The Baltimore Sun

Franchot is right to reject slots

It is ridiculous for Gov. Martin O'Malley to say that Comptroller Peter Franchot's stance on slots is hypocritical ("Rhetoric heating in slots battle," April 17).

It's true that as a state delegate, Mr. Franchot did support slots. But then he studied the issue.

That's when he discovered that the gambling industry and slots proponents were not being truthful about the revenue and job figures.

He learned that the social costs from slot machine gambling would outweigh the revenues they would generate and that the sheer number of Marylanders who would be devastated by slots just wasn't worth the price.

So one wonders why the governor is trying to hurt the people of Maryland to pander to the gambling industry.

Three cheers for Mr. Franchot for researching the issue and changing his mind.

Barbara Knickelbein, Glen Burnie

The writer is co-chairwoman of NoCasiNo Maryland.

Slots wrong fix for budget woes

Reporters Laura Smitherman and Bradley Olson's article "Rhetoric heating in slots battle" (April 17) accurately described the political rhetoric concerning slots. And that's what it is - rhetoric.

Bringing slots to Maryland will not do much to improve Maryland's budget problems.

Gambling revenues are declining in Las Vegas casinos, in Atlantic City, N.J., and throughout the U.S.

At the same time, Maryland's economy is unstable, the 2007 special session imposed new taxes on us and Marylanders face foreclosures, escalating energy bills, rising food costs, etc.

The bottom line is: Maryland citizens' money is running out.

In the 2007 special session, the governor and Maryland legislature neglected their duty to be good stewards of our hard-earned money.

It's time for the governor and legislature to take seriously their responsibility to improve the fiscal performance of state agencies by addressing the state auditors' reports that document serious infractions of state laws and regulations governing state accounting practices and clearly show waste and misuse of millions of dollars of taxpayers money.

Dick Johnson, Catonsville

Banning cell phones makes schools safer

One way to ease the potential for school violence would be to prohibit cell phones on school grounds ("Attack highlights 'chronic problem,'" April 13).

That way, no one would be tempted to pull some foolish prank simply to get his or her cell phone video on YouTube.

Drug-dealing on school grounds might also be hampered by a ban on cell phones.

Ben Cohen, Owings Mills

Epidemic of STDs no laughing matter

Apparently, sending out hoax letters on city letterhead that say that the recipient has a sexually transmitted disease is someone's idea of a joke ("Police investigate false STD notification letters," April 17).

STDs are no laughing matter.

More than 70 million Americans are infected with some form of a sexually transmitted infection. These include diseases such as AIDS, chlamydia, gonorrhea, syphilis, herpes, HPV and more.

This "joke" has been covered widely by the local media, and Baltimore-area young people have heard about it.

Parents should use this situation as a teaching opportunity to talk to their kids about sex and STDs.

They need to know more about STDs, how they are contracted and how they can be avoided.

Teaching young people risk-avoidance offers a positive message that gives them hope and options for a healthy future.

Dr. Gary Rose, Austin, Texas

The writer is president and CEO of the Medical Institute.

Talking to Hamas is a positive step

Michael B. Kraft's criticism of former President Jimmy Carter's plans to meet with Hamas is founded on wishful thinking or worse ("Carter lifts terrorists, undercuts peace," Commentary, April 17).

I abhor Hamas' decision to target innocent civilians and fire rockets on Israeli towns.

However, pigeonholing Hamas will not undo the fact that its leaders were elected by a clear majority of Palestinians and that they have the resources to fight.

And if peace doesn't come through talks, how will it come about?

Evidently, the current Israeli strategy is to inflict pain on Palestinians - civilians and fighters alike - until they say "uncle."

While Hamas targets towns and kills a few civilians a year, Israel claims to target only "terrorists" with powerful rockets but kills hundreds of civilians annually.

Meanwhile, Israelis build illegal settlements on the Palestinians' land.

Peace must come through talks with the enemy and through compromise with the enemy.

Neither Israel nor Palestine is going away, no matter how much some people on both sides of the conflict fantasize that this could happen.

Charlie Cooper, Baltimore

Defying Israel lobby will promote peace

Former President Jimmy Carter should be applauded for meeting with the leader of Hamas ("Carter lifts terrorists, undercuts peace," Commentary, April 17).

Finally, an American president shows the strength and fortitude to break free from the iron grip the Israel lobby has on our government and make a real step toward an honest and fair dialogue about the Arab-Israeli conflict.

Paul Baroody, Baltimore

Misusing transit funds compromises our future

As The Sun has noted ("Highway robbery," editorial, April 14), the state's timing in undercutting the transportation investments needed to serve those moving here to fill the influx of new jobs to the region related to the base realignment and closure process and other important highway and transit projects couldn't be worse.

Legislative action to siphon $50 million a year from the transportation trust fund for the next five years only aggravates the "shortsighted thievery" that has gone on for more than two decades as more than $1 billion has been transferred from the transportation trust fund into the general fund to balance the state budget.

Monies raided by the most recent previous administration totaled more than $538 million, and the money The Sun says is "gradually being returned" does not include $223 million in local highway user funds taken by the state that could have been used by county governments.

And it should be noted that the funds currently earmarked for return to the transportation fund over the next three years are mandated to be used for only one project, the Intercounty Connector that will link Interstate 270 in Montgomery County with Interstate 95.

Motorists are justifiably incensed when the transportation trust fund is raided to spend gas tax revenues collected at the pump for general fund expenses, not tangible transportation projects.

The failure of leadership on this issue is clear.

Proposals to raise the gas tax or link it to the inflation rate could be viewed as sound public policy, but only if the governor and the legislature act to create a constitutional firewall that requires, within a reasonable time-frame, the repayment of transportation trust fund dollars that have been transferred to the general fund to balance the budget.

John R. Leopold, Annapolis

The writer is county executive of Anne Arundel County.

The Sun's editorial "Highway robbery" points out that not enough money is going to meet our transportation needs. But we are also spending our money in the wrong way.

Oil prices have greatly increased since production stopped growing several years ago. World oil discoveries peaked in 1964, and we've been pumping more oil than we discover since 1980. Oil production will soon enter decline.

Our current traffic problems will then be replaced with a new one: how to provide for mobility with less energy.

It no longer makes sense to expand our highway system. Indeed, we will soon have trouble enough maintaining our current roads as the price of asphalt, concrete and steel are pushed higher by rising oil prices.

The Sun complains that lawmakers took $50 million per year for the next five years out of the transportation trust fund to help balance the budget. But note that the Intercounty Connector takes more than $1.2 billion from the transportation fund and $265 million more from the state's general fund and that the state has pledged another $750 million in bonds that dedicate future transit funding to paying for the ICC - all for a road that the state's own study confirms would increase traffic on Interstate 270, Interstate 495 and Interstate 95.

We need more transit, not more highways. The ICC is the biggest diversion of funds away from our real transportation needs

Gov. Martin O'Malley could kill the ICC tomorrow if he cared to.

If he thinks about energy security, that shouldn't be a hard decision.

Carl Henn, Rockville

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