Is highway expansion a threat to watershed?

The Sun's telling article about the plight of Mattawoman Creek emphasizes that land-use decisions are in the hands of local officials ("Highway threatens creek filled with life," April 7).

However, state and federal agencies have the permitting tools that can curtail destructive local policies.

In this case, Mattawoman Creek is threatened by a Charles County "development district" larger than the District of Columbia that blankets Maryland's most productive tributary to the largest estuary in the world, the Chesapeake Bay.

Calling the development of a huge, largely forested area "Smart Growth" attempts to greenwash with modern concepts a decades-old and outmoded plan for sprawl.

Re-evaluation of such plans is necessary to prevent us from forcing Mattawoman Creek and the bay over the brink.

Key to any such re-evaluation is reconsidering proposed highways that would add to sprawl, such as Charles County's Cross County Connector extension.

Remarkably, the Army Corps of Engineers and the Maryland Department of the Environment have not yet called for an environmental impact statement on the project.

An impact statement of proper scope would compare alternative options and reveal the true environmental and societal costs of this proposal.

Local officials seeking to protect aquatic resources and our quality of life need this information.

Jim Long


The writer is the coordinator of the Mattawoman Watershed Society.

A quotation in The Sun's article "Highway threatens creek filled with life" may have left readers with the impression that the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has already determined the environmental impact of the proposed Cross County Connector in Charles County.

We have not.

The corps follows a stringent public interest review process that carefully evaluates a project's impact using the best available data as part of the congressionally mandated permit review process.

That information, along with information collected through our permit process, will be used to fully and objectively evaluate this highway proposal.

Meg Gaffney-Smith


The writer is chief of the regulatory branch of the Baltimore district for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

Maryland has a long-standing goal of protecting the Chesapeake Bay. And yet, on April 7, I read in The Sun that the fishery in Mattawoman Creek, one of the bay's most important watersheds, could be sacrificed to meet the demands of sprawl-driven automobile traffic.

In a recent editorial, The Sun commends the environmental ethos of the legislature ("Wearing of the green," April 6).

And yet the legislature killed the Global Warming Solutions Act even after the state Senate transformed greenhouse gas reduction from an enforceable policy to a mere "goal" ("Panel kills bill to fight warming," April 8).

If Maryland continues its present course of talking the talk about environmental protection without walking the walk, we will impose the effects of global warming and increased pollution on our children and grandchildren and confirm that we, as the parents and grandparents of future generations, tried to delude ourselves with words and goals while ignoring the fact that we can't fool Mother Nature.

Charles Yoder


The writer is a member of the executive committee of the Sierra Club's Maryland chapter.

Crowding is killing Towson-area schools

It could not have been more appropriate that the continuation of The Sun's article "Schools to study Towson crowding" (April 9) was on the obituary page.

Overcrowding is killing our schools.

I moved to Rodgers Forge with my two sons six years ago so that they could be educated in one of the finest schools in Baltimore County.

My older son has a learning disability, yet he was nurtured and thrived there.

My younger son is now a fifth-grader in the gifted and talented track. But his classes have at least 30 students.

How can one teacher challenge these 30-plus gifted minds?

How dare Baltimore County schools Superintendent Joe A. Hairston accept a pay raise when my son is being taught in a trailer and has to traverse from trailer to trailer, whatever the weather.

Our children deserve better, and our teachers do as well.

Dawn Silverman


Board consigns kids to school squeeze

What a disappointment: The lack of leadership by the Baltimore County school board plays into the hands of the politicians who want to do nothing or as little as possible about the overcrowded schools in the Towson area ("Schools to study Towson crowding," April 9).

The big losers at Tuesday night's board meeting were the Towson schoolchildren who will be forced to suffer with unacceptably overcrowded schools for a larger percentage of their education.

Charles W. Bennett


The writer is the grandfather of three children who now attend or will attend Towson-area schools.

Training of teachers isn't the problem

What could be more ridiculous than The Sun's headline "Attack on city teacher highlights training gaps" (April 11)?

What the attack shows is the pathetic state of the student attacker, her family and perhaps her community.

Teachers do not need more training; they need a system that does not tolerate such attacks and that removes disruptive students from the classroom.

Unfortunately, it appears that most of the politicians feel that students need more things like anger management resources instead.

Jeff M. Schumer


Working to release Hope VI funding

The Sun's editorial "Hope for public housing" (April 7) may have incorrectly left readers with the impression that the Bush administration does not support the Hope VI program. Nothing could be further from the truth.

As the Department of Housing and Urban Development has said time and time again, our goal is to encourage communities that have received these highly competitive grants to build housing today, not tomorrow, and certainly not 10 years from now.

In communities such as Baltimore, Boston and Atlanta, Hope VI works in a timely manner.

Indeed, Baltimore has successfully used six Hope VI grants to replace antiquated, dense, drug-infested housing.

Unfortunately, Baltimore is one of the exceptions to the rule. In most cases, in cities around the country, the program has proved to be a slow vehicle for revitalizing distressed public housing.

More than $1.1 billion Congress has authorized for housing projects is sitting at Treasury, waiting for localities to build housing for those most in need.

While HUD has made progress in accelerating Hope VI development schedules, only 80 Hope VI projects out of the more than 230 approved have been completed.

HUD has tried to increase the spending rate, and has even asked Congress to take the money from communities that haven't spent it and provide it to communities such as Baltimore and Atlanta that have.

Our only goal is to force communities throughout the nation to spend the $1.1 billion allocated to build affordable-housing units. For that, we are guilty as charged.

Alphonso Jackson


The writer is the secretary of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

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