Save the PoniesEditor: In response to Eirik A. T. Blom's...


March 01, 1992

Save the Ponies

Editor: In response to Eirik A. T. Blom's Feb. 5 Opinion * Commentary article, ''Get Rid of the Ponies,'' I would hate to believe that a ''biologist'' employed to project our national wildlife would create a not-so-genuine story of getting rid of the ponies.

After all, these ponies are part of the wildlife, along with the countless deer sharing the island.

The ponies are the largest free-roaming herd of wild ponies east of the Mississippi, something we should be proud of and should try to protect.

Maybe Maryland should take care of its wild herd like the volunteer firemen of Chincoteague. Sure, Chincoteague relies on the tourism. Yes, Chincoteague has shops named for the ponies, but the only burger-joint on Chincoteague has no resemblance whatsoever to Misty or to any other pony. This burger-joint only resembles a golden arch.

The ponies are a tourist attraction and, as such, the firemen are preserving a part of our history -- whether real or apocryphal. The firemen round-up the ponies twice a year to have them treated and inoculated against diseases by a licensed veterinarian. They are branded with an ''F'' so the firemen can keep total control of the ponies.

A camping trip to Assateague National Park or Assateague State Park is all one needs to understand much of the problem. The humans are much more of a biological pollutant than the ponies.

These humans trample the precious dune grasses more in a given day than ponies. Much worse is the trash the humans leave behind. (At least the ponies respect the land that gives them sustenance).

As for the fenced-in areas where you can find grasses knee- to waist-high, these protect the grasses from humans as well as from ponies.

If Maryland wants to get rid of the ponies because it is unable to care for them, then do get rid of the deer and the humans.

That would create a jewel. But a jewel no future generation could enjoy for its history, mystique and beauty.

Ellen J. Wanner.


Maryland's Unemployment Insurance

Editor: A response is in order to Michael Olesker's column of Feb. 5, which criticized the unemployment insurance program of the Department of Economic and Employment Development because of the unfortunate experience of one young woman.

I would like to begin by agreeing that our system is not perfect and, by its nature, is bureaucratic. In calendar year 1991, the state collected $157 million in contributions from more than 110,000 Maryland companies, and paid nearly $510 million in benefits to 150,000 unemployed workers. This mammoth task was accomplished in accordance with a great deal of federal and state laws and regulations.

In November, we notified 45,000 Marylanders that they could be eligible for Emergency Unemployment Compensation benefits. On Feb. 7, President Bush signed into law the second round of emergency benefits, which will be of great help to thousands of Marylanders who are still struggling with the effects of the recession.

The recession has proven to be a severe strain on our economy and on the unemployment insurance system and trust fund. We have added 78 staff persons, hiring from our own roster of unemployed workers, in the last five weeks to help with the crush loads.

But I have been very impressed, in the midst of it all, that our people on the front lines have remained dedicated and committed to doing the best jobs they can to help those out of work.

We are trying to become more and more automated, to serve more people more efficiently. Some day, people will be able to register for unemployment insurance by telephone. Our challenge today is to move 90 percent of the people through the system faster -- without failing those who have extenuating issues and need special attention.

The situation about which Mr. Olesker wrote was unfortunate. We have met with the young woman and have cleared up the misunderstanding over her availability for work. But I take great issue with the use of the term ''moron'' in your headline. This is very unfair to the 560 DEED staff members who are doing an excellent job under very difficult circumstances.

Treating our customers with courtesy and dignity is essential. People who have lost their jobs and have their lives and well-being at stake deserve our fullest attention and respect. It is our job to deliver not only the monetary benefits, but also the respect they deserve.

Mark L. Wasserman.


The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Economic and Employment Development.

Wrong Tree

Editor: Sara Engram (''Puppy Mills Breed a Problem,'' Feb. 2) is barking up the wrong tree in her objection to Rep. Ben Cardin's bill to reduce pup mill mistreatment of animals in pet commerce.

She is against the bill because it may possibly hinder private breeding (what's the difference?), especially that which is careless and uncaring.

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