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The Baltimore Sun

Don't disrupt deal that aids ratepayers

With the 2008 session of the General Assembly drawing to a close, our state's energy consumers have $2 billion in savings on the line in the pending settlement between the state and Constellation Energy Group ("Senate vote might nullify BGE pact," April 4).

Legislators should not stand in the way of this pact.

For more than two years, Maryland's elected leaders have been at odds with Constellation Energy.

We expect our government to stand up for consumers.

But an endless battle is damaging to our state's business climate and demoralizing to thousands of company employees and prevents us from dealing with Maryland's very real electricity generation crisis.

The Public Service Commission, Gov. Martin O'Malley and Constellation Energy have negotiated a settlement that will deliver substantial benefits to consumers.

While some have pointed to last July's Illinois energy settlement as a model for Maryland, that pact pales in comparison with the settlement now before the General Assembly.

The Illinois settlement offered $1 billion in benefits over four years to about 5 million customers - an average of $192 per customer.

The Maryland settlement offers $533 million in near-term benefits to just more than 1 million customers - an average of $485 per customer.

Additionally, this settlement relieves consumers of $1.5 billion in liability for nuclear power plant decommissioning expenses, saving ratepayers about another $1,300 each.

Every credible study of Maryland's energy market concludes that our state will soon reach a shortfall in our electricity supply. Without new generation capacity, our bills will rise and we will experience brownouts in the next three to four years.

We need to take this deal, and get to work, right away, on new, clean power sources.

Donald C. Fry


The writer is president and CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee.

Malt brews differ little from beer

Underage drinking is a serious problem, and combating it is critically important to all of us. We all need to support real solutions that address the problem head on.

But the idea that flavored malt beverages should be taxed and sold differently from the way beer is treated is ludicrous.

Many flavored malt beverages have about the same alcohol content and are brewed in much the same manner as traditional beer.

These products are marketed to adults, and it's illegal for anyone under the drinking age to purchase or consume them.

Flavored malt beverages represent only 1.7 percent of all alcohol sold in the U.S.

Do you really think changing the way they have been taxed for the last 20 years or where they can be sold will help solve underage drinking?

Marc Winner


The writer is president and board chairman of a wholesale liquor distributor.

Legislators ignore cell phones' danger

I was disappointed but not surprised to see that our friends in Annapolis defeated the bill that would have banned the use of hand-held cell phones while driving ("Cell phone ban is killed," March 28).

Unfortunately, I'm afraid that until our legislators are personally affected by a cell phone-related tragedy, nothing will change.

Janet Brock


The worst blunder since selling Ruth?

What divine justice: Marc Steiner wins a Peabody Award for excellence in journalism on the very day WYPR begins its first fundraising drive after terminating this journalistic treasure ("Steiner honored for series, 'Words,'" April 3).

Does the station management realize now that it fired its greatest asset?

Firing Mr. Steiner will go down in Baltimore history as the dumbest local management move since the Orioles sold Babe Ruth to the Red Sox.

Sheldon H. Laskin


Some listeners glad to hear quieter host

The Sun's article "Steiner honored for series, 'Words,'" April 3) was one-sided. It made no mention of the regular listeners to WYPR who found Mr. Steiner tiresome, and who are giving more money to the station precisely because he's not there anymore.

Dan Rodricks is doing a fine job from noon to 2 p.m.

The show is about the guests now, not the host.

Kathleen Truelove


Scorning shelters a callous attitude

The person who answers "no" when asked, "Do you think we should help the homeless?" is generally thought to be rather heartless. However, the true test of sincerity goes much deeper than a simple yes or no answer to that question.

The test may come when the mayor asks for a community's cooperation in an emergency effort to temporarily house 275 people in its neighborhood ("Dixon reassures group," March 31).

Two communities, one in Little Italy and one in the Guilford West area, have now recently failed such a test as they fought tooth and nail against Mayor Sheila Dixon's plans to shelter people.

I volunteered many hours at the city's winter shelter on Guilford Avenue. With staff on post at the end of each hallway and police at the door, the facility was always not only safe and orderly but, in fact, a pleasant place to be. And its impact on the community, in my experience, was minimal.

The facility represented a citywide effort to offer professional services to our most vulnerable residents.

Mayor Dixon has taken a political risk by standing firm in her efforts to help the homeless. She has committed to ending homelessness in 10 years ("The city presents a 10-year plan to address a chronic problem," Jan. 18).

Baltimoreans who truly believe in helping homeless people need to stand with her.

Ashley Biggs


The writer is a student at Loyola College.

Who has courage to call for a draft?

It is most alarming to read articles such as "War's growing strain worries Joint Chiefs" (March 27).

This fear of the military being worn thin has certainly been in evidence for some time. And it is disturbing to note that the problem could get worse given the demanding conditions in Iraq, Afghanistan, Iran and Pakistan, not to mention North Korea. It is disgraceful that the United States is not better prepared to meet this challenge.

On Nov. 26, 2006, The Sun published my letter, "Demand for troops may require draft," in which I stated the government must immediately act to help resolve this situation by giving the members of the volunteer military more choices about the kinds of technical training they will receive and by considering a draft system.

Unfortunately, we are still not properly prepared.

So I ask: Which of our politicians or our presidential candidates possesses the intestinal fortitude to place the salvation of our democratic way of life above the possibility that they would be committing political suicide if they dared mention the need for conscription?

Quinton D. Thompson


A baby elephant named 'Mickey D'?

Dan Rodricks' column "Zoo needs marketing ideas by trunkful" (March 30) touched on a conversation my daughter and I just had. And we think it is time for the zoo to recognize its need to produce revenue and develop better marketing.

We would gladly support the sale of naming rights to the baby elephant - and would enjoy seeing a little elephant named "Pepsi," "Little Mickey D" or "Sprint" earn money for the Maryland Zoo in Baltimore.

Or perhaps a well-known Baltimore athlete could contribute money to name the elephant after himself or herself, or after his or her child.

The naming rights should go to the highest bidder.

Judy Hoke


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