Blackwater Resort a big threat to bay
Before the state's Critical Area Commission is a request to grant one of the largest growth allocations ever sought in Maryland. And the commission's decision regarding the proposed Blackwater Resort development near Cambridge will have a lasting impact on the future of development in Maryland and the health of the bay ("Bay group unveils plan of action," Sept. 20).
Time and time again, we have found this to be true: How we use our land has everything to do with how healthy our water and its related habitat can be.
This is especially true when a developer proposes a 2,700-home mega-development just upstream from a federal wildlife refuge.
When my administration introduced the Critical Area legislation in 1984, it was a new concept that land-use planning decisions would affect water quality.
The legislative intent of the bill was to protect water quality and fish, wildlife and plant habitat in the Chesapeake Bay and address the need to preserve the character of the bay for future generations.
The goals and intent of this law are even more important now than they were two decades ago. It is the responsibility of the Critical Area Commission to ensure that these purposes are fulfilled.
The Blackwater Resort development severely threatens all of these goals.
No one is asking the commission to rob local governments of their autonomy or prohibit development in Dorchester County or Cambridge.
What we are asking is that the commission block this project to send a clear message that this development is in the wrong place and is not in keeping with what the General Assembly intended when it enacted the Critical Area program.
Approving the Blackwater Resort development would open the door to exactly the kind of development we were trying to prevent when we enacted the Critical Area law.
The writer is a former governor of Maryland.
Reason for cynicism about UB park plan
Reading about the city's plan to lease 48 acres in Mount Washington from the University of Baltimore to create a park was indeed pleasing. But I can't help but be cynical about the matter for several reasons ("Deal to lease land is delayed," Sept. 21).
The first one that comes to mind is the obvious political overtones of the deal, which allows gubernatorial candidate Mayor Martin O'Malley to claim that he listens to the community and preserves land for parks.
Too bad the folks in Woodberry couldn't save the neighborhood's wooded lands after the city deeded them over to Loyola College for use as athletic fields.
Now University of Baltimore President Robert L. Bogomolny is credited for "heeding the community's concerns" by trying to save park land from development ("City to lease land for park," Sept. 18). (I'm sure the prospect of a check from the city for $6.2 million didn't influence his opinion.)
This same man chose not to listen to the concerns and wishes of the neighborhood residents who fought to save the Odorite Building from demolition.
Alternatives that would have saved the structure and incorporated it into a new facility were dismissed, and the wrecking ball came.
In almost identical fashion to the way Mr. Bogomolny acted on the Odorite Building, Cardinal William H. Keeler, the Archbishop of Baltimore, moved forward with the razing of the historic Rochambeau Apartments, eliminating another piece of the city's character ("Building gives up the ghost," Sept. 17).
The entreaties of community members in the neighborhood and city at large fell on deaf ears.
Arrogance was the attitude of the church leaders, not cooperation.
How do you form any sense of community when the leaders of major institutions have a "my way or the highway" attitude when it comes to their wants and desires?
Condescension is not the way for the leaders of our city's institutions of higher learning and faith to act.
War can't be won with kid gloves
The war on terrorism must be fought aggressively and without a stop. It baffles me that a lot of people in this country seem more interested in fighting President Bush than in fighting the evil monsters who want to kill us ("Bush releases classified report," Sept. 27).
I am a Democrat, and I don't agree with Mr. Bush on a lot of issues. But I believe he is fighting this war the best he can.
We are fighting a war unlike any we have ever fought, so we can't fight the way we fought in the past; we have to adapt to this new warfare.
We can't be crying about the rights of murdering criminals whose sole goal is to kill us. And we need to get information in any way possible if we are going to stop future attacks on this country and our troops.
We need to give our brave and gallant troops all the tools necessary to fight and win this war. We also need to take better care of the families of our troops.
People need to stop playing political games and face reality: These terrorists will not play by any rules and will never stop trying to kill us.
We can't win this war trying to fight it wearing kid gloves.
Patrick W. Feuerhardt
Renouncing rights is really foolish
The writer of the letter "President protects our troops, people" (Sept. 23) said his stomach was turned by the efforts of Sens. John McCain and John W. Warner and others to demand that the Bush administration adhere to established constitutional and international law when fighting the "war on terrorism."
To the letter writer, the capture, indefinite detention and torture of potentially innocent people is apparently fine, because this is a war of never "giving quarter."
To those like the letter writer, anyone who suggests we must follow the laws established in our Constitution and international agreement apparently is a fool.
To me, the only fools are those cowards who are so fearful that they are willing to give up the principles and freedoms that our young men and women are dying for in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Rather than move forward as a strong nation built on the rule of law, they would give up our great history of defending our nation while adhering to the principles upon which it was built.
They are willing to give up our freedoms and change our time-honored constitutional protections in a capitulation to the very terrorists they claim we should be fighting - all for the illusion of safety promised by an administration that is dishonest and incompetent.
Now that turns my stomach.
Don't blame Clinton for the 9/11 attacks
God save us from the ranting and raving of conservatives such as Cal Thomas who continue to blame President Bill Clinton for the 9/11 attacks ("More Clinton finger-wagging, and dishonesty," Opinion
Commentary, Sept. 27).
Chris Wallace ambushed Mr. Clinton on Fox News Sunday. Mr. Clinton stood up to a right-wing zealot posing as a newsman, and stated the facts about Osama bin Laden and terrorism during his term as president. He accepted responsibility for his failures.
President Bush has never stood up and admitted that his administration dropped the ball in the months leading up to the 9/11 attacks and blames others for his failures to protect America.
Don't forget that more than five years after the 9/11 attacks, this president has still not captured or killed bin Laden.
Mr. Thomas mentions the fictionalized Path to 9/11, a piece of propaganda that simply made up scenes like the one where President Clinton and his aides had bin Laden cornered and failed to kill him.
In fact, in 1998, Mr. Clinton ordered the bombing of bin Laden's camps in Afghanistan and Sudan after the bombing of two U.S. embassies in Africa, and bin Laden narrowly escaped.
On the other hand, Mr. Bush was given a presidential daily brief on Aug. 6, 2001, titled, "Bin Laden Determined to Strike U.S."
Mr. Bush ignored it and took a monthlong August vacation in Texas and cleared brush.
As for the claim by Mansoor Ijaz that the president of Sudan "offered the arrest and extradition of bin Laden," the 9/11 commission report indicated that: "Former Sudanese officials claim that Sudan offered to expel bin Laden to the United States. Clinton administration officials deny ever receiving such an offer. We have not found any reliable evidence to support the Sudanese claim."
Redeploy our troops to Kurdistan, home
Democrats are often accused of lacking a plan for withdrawal from Iraq. Well, here is one Democrat's plan. It is not to "cut and run" but rather to "defend the defensible" ("Bush releases classified report," Sept. 27).
Step one is to redeploy our forces in Iraq into Kurdistan, and defend the borders of Kurdistan, in concert with the Kurdish militia.
The Kurds are still grateful for our efforts to free them from Saddam Hussein. And the closer Kurdistan gets to full independence, the more danger it faces of invasion by Iran or Turkey, both of which have large and restless Kurdish minorities. An American presence in Kurdistan could help forestall that threat.
About half of the forces we now have in Iraq could then be redeployed to Afghanistan, where we still have a chance of winning, and where our national interest requires us to win.
Worldwide, heroin kills more people each year than al-Qaida does, and a large amount of that heroin comes from Afghanistan's poppy fields.
Some of our forces should also at long last be permanently rotated home.
Our regular forces, reserves and National Guard forces can't handle much more punishment. We need to rebuild and re-equip our military.
Let the Sunnis and Shiites duke it out in the remainder of Iraq.
This will be a terrible bloodbath. But it will be their bloodbath.
Ultimately, the Shiites will win. The Sunnis had their chance to rule Iraq, and they blew it.
What about democracy for Iraq? Well, the Kurds will have that. And one-quarter of a victory is better than no victory at all.
The Shiites in Iraq will ally themselves with Iran.
But this is the price we must pay for our stupidity in invading Iraq in the first place.
Station sculpture lacks real context
The biggest problem with the statue at the train station is that it has no context or connection to either Baltimore or Penn Station.
Here is an example of a modern sculpture that makes sense: the "Working Point" statue outside the Baltimore Museum of Industry.
When you first look at it, you think, "What is this ugly thing, stuff from a junkyard?"
But when you read the plaque, you discover that the sculpture is made from materials gathered from defunct Baltimore industries.
Now, you get the connection - it's a modern sculpture with a direct nexus to the purpose of the museum and to the city. And once you "get it," the sculpture is not ugly anymore.
This is exactly what is lacking in the "Male/Female" statue.
The concept of the statue has no connection to Penn Station, the railroad industry, Baltimore, Maryland or even a famous Marylander.
Without a meaningful connection there, that statue will always look out of place.
The American Visionary Art Museum might be a better site for the sculpture.
Assistant principals also need a raise
As The Sun's editorial "Principal perquisites" (Sept. 18) notes, both Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and Mayor Martin O'Malley have suggested that increased financial incentives should be given to school principals as one means of improving the education of Maryland children.
While principals certainly deserve better compensation, training and recognition, focusing on them alone will not bring about any significant long-term change for the children. In fact, it may work to the detriment of all.
A principal is a critical leader in every school. His or her responsibilities are numerous and varied.
The principal, however, is only one member of a school's leadership team. To recognize the principal without doing the same thing for assistant principals and other central office educators, such as curriculum coordinators and department supervisors, will result in a severe leadership crisis in the future.
On an hourly basis, most assistant principals are already compensated less than many of the senior teachers they supervise are. Yes, assistant principals' pay-grade may be higher than the teachers'. But they must spend far more hours in their jobs, and their level of responsibility and day-to-day challenges far, far exceed those of the teachers.
In recent years, many aspiring education leaders have returned to the classroom after experiencing the reality of being an assistant principal.
This, and the fact that teachers do not seem to want to move into leadership and many long-term principals are retiring, has left the pool of new talent dry.
If our political leaders mean what they say about improving education for Maryland's children, they need to find new dollars for the entire leadership team in every school.
Further, they need to work with the various school boards and superintendents to develop creative ways to empower the leaders in each school.
Thomas C. Shaner
The writer is executive director of the Council of Administrative and Supervisory Employees for the Baltimore County Public Schools.
Environment is key to our prosperity
The Sun's editorial "Smarter treatment" (Sept. 19) begins: "Balancing environmental and economic interests is seldom easy."
With that single sentence, The Sun reinforces the misconception that environmental protection comes at the expense of prosperity. But in reality, our economic well-being depends on the health of our natural environment.
Conventional economists focus only on a narrow part of our existence (consumption), and ignore other parts of the economy that provide for the sustainable well-being of people, such as social capital and natural capital.
But without social capital such as education and child-rearing, there would be no economy to speak of.
Similarly, natural ecosystems provide essential services such as recharging water supplies, maintaining water quality, sequestering carbon and regulating our climate, storing and cycling nutrients, conserving and generating soils, pollinating crops and other plants, protecting areas against storm and flood damage, providing fish and wildlife habitat, maintaining a vast genetic library, and providing opportunities for recreation and aesthetic appreciation.
Indeed, a study published in the journal Nature in 1997 estimated that services provided by the ecosystem contribute at least as much to the global economy as do marketplace processes, and probably more.
In short, protection of natural land is a vital investment rather than a luxury.
In fact, according to a 2002 study, if the values of ecological services are considered, the benefits from investing in conserving natural land offer a return on investment of at least 100-to-1.
Similarly, the impacts of pollution are often ignored in the marketplace, at best being considered unfortunate but unavoidable byproducts.
In Maryland, for instance, coal power is priced well below natural gas, nuclear, wind or solar power.
Yet burning coal pollutes far more per unit of energy output, especially when you consider its contribution to global warming, which could alter our planet beyond recognition.
It is time for Western technocrats to pull off their blinders and recognize that all things are interconnected on Earth, and that we ignore nature at our peril.
The writer is an ecologist and conservation planner.
A double standard on role of religion?
One article in last Saturday's Sun, "Evangelical leaders urging followers to back GOP in Nov." (Sept. 23) stands in stark contrast to one from the previous Sunday, "IRS is demanding documents from liberal church in California" (Sept. 17).
According to Saturday's story, an evangelical strategy conference "included frequent entreaties to pastors to use their pulpits on behalf of the social conservative agenda - and to do so without fear of violating tax laws."
Indeed, the evangelicals certainly need have no fear that anyone in the Bush administration will threaten their support for the GOP.
Lest we forget, former Attorney General John Ashcroft was an evangelical himself, and the Republicans count the Christian right as part of their core constituency.
On the other hand, if a church is on the other side of the political fence, a different standard apparently applies - as The Sun's earlier article so clearly indicates.
That article reported that the IRS is investigating All Saints Episcopal Church in Pasadena, Calif., because its rector delivered an "anti-war" sermon on the Sunday before the last presidential election.
Never mind that Christianity must always be inherently "anti-war," because war is the ultimate sinful breakdown of our relationship with our fellow human beings.
The blatant partisanship of the Christian right and the reciprocal patronage of the Republicans in power are surely poison to our political system and the First Amendment.
Even more disturbing, however, is the corruption of the message of the Gospels by the evangelicals.
George H. Kaplan
Taking aid away from foster kids
As The Sun's editorial "Alone and adrift" (Sept. 22) explains, the numbers don't look good for foster children struggling to make the transition to independence.
Recent studies have found that 40 percent of former foster children depended on public assistance or Medicaid, 51 percent were unemployed, 25 percent had experienced homelessness and 27 percent of males had been incarcerated at least once. One study found that former foster children are twice as likely to suffer from post-traumatic stress disorder as Iraq war veterans.
These children, who often are initially abused and neglected at home, are subjected to years of inadequate services - and often additional abuse - in the severely broken foster care system.
Maryland is one of the wealthiest states in the nation. Yet a recent legislative audit found that our foster children are often not receiving even basic services: 35 percent of foster children were not in school, 40 percent of the children were not receiving dental services and more than 30 percent of the children were not receiving required monthly visits by their caseworkers.
Then, after years of enduring the foster care system, the children "age out" and essentially are dumped on the streets, with little if any help.
But rather than addressing these problems by adequately increasing needed services, the Maryland foster care agency has been taking resources from the very children the agency is supposed to serve.
Maryland (along with most other states) has developed a deplorable practice in which the state agency involved takes control of the Social Security benefits belonging to foster children who are disabled or have deceased or disabled parents, and keeps the children's benefits to reimburse the state for its costs rather than letting the money go to the children. Thus foster children are being forced to pay for their own care.
One report from the Maryland Department of Human Resources estimated, based on 1999 figures, that the state could recoup as much as $3.5 million in Social Security benefits from foster children each year.
Foster children need to be assisted, not treated as a revenue source for the state.
Instead of taking money from abused and neglected children, let's imagine how the children could use these resources as they struggle to leave foster care and begin life on their own.
The benefits could be used to save for college or vocational education and training, to help pay rent or for a down payment on a home or to purchase a car - which is now virtually a necessity for independent living.
Or the benefits could simply be saved to be used as an emergency fund for the many unforeseen expenses former foster children surely will encounter.
Daniel L. Hatcher
The writer is a professor at the University of Baltimore's School of Law who has worked as an attorney for foster children.
The Sun's editorial "Alone and adrift" correctly identified many of the problems our nation's foster children face.
But one critical issue it did not mention was the deplorable practice many states have developed of reimbursing themselves for children's care - from federal funds intended for the children themselves.
The federal government currently provides Social Security benefits to children who are disabled or have lost a parent. Unfortunately, nearly every state, Maryland included, collects this money on children's behalf and spends it as if it is the state's own.
Instead, these funds should be set aside so that when children age out of foster care, they can use this money to pay for their adult education, job training and housing.
As parents, we do not expect our children to pay for their own care and upbringing. Instead, we help our children prepare for the future.
That is why I'm working with my colleagues in Congress to develop legislation that would prohibit states from taking foster children's money.
Given all that foster children have already lost, it's the least we can do.
The writer is a member of the U.S. House Ways and Means Committee.