Look before leaping on the tax cap
As a resident of Baltimore County all of my life and as a property taxpayer in Baltimore County for the last 26 years, I am writing to express my concern over the proposed 2 percent cap on property taxes that we will be asked to vote on Nov. 6.
As a taxpayer I am as concerned as anyone else at the way my property taxes have risen over the years. However, until a feasible alternative is found, I do not believe a 2 percent cap is the answer.
Many people do not have the real information on what the 2 percent cap would mean. This is not a cap on assessments or on the property tax rate but a cap on the total amount of revenue that can be raised through the property tax. Assessments will go up. Inflation will continue at 5.4 percent or above. While it may mean a savings of approximately $60 to the taxpayer whose home is worth $95,000, this is a drop in the bucket compared to what it will mean to Baltimore County in terms of dollars in lost revenue per year. Approximately $30 million will have to be pared from the budget if this revenue is lost.
The first thing that will be affected will be services to the community. Where once we had our trash picked up twice a week, perhaps it will only be picked up once a week. Senior centers will have to have hours of operation cut; we won't see as many policemen on the street and God help us if we have an emergency. Instead of calling 911 and requesting an ambulance, we may have to call a private company to provide this service. The areas where this money will be trimmed from the budget are too numerous to mention.
My only purpose in writing this letter is to try to let all concerned residents of Baltimore County know what is in store for us if this 2 percent cap passes on Election Day. Please vote no to Question T on Nov. 6. If it wins we all lose.
Mary Ellen Schmidt
Two recent letters concerning gun control need a reply.
Michael Reed deplored The Evening Sun's use of the tragic murder of Billy Winebrenner to editorialize for tougher gun control (Forum, Sept. 24). Mr. Reid maintained that what is needed is to get tough on crime with stiffer sentences and no parole for repeat offenders, and that gun control does nothing to reduce crime.
He is half right. We certainly need to make it tougher on repeat offenders. However, we also have to make it tougher for people like Winebrenner's murderer to obtain a gun as easily as he did. Getting tough on criminals and gun control go hand in hand.
Mr. Reid uses the tired old example of New York and D.C. as gun control cities with high crime rates, and inadvertently makes a good argument for national gun control. Two bills pending in Congress speak directly to these issues. The Brady bill calls for a national seven-day waiting period for background checks on handgun purchases and another bill calls for a federal ban on certain types of assault weapons. The majority of Americans, including the major police organizations in this country, support stronger gun control. It is time for Congress to follow the majority of the country and pass both bills.
In a related letter on Sept. 28. Ronald Dowling states that the 48 percent of people who voted against Maryland's Saturday Night Special law are still out there. Mr. Dowling mistakenly overstated this total, as that law was passed with a clear majority of 58 to 42 percent, and those 58 percent are also still out there.
The writer is corresponding secretary of Marylanders Against Handgun Abuse.
Locker room equity
Lisa Olson, a Boston Herald sportswriter, has charged that several New England Patriots made lewd suggestions while she conducted a locker room interview. These men were guilty of sexual harassment.
In order to achieve true sexual equality, male reporters should be allowed to question female athletes in their locker rooms.
Mediate in the gulf
President Bush's and Saddam Hussein's "unchangeable" positions are typical of disputes that professional negotiators mediate every day. Their "we're-not-giving-in" attitude is so common that it is part of the subtitle of a classic work on negotiation by the Harvard Negotiation Project, "Getting to yes." The subtitle is: "Negotiating Agreement Without Giving In."
The book highlights the fact that even though disputants may start with cast-in-concrete positions, professional mediators have the unique knowledge and ability to help them, through a delicate process of interaction, to distinguish the relative value of their positions and their long-term interests, and so to open a window of opportunity for agreement. Indeed, the process of negotiation frequently reveals acceptable resolutions that never would have surfaced without this dialogue.