Aiding the economy, protecting the planet
As The Sun has reported, lobbyists representing industry and labor succeeded in smothering a bill before the General Assembly that would have committed Maryland to reducing the state's greenhouse gas emissions by 25 percent by 2020 ("Panel kills bill to fight warming," April 8).
With the death of this bill went Maryland's opportunity to be on the forefront of the greenhouse gas mitigation movement.
Regardless of the outcome of November's election, Congress is likely to enact a greenhouse gas bill of some kind in the next year or two.
The upshot for Maryland businesses is that the defeat of the state's greenhouse gas reduction bill does little more than postpone the inevitable.
The precise terms of a federal policy would likely differ from those of the bill that was under consideration by the General Assembly. But both would surely require some degree of greenhouse gas reductions, and thus their impact on Maryland businesses would be similar.
The real difference, however, is that by undertaking greenhouse gas mitigation efforts now, Maryland businesses would have had a head start on reducing their greenhouse gas emissions by the time a federal policy is enacted.
Maryland businesses could have used this head start to examine their operations and find ways of achieving energy efficiency and other means of cost-effective, relatively pain-free emissions reductions.
This learning opportunity would give Maryland businesses a significant competitive advantage over businesses in other states, many of which would not begin reducing their greenhouse gas emissions until a federal policy was enacted.
The defeat of Maryland's carbon emissions bill is just another rendition of the tired old tale of pitting economic progress against environmental protection. Contrary to the rhetoric of industry and labor lobbyists, however, these two objectives need not be mutually exclusive.
And the fact is that as the environment's capacity to withstand further economic development is being pushed to a breaking point, it will be necessary to find ways to pursue economic progress and environmental protection in mutually reinforcing ways.
The writer is an environmental lawyer and a graduate student at the University of Maryland School of Public Policy.
Judge overlooked epidemic of abuse
As Baltimore reels with shock and horror over the deaths of Anthony, Austin and Athena Castillo, the media often repeat the phrase "bitter custody battle," as if that is the explanation for their deaths ("Service honors young victims," April 6).
But imagine for a moment that a mugging in a dark alley at night was called a "bitter wallet dispute." Wouldn't that distort the reality of who the real victim is in that situation?
Newspapers use equalizing language such as "bitter custody battle" and call disputes over children's safety "he said-she said" debates, and public concern evaporates in a fog of indifference.
"Oh well, that's how divorcing couples are," people think.
But the phenomenon of violent abusers co-opting children for vengeance against a spouse who rejected him has become a growing epidemic in our country.
At the Web site my organization runs, a new case of a child trapped into unsupervised contact with a violent offender comes to our attention several times a week from every state of the country.
Yet when a Maryland judge heard Amy Castillo repeat the threats of death that her ex-husband had made against her and the children, the judge apparently did not recognize this pattern so familiar to the child abuse and domestic violence community.
Let's hope that the next time a Maryland judge hears a protective parent pleading with the court for the health and safety of a child, he or she will remember the Castillo children, look beyond "he said-she said" and think: "Is this a case of 'he said-she dead'?" Or, even more tragically, "he said-three beautiful children dead'?"
The writer is a child psychologist and president of the Leadership Council on Child Abuse and Interpersonal Violence.
Schaefer built own monuments
I felt terrible when I read that the proposed monument to former Gov. William Donald Schaefer had been stopped ("Plans for statue of Schaefer crumble," April 8).
Then, I thought: Wherever you look in Maryland, and especially in Baltimore, you see a monument to Mr. Schaefer.
Harborplace alone stands as a monument to him.
He has done so much for this state. It's a pity that, at the end of his political career, he has had so much nasty propaganda directed against him.
I, for one, appreciate everything this wonderful man has done in his career.
Hotel spending isn't out of line
While I deeply appreciate the hard work of reporting, I was disappointed that The Sun's article on spending by state legislators on lodging only skimmed the surface of its subject ("Legislators living near capital defend billing state for lodging," April 5).
The headline and first paragraphs were sensationalistic, getting our hearts pumping over yet another example of excess at the public trough.
However, on closer examination, I must confess that I was impressed by the restraint shown by our legislators.
Having worked for the supposedly more efficient private sector for more than 30 years, I found the expenditures the article reported laughably modest.
After all, these elected officials are forced to deal with thousands of complex issues, attend constant meetings, hear from their constituents, deal with the press and work early and late over a compact 90-day period.
The legislator who was reported to be spending the most for lodging had, in fact, spent just a little more than $100 a day.
This for a legislator who chairs a committee and works early and late and weekends.
I certainly wouldn't want to leave work late at night in Annapolis to drive home, sometimes in the worst weather that time of year has to offer. And, in fact, most of the legislators don't stay in the Annapolis area but go home.
Our politicians are constantly scrutinized and suspected. Let's at least be fair.
Maxine L. Saunders
New products replace trans fats
Some New York City bakers have voiced concerns similar to those voiced by Sharon Hoehn Hooper of Hoehn's Bakery ("Trans-fat ban has bakery worried," April 2).
I should know. I run New York City's Trans Fat Help Center, which was established to give restaurants and bakeries technical support in phasing out artificial trans fat.
New York's restriction on baking with artificial trans fat goes into effect on July 1. But many bakers here are successfully using new "zero grams trans fat" baking margarines and shortenings already.
These forward-thinking businesses are a diverse group, and include many family-owned third- and fourth-generation places like Hoehn's Bakery.
Italian, Caribbean, Chinese, kosher and classic American-style bakeries have quietly made the switch without a word of complaint from customers.
New Yorkers can now even buy "zero grams trans fat" doughnuts from street vendors. The new doughnuts look and taste the same as ever, and have the same shelf life.
That said, bakers need to understand that the new "zero grams trans fat" products are just that - new.
And from the extensive testing we've done on them, we know that different brands vary quite a bit.
Bakers will need time to familiarize themselves with them and find the brands best for their recipes.
Very often a first choice works fine on the first try. But if it doesn't, bakers simply need to try again, tinkering with their formulas if necessary.
But let's remember that artificial trans fat isn't just a little bad for us. It's terrible.
And it's completely unnatural.