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The Baltimore Sun

Protecting waterfront critical to bay's health

I was a delegate and a member of the House Environmental Matters Committee at the time the Critical Area Law was enacted ("Bay protection eroded, bit by bit," Jan. 21).

The law was a huge step forward for the environment.

We advocates of the bill worried that the counties would not enforce the law's provisions. But we were assured by representatives of the counties that they would provide enforcement.

But they haven't. And there is no incentive for the counties to enforce the law.

Counties rely on land development to raise revenue without raising taxes. It is not in their interest (no matter the political rhetoric) to follow their land-use plans - and they often don't.

I hope the O'Malley administration will put in place the necessary provisions to enforce the Critical Area Law.

And I further hope Maryland lawmakers will have the courage to allow the state to enforce the law, and while they are at it, to allocate part of the revenue from a new green fund to fund the strict enforcement of the Critical Area Law.

Lawrence A. La Motte


The writer is president of Energy Options LLC.

The article "Bay protection eroded, bit by bit" describes violations of the state's Critical Area Law and the poor enforcement of that law.

There is a simple way to remedy this situation.

Change the law so that the rules are clearly written out in a series of bullet points that any construction worker can interpret; confiscate properties that violate this law and sell said property at auction; give the person reporting the problem 10 percent of the sale price of confiscated property as an incentive; use the remainder of the sale price to reverse the damages and give state employees and lawyers associated with the law's enforcement bonuses.

End of problem.

David Plaut


On the same day The Sun ran an article lamenting the lack of enforcement of critical area regulations, it also ran an article concerning the development of waterfront property in Bowleys Quarters, on one of the most overdeveloped shorelines on the bay ("Community group splits over condo proposal," Jan. 21).

Doesn't anyone see the real problem here?

If we allow continued dense development on waterfront property, the end result has to be more runoff from impervious surfaces, more nitrogen from lawn fertilizers and more damage to the bay.

The best way to protect water quality is to strictly enforce laws regulating waterfront development.

Ed Weglein


Data don't support limits on cell phones

The Sun's article "Limits eyed on cell use in cars" (Jan. 22) discusses a Senate bill that would eliminate cell phone use in cars in Maryland. But the article also cites a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration study that found that talking on the cell phone while driving poses a "statistically insignificant risk." So why outlaw this no-risk activity?

And a couple of weeks ago, the article "Cell phone use slows traffic, study finds" (Jan. 5) cited another study that found that cell phone users drive 2 miles per hour slower and make fewer lane changes than non-phone users.

Generally, driving more slowly means driving more safely.

And recent numbers from the Fatality Analysis Report System of the NHTSA, which show that traffic fatalities fell from 1.73 deaths per 100 million miles driven in 1994, when virtually no one had cell phones, to 1.42 deaths in 2006, when many of us talked on our cell phones while driving, are informative on this issue.

In any case, at the very least, before we forgo the productivity increases from being able to drive and talk at the same time, why not wait one year and see if the four states that have passed laws limiting cell phone use while driving show safety improvements?

If they do, we will have facts, not assumptions, on which to base our actions.

Jerome Glazer


Long-term tax cuts create real stimulus

The bipartisan stimulus plan under consideration by Congress seems to be mainly about cutting checks for potential voters - not the long-term health of the economy. It will take money from one pocket and put it into another but do little to boost economic growth ("Agreement closer on economic boost," Jan. 24).

Rather, I pray that Congress will have the foresight to go beyond politics and listen to economists Tracy Foertsch and Ralph Rector, who advocate making permanent the tax cuts passed from 2001 to 2003.

According to Ms. Foertsch and Mr. Rector, making permanent the tax cuts, which are scheduled to expire in 2011, would add more than $75 billion a year to the gross domestic product, create 709,000 jobs and lift personal income by $200 billion.

That would be a real stimulus for the long haul.

Benedict Frederick Jr.


Change custody laws to protect children

The state's Departments of Social Services and Child Protective Services agencies are governed by laws that dictate what reports are acceptable, when removal of children is legal, when their return to their parents is legal and when it is not.

After the loss of a child, the Department of Social Services does not choose to "hunker down and wait for the furor to subside," as Dr. Peter Beilenson suggests ("In the best interest of our children," Opinion

Commentary, Jan. 15).

The furor dies down through no choice of the Department of Social Services, which is left reeling and devastated as it tries to figure out how to prevent a tragedy from happening again.

The soul-searching is remarkable, and the suffering is exacerbated by a sneering public, a significant lack of resources and the inscrutability of the laws that govern the Departments of Social Services.

The laws need to change.

Child Protective Services workers need to know that when they place a child in foster care, the child will be safeguarded and treasured and not returned to the parents until the parents have proved themselves willing and able to care for that child. And that if the troubled parents have another child, they will be required by law to accept services from DSS to ensure that the child is adequately nurtured.

Bonnie Davis


The writer is a former supervisor of Child Protective Services for the Anne Arundel County Department of Social Services.

Many city homeless face mental illness

Having spent nearly two years living on the streets of our fair city, I can say that if there is not direct intervention to help the mentally ill, the homeless will continue to be part of city life ("End to homelessness," Jan. 18).

I met some very sick people living on the street who could have benefited from medication and therapy.

Most of them knew that they should be on medication, but few ever admitted to me that their housing and living situation was caused by their refusal or unwillingness to submit to therapy. They just live day-to-day with no future but needing food and shelter daily.

I hope Mayor Sheila Dixon and her panel will focus on the root causes of the problem.

That is the only way that we can end homelessness in our community.

Ed Rothstein


Ignoring history of the west side

The Sun's article "The next page in downtown plan" (Jan. 22) describes exciting plans for a university bookstore in the 400 block of W. Baltimore St. It is deeply disturbing, however, to see nothing in the article about the unique historical resources of this block, the heart of Baltimore's cast-iron district.

The iron-and-glass precursors of today's skyscrapers could easily accommodate a modern bookstore - if planners will just pay attention to what's already there.

John R. Breihan


The writer is a professor of history at Loyola College and a member of the board of Baltimore Heritage.

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