education School Improvement Award for 2002-2003, and it was named by Newsweek as a "Top American High School."

Only two high schools in the entire country have won each of these national awards and been granted certification as an International Baccalaureate Diploma School. City College is one of them, and Lincoln Park High School in Chicago is the other.

Joseph Wilson

Ithaca, N.Y.

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The writer is a former principal of City College High School who is now principal of Ithaca High School.

New Poly principal an excellent choice

As a graduate of Baltimore City College, I must commend the Baltimore Polytechnic Institute on the selection of Barney Wilson as its new principal ("New director aims to take Poly into the top-10 realm," July 17). This is an excellent choice, and the search committee members deserve a gold medal.

Mr. Wilson has outstanding communication skills and connects well with individuals of all ages, socioeconomic levels and ethnic backgrounds. He has a charismatic, magnetic personality, which motivates students, faculty and support staff to do their very best.

He respects the important traditions of the past but also is willing to support reasonable innovations. Since he has a strong background in community college education, I would anticipate some exciting linkages between Poly and various colleges and universities.

And while he continually emphasizes academic achievement, he is also very sensitive to the social and emotional needs of others.

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Poly has selected a wonderful educator and person as its new principal. I predict that during the next few years, academic achievement and morale at this high school will increase dramatically.

Ira B. Albert

Randallstown

Mayor betrays bias on pit bull owners

I am writing in response to the article about Prince George's County's law that gives the pit bull, a tough yet misunderstood beast, an automatic trip to doggie heaven for just being born of that breed ("Prince George's reviews law dooming all pit bulls," July 13).

I can understand both sides of the argument. If you have a gentle pet who has never hurt anyone, I can see where you wouldn't want your animal put down. Then again, if you have ever witnessed what one these chainsaws on four paws can do to another dog or, God forbid, an adult or a child, you too can see the argument for such a law.

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The bone I have to pick is with the mayor of North Beach, a small town in Calvert County, who defended his town's ban on pit bulls by saying, "In more cases than not, the owners who accompany the pit bulls are themselves rather intimidating. I mean, they have spiked hair and they're pierced. These individuals and their dogs are not desired."

I had to read this quote twice because I have not seen such blatant prejudice spewed out by an elected official since reading some of former Alabama Gov. George Wallace's rants from the 1960s.

Joseph Vavra

Brooklyn Park

Carter's life, work slips into eternity

The sad news of Nathan Carter's death brought back a very special memory for me ("Carter unlocked inner voices," July 17).

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Mr. Carter, who held his doctorate from the Peabody Institute, would from time to time bring his wonderful Morgan State University Choir for a joint performance with the Peabody Institute's orchestral and choral forces.

The last time he did so was on April 6, 1997, for a performance of Gustav Mahler's Second Symphony, popularly known as the "Resurrection Symphony," at the Joseph Meyerhoff Symphony Hall.

This symphony traces a trajectory of life and death from its opening funeral march to the final resurrection, in which the most existential questions of life and death are resolved through God's transcendent love.

The work is about 80 minutes long, and the chorus does not come in until the very last movement. But when it does, it truly makes one believe in the resurrection -- as Mr. Carter surely did.

I was sitting up in the top balcony at the Meyerhoff, and as the symphony ended, a man sitting behind me was so carried away that he got up and yelled, "Play it again, Sam."

I wish Mr. Carter could indeed "play it again." But musical performance is a strange art that happens in time and vanishes into eternity.

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Just like life.

Anne Garside

Baltimore

The writer is director of public information for the Peabody Institute.

Patriotic to punish efforts to block votes

It is time we put our money where our mouth is. We need a law with real teeth in it to punish people who prevent people from voting, or impede their ability to vote in national elections.

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And there should be stiff fines levied against companies that don't take the proper precautions to ensure that the voting machines that they make perform to a prescribed standard of accuracy.

During this election year, when the Republicans have wasted our time on a marriage amendment in an attempt to score political points, it is time for us to put their feet to the fire by introducing a bill that protects our right to vote.

There is nothing more patriotic than our right to vote and protecting that right.

Jim Dow

Baltimore

Intelligence and the Iraq war

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Anthony H. Cordesman's commentary on CIA failures pointed to a number of instances in which its intelligence was flawed, citing Vietnam and the CIA's overestimates of the Soviet Union's strength in the early 1980s ("A flawed assessment," Opinion

Commentary, July 14).

While it is true that the CIA often gets its facts and analysis wrong, it is notable that it seldom provides intelligence that contradicts the policies of those in power in Congress and the White House. Indeed, the expectation that the CIA would be an independent agency that acts on its assessment of the national interest rather than serving the interests of its constituencies is a burden not placed on other government agencies.

From President George H. W. Bush through President Bill Clinton to President George W. Bush, the goal of our government was regime change in Iraq. To expect the CIA not to support that purpose was unrealistic.

Whatever spin the White House might attempt, accountability for the invasion of Iraq lies with the White House.

Iraq was and is Mr. Bush's war.

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Herman Schmidt

Kingsville

I read with great interest Anthony H. Cordesman's "A flawed assessment," because it was the first column I have read that makes the point that others besides the intelligence community bear responsibility for inaccurate gathering and interpretation of intelligence on Iraq.

Although the CIA was far from perfect in its assessment of the situation in Iraq, there were those in the agency saying before the war that there was not solid evidence that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction.

That conclusion was rejected, apparently in favor of the conclusion of the hawks in the Defense Department and the White House.

Ultimately, the responsibility for this must be placed at the highest levels of government.

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Despite its shortcomings, it is not fair to scapegoat the CIA for the sins of the administration.

Thomas E. Owens

Aberdeen

The real atrocity has been taking place for months in front of our eyes - the exhaustive and brutally public assessment of our government's preparation and reaction to terrorism and attacks ("Bracing for the next atrocity in Iraq," Opinion

Commentary, July 20).

Our worldwide enemies must be enjoying the seemingly endless hearings and reports surrounding the U.S. response to Sept. 11 and terrorism in general. And the critical findings of these reports must be validating and solidifying the terrorists' strategy - to destabilize America by dividing and conquering the hearts and minds of an increasingly polarized U.S. citizenry.

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By subjecting our nation to this stream of self-criticism and second-guessing, we further erode American unity, making it easier for terrorists to strike the most important targets - our hearts and minds.

It seems our definition of democracy has gravitated away from true and open dialogue to hearings and investigative commissions set on exposing our weaknesses in the name of "the public's right to know."

The consequence is this: We hand the terrorists all the ammunition they need to expand their web of fear, recruit new allies and paralyze our progress as a democracy.

Peter Shafer

Baltimore

In "Congress shares the blame for intelligence failures" (Opinion

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Commentary, July 14), Cal Thomas exercises his penchant for side-stepping the issues.

Yes, the CIA provided bad intelligence and, yes, more members of Congress might have closely examined the 10,000 pages of intelligence documents underpinning the administration's view of Iraq.

However, it appears President Bush, Vice President Dick Cheney and their advisers were eager from the start of their tenure to seize any pretext to go after Saddam Hussein. And Mr. Thomas does not examine any pressures the administration placed on the intelligence community to present the "evidence" they needed.

In fact, we had done a good job of containing that dictator and keeping him from menacing other nations since the Persian Gulf war. But the clumsy occupation of Iraq and, to a lesser extent, of Afghanistan may well bring about effects our administration did not anticipate. We may see Islamic states even more antithetical to Western democracy and culture. And this war obviously has opened the gates for terrorists and subversives to attack Westerners and foreign nationals all across the Middle East - and the innocent die almost daily.

Two years from now, or five, or 10, we may well be asking: Why did the United States in 2003 hasten to make the world a more dangerous place?

Bruce R. Knauff

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Towson


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