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Rate debate really about self-interest

I watched, with bewildered interest, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s "public hearing" to determine whether or not the legislation passed during a special session for a rate relief plan for Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. customers serves the financial interests of ratepayers ("Hearing supports Ehrlich's opinion," June 21).

I have a few questions regarding the governor's timing.

If the governor was not pleased with the amount of money Constellation Energy is giving back to consumers under this plan, if the governor was not happy with the lack of an ability to opt out of an interest-payment plan, if the governor objects to firing the Public Service Commission, why was he absent from the negotiations on the bill during the special session he himself said was necessary?

The governor's "public hearing" was simply a way for him to make the public think that he represents its interests. I expect that he will veto this bill and portray that veto as one that champions the interests of the working man or woman.

The Democrat-controlled legislature will override the veto, and the governor will claim that he, and not the legislature, has ratepayers' best interests at heart.

Unfortunately, I believe the governor and the legislature have only one interest at heart - self-preservation.

David Coyle


Democrats distort the energy issue

One can only assume, after reading C. Fraser Smith's column "A repair job by legislative mechanics working under pressure" Opinion * Commentary, June 18) that the term "politics" has different meanings.

That is, politics is good when used by the Democrats. In that case, "Politics is problem solving. ... So the Assembly met to correct its mistake."

Now let's look at the connotation of the word "politics" when used to describe Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr.'s actions.

Mr. Smith refers to the governor "offering himself suddenly as pro-consumer."

Then he asks, "Was it politics? The voters will decide."

We didn't hear the General Assembly say it made a mistake and now has to correct it. According to the Democratic leaders and the media, it's the governor and the Public Service Commission who created this problem.

I would go along with the legislature appointing a new PSC if there were an equal representation of Republicans and Democrats in the state House and Senate. But the way things stand, the Democrats will have total control of who will be appointed to the PSC.

This bill is just another example of their crass politics.

Marie Mullen


Energy bill strikes the right balance

I do not believe anyone thought there would be an agreement under which we would face no rise in our Baltimore Gas and Electric Co. bills. I think most of us just wanted a chance to ease into the higher prices gradually rather than start with a 72 percent increase.

The agreement reached by the General Assembly special session was just what the people of Maryland needed.

I, for one, wish to thank the General Assembly for bringing this agreement into effect, and I thank Mayor Martin O'Malley for bringing the lawsuit that started the ball rolling.

Although the price hikes are hard to swallow, BGE is a business and it does have to make certain profits.

This agreement will help us to ease into the higher payments while letting BGE continue to manage its business and make a profit.

What I do not understand is Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. calling for another hearing on the matter ("Hearing supports Ehrlich's opinion," June 21).

And why he insists on standing up for the Public Service Commission is beyond me.

It makes you wonder if Mr. Ehrlich really lives in the state of Maryland. Or even on this planet.

Kathy Riley


Gardening tips show taste and decency

Laura Vozzella's column on Roland Park gardening "sins" seems based on a cheap and bogus shot ("Dyed mulch and other Roland Park garden sins," June 18).

The column reports on two pages of gardening tips sent by Devra Kitterman to her Roland Park neighbors. Ms. Vozzella doesn't come right out and criticize the tips; that would be too honest.

Moreover, it would hardly make sense, because for the most part, the tips are just noncontroversial axioms about not being destructive or tacky.

Yet one gets the sense throughout the column that Ms. Vozzella (or some yuppie constituency of hers) resents the advice. The sardonic use of the term "sins" in the column's title conveys this idea, but the linkage of Ms. Kitterman with John Waters and his film A Dirty Shame in the column's last line ("Now that's taste!") is perhaps the best example.

This linkage is a cheap shot as Ms. Kitterman's tips do not purport to pass on John Waters' advice about gardening,

Ms. Kitterman's work on Mr. Waters' film was a gardening tour de force and not an object for ridicule, and her advice must either stand or fall on its own, not on the basis of an argument grounded in some presumed guilt by association with Mr. Waters and the film.

Bob Condlin


Let landscaping respect landscape

Three cheers for Devra Kitterman and her publication, on landscaping ("Dyed mulch and other Roland Park garden sins," June 18). I urge her to forward her publication to the Greenspring Valley.

We too resent tree removal for McMansions with parking lot-size driveways, mulch mania and other unnatural designs. In areas that are so lush with natural landscape and habitat, why do people insist on altering the landscape?

Let's keep the "park" in Roland Park and the "green" in Greenspring Valley.

Wendy Rurka


Separation protects freedom of religion

Thomas Sowell's column "Laying waste to liberal spin" (Opinion * Commentary, June 15) states that "there is absolutely nothing in the Constitution about a 'separation of church and state'" and that "liberal judges have twisted the First Amendment's phrase about 'free exercise of religion' to mean the opposite - that you are not free to exercise your religion if atheists or members of non-Christian religions say they are offended."

But the reason the Founding Fathers included as one of only 10 amendments to the Constitution the phrase, "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion," was to ensure individual liberty and rights to all people to worship as they choose.

After centuries of religious persecution by established national churches in Europe, it was critical to establish freedom of religious choice as a core doctrine.

And we, as Americans, have freedom of choice about whether to worship or not, and how we want to worship.

The reactions Mr. Sowell is referring to by "liberal judges" are not an issue about denying anyone's individual rights to "exercise their religion," but a fear, perhaps, expressed by many that one segment of our country's population wants to mandate how everyone else should govern their lives.

E. Diane Champe


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