Reject term limitation
From: Jim Kraft
Limiting the number of terms that any elected official may serve is not an act of empowerment for the people of this county, state or nation. It does, in fact, deliberately take their constitutionally protected fundamental right to vote from them.
Voters all over the country are "taking their government back" by defeating at the polls those elected officials who they feel are not responding to their needs or are abusing their position of trust.
We need look no further than Howard County and the election of 1990 to see numerous examples of the "voters in action."
Even more recently, on March 3, the people of the 6th Congressional District "took back" their seat from Beverly Byron.
Voter turnout continues to fall in this country. In what has been called the world's greatest participatory democracy, not only are we failing to participate, but we are also attempting to find ways that make it unnecessary for us to participate.
What is wrong with this picture?
The New York Times reported on April 15 that in the 20 presidential primaries held from February through April 7, only 29.3 percent of those eligible to vote actually voted. If elected officials are not held responsible to the voters, who will bother to vote at all? Only the activists, the political junkies and those who want something or have something to gain.
Where did this recent term limitation movement originate? It has been a prime objective of the Republican National Committee for over 10 years -- the same Republican National Committee that wanted to repeal the 22nd Amendment to the United States Constitution so that they could attempt to reelect Ronald Reagan in perpetuity. You cannot have it both ways.
The arguments made in Janet Sloan's most recent letter to the Columbia Flier are interesting. She likens the motivations of career politicians to those of workers in the private sector -- "job security, money, benefits and power." She criticizes "a sea of red ink, inefficient bureaucracies immune to change . . . social, moral and economic decay."
Her position, however, smacks of the proverbial "throwing out the baby with the bath water."
The real issue, whether in dealing with government, business, or industry, is that "eternal vigilance is the price of freedom." We will not get better government by giving up our control over whom we elect and how long they serve. We will not get more responsible corporations and businesses by ignoring how they operate.
Our responsibility and our duty as members of this participatory democracy lies in the term itself. We must participate because our responsibilities and our duties in the democracy are without limit.
(Jim Kraft is the chairman of the Democratic Forum.)
Landfill crusader evolves
From: L. Scott Muller
I want to apologize to county residents for my short-sightedness. I have seen the light. I have evolved.
When I started in the crusade to prevent the expansion of Alpha Ridge Landfill last September, my sole purpose was to get the county government to honor the pledge made in 1978 that the landfill would not be expanded, would close by the year 2000, and be turned into a park.
It was on the basis of this promise that we, and so many others, made the decision to purchase a home in the vicinity of the landfill -- so just put the landfill somewhere else!
Months were spent sifting through boxes of documents provided by the valiant neighbors who unsuccessfully fought the original landfill. Finally, I located the promise, in writing, to respond to County Executive Charles Ecker's assertion that no promises were ever made, and certainly not in writing.
As I searched the records, talked to people, and researched landfills, I learned quite a bit about landfills and their impact on the environment.
I learned about construction methods, hydrology, leachate and runoff, pollutants, and more. And now I am scared.
I know that this is not a NIMBY (not in my backyard) issue. This county has no business expanding Alpha Ridge Landfill or constructing another landfill elsewhere. We are leaving future generations a legacy of our stored castoffs -- imperfectly stored so that for decades the impact on ground water and the environment will grow only greater and a massive cleanup will become inevitable.
All three landfills in Howard County (Alpha Ridge, New Cut Road, and Carr's Mill) have been found to have contaminated ground water, and the current facility is poisoning the Little Patuxent River.
This past weekend, I had the opportunity to piggyback with the )) Windstar environmental group in an Earth Day exhibit at the Columbia Mall and display graphic pictures of the environmental disaster known as Alpha Ridge and its effect on the Little Patuxent River -- pictures which Councilwoman Shane Pendergrass referred to during council discussions of Alpha Ridge as "very compelling."