Disappointing plan for city property tax
The much-anticipated report from the mayor's property tax committee was released last week, and count this city resident and homeowner among the many people underwhelmed by it ("Bid to cut tax rate could still boost bill," Jan. 3).
It was a waste of the committee's time to attempt to address such a complex and sensitive issue without also addressing city budget and spending issues.
Even so, the committee's suggestions are disappointing.
Baltimore residents face a property tax rate twice as high as any in the state.
Tax receipts have been growing in recent years. But while the receipts have grown, the city's budget has managed to grow along with them. Where is that money going?
I can't speak for all residents, but I believe many of us wouldn't mind the high tax rate if we felt that Baltimore was improving at anywhere near the rate that its tax receipts are increasing.
Has the city made progress? Absolutely.
But city leaders often seem most concerned with spending our money to attract new businesses and keep commercial interests happy (through the Convention Center hotel project and tax breaks for Harbor East projects and Legg Mason, etc.).
And city residents, they get patronizing pay-now-or-pay-later property tax schemes - which, if enacted, will be just as effective as crime and bad schools in driving homeowners from the city.
Tax confirms power of state's lobbyists
I work at a small computer shop in Timonium. Last November, during a special session of the legislature, a sales tax was added to the charge we must collect from our customers ("Tech tax resistance builds," Jan. 5).
The owner of the shop is a naturalized citizen originally from Taiwan. He asked me why we have to charge the sales tax for services, while the beauty shop next door and the car repair shop two doors down do not have to charge such a tax.
I tried to explain to him how the legislature in Annapolis works. I explained about how lobbyists worked to exclude their clients from collecting the sales tax from their customers.
When he asked what a lobbyist is, I explained, as best I could, how certain special-interest groups hire lobbyists to go to Annapolis, wine and dine our legislators, possibly get their clients to make contributions to the politicians' campaign funds and, in the process, explain to the legislators exactly why their particular special-interest group should benefit from a proposed law.
The foreign-born computer shop owner thought about this for a while.
Although he may not have understood the process completely, I believe he eventually realized that in Annapolis, we are blessed with the very best politicians that money can buy.
Driving to Delaware for new purchases
Well, I'm off to Delaware to buy my cigarettes. That's $2 per pack in taxes that Maryland will not be collecting.
While I'm in Delaware, I'll also be buying a big-screen TV.
So that's about another $150 in sales tax that Maryland will not be collecting.
Oh, Maryland, what a foolish state.
Proposal imperils the right to abortion
For nearly 35 years, women in the United States have been able to decide - in consultation with their families and doctors - whether to terminate a pregnancy. Under a proposed Missouri law, however, that decision would be taken away, and doctors like me would be left in the untenable position of deciding which women are sick enough to deserve an abortion ("Abortion issue splits Missouri," Jan. 3).
Supporters of this initiative claim their goal is to inform women. In reality, the law would create a confusing legal quagmire for physicians and women alike.
Patients do not need to review every medical study on a subject to make an informed decision. Their doctors are already trained to guide them through this process with accurate and relevant information.
Clearly, the intent of this law is to make abortions so difficult to obtain that they are effectively illegal in Missouri.
Dr. Catherine Cansino
The writer is a member of Physicians for Reproductive Choice and Health.
Competitive market controls energy cost
Jay Hancock's criticisms of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission and the PJM Interconnection wholesale market that provides Maryland its electricity supplies reflect a fundamental lack of understanding of both entities ("Electricity honey pot is starting to stink," Dec. 21).
Indeed, FERC has repeatedly found that prices derived by the wholesale power market are indeed just and reasonable, and did so as recently as last March.
PJM's independent market monitor also has repeatedly found the market competitive.
Competitive reforms of electricity markets provide a more effective check on electricity costs than the old, failed regulatory model.
As a recent report from the Maryland Public Service Commission found, Maryland depends on energy supplies from neighboring states to meet its demand, and there is no silver-bullet solution if future shortages are to be avoided.
As the PSC report also showed, even with the sticker shock that occurred when government-mandated rate controls were lifted, wholesale electricity prices in Maryland and the Mid-Atlantic are still below the cost of building new power generation facilities.
With the properly monitored price signals provided by PJM, new generation will get built without undue risks to Maryland consumers.
John E. Shelk
The writer is president and CEO of the Electric Power Supply Association, a trade association that represents power suppliers.
A driven principal creates real change
Many people think that all the education system needs to improve is more money. Thank goodness Randallstown High School Principal Cheryl Pasteur knows better ("'Principal on Wheels' gains a lot of traction," Jan. 7).
She is making wonderful strides in engaging the students, parents and faculty in elevating the quality and standards at Randallstown High.
Thank you so much for the inspirational article on Randallstown High School Principal Cheryl Pasteur.
Please give us more articles about people changing Maryland's future for the better.
Change itself isn't always a blessing
In regard to Sen. Barack Obama and the craze of "change for change's sake" ("Acumen, emotion," Jan. 8), I would cite two sayings:
"You know what you've got; how do you know what you're going to get?"
And, "If it ain't broke, don't fix it."