Clearing the Air on Emissions TestingYour editorial...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 10, 1992

Clearing the Air on Emissions Testing

Your editorial "Sharing Clean Air Costs" in The Sun (July 31) indicates a serious misunderstanding of the emission inspection industry in the United States and, particularly, the Maryland Vehicle Emissions Inspection Program (VEIP) as currently operated.

Many of the facts stated in the editorial simply are not true.

Envirotest Technologies Inc., a Bethesda-based company and the successor of Systems Control Inc., is the current operator of the VEIP. Your representation that Envirotest "earns" $7 million a year from the VEIP is simply not true. That figure relates only to revenues received per year.

Earnings are substantially less than revenues because we pay operating expenses such as payroll for the over 100 Maryland citizens we employ and property taxes paid to Baltimore City and each of the counties in which our facilities are located. Our earnings are a fraction of the $7 million figure.

Your editorial says Envirotest was the sole bidder for the contract, implying that the state overpaid for the contract. Four or five companies participated in the bid process, and two submitted bids. In 1988, the Maryland Department of Transportation felt Envirotest's bid was the only responsive bid. Envirotest did not anticipate this would happen and submitted the lowest bid possible in order to retain the contract.

It is significant that no other state with a centralized VEIP operated by an independent contractor owns the sites and facilities. Indeed, some states, such as New Jersey, that own and operate their own VEIP system are looking to privatize it entirely.

Moreover, under existing state legislation, the transportation department has no authority to own VEIP facilities operated by an independent contractor.

State ownership of the VEIP sites and facilities is no guarantee that the procurement will result in a better Maryland program. What is certain is that the taxpayers of the state will suffer because of the unnecessary expenditures of state funds.

You correctly observed that the legislators werer right in questioning the "limited financial analysis of DOT's $60 million plan" and its failure to show that "direct state ownership is cheaper than private ownership."

As a 20-year Maryland resident, I fully support the efforts of the state of Maryland to clean our air. But I must confess I was as shocked as the members of the legislative committee to learn the transportation department intends to spend $60 million, at a time when state funds are scarce and priorities are being sharply trimmed, with no consultation, no authority, no knowledge of what was happening in other states, and no firm facts to support a guess that this might lower the cost of the program.

Chester Davenport

Bethesda

B6 The writer is chairman of Envirotest Systems Corp.

Blind Hatred

The Baltimore Jewish Council, representing more than 50 synagogues and Jewish organizations, strongly condemns the policy of "ethnic cleansing" which is being conducted in the midst of Yugoslavia's civil war.

This blatant violation of international human rights -- the forcible removal of people from their homes, the subsequent systematic erasure of all symbols of nationality (churches, monuments and graves), torture and imprisonment of those who resist -- is being conducted by all sides in this conflict: Serbs, Croats and Muslims.

For the Jewish community, such blind hatred of the "other" inevitably recalls the atrocities of the Nazi Holocaust. These painful memories prompt us to urge a vigorous response by the United States and the United Nations.

Sanford V. Teplitzky

Baltimore

H

The writer is president of the Baltimore Jewish Council.

Not Emperor

In "The Almanac" section of The Sun (July 12), we were informed that "the Roman Emperor Julius Caesar" was born on that date in the year 100 B. C.

Wrong. Julius Caesar never was emperor.

He may have had such an ambition, but if so, it was thwarted by the Ides of March assassination.

It was his great-nephew, Gaius Julius Caesar Octavianus (63 B.C.-A.D. 14), better know by the title Augustus awarded him by the Roman Senate, who was the first Roman emperor.

Gordon H. Himmer

Baltimore

How Olympians Inspired and Embarrassed Us

In The Sun of July 30, there is a most inspiring quote.

It personifies the way Americans should look at themselves, their problems, the country's problems and the attitude we should encompass to solve our problems. The quote is buried on page 14 in the Sports section. No story follows about it, no column, no commentary. But the quote is chilling.

It comes from Betty Okino, a young gymnast on the American team, who was doing quite well in the Olympics. She was responding to reporters, who asked her how it feels to be one of two Afro-Americans on the U.S. women's gymnastic team.

Ms. Okino simply states, "I consider myself an American, not a color."

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