Keno, environment dominate District 31 conference

March 07, 1993|By Peter Hermann | Peter Hermann,Staff Writer

All it took yesterday was a simple four-letter word to turn an otherwise pleasant discussion into a shouting match between residents and their state representatives.

Right at the end, when it appeared none of the 30 people who packed a small conference room at the Arundel Center North in Glen Burnie had anything else to say, someone mentioned "keno."

The ensuing argument, mainly between state Sen. Philip C. Jimeno, D-District 31, and a Pasadena truck driver, Leonard Paskoski, centered on the morality of Maryland reaping gambling benefits.

"If we're going to have gambling, why don't we look to prostitution and selling dope?" Mr. Paskoski said. "It's the same difference . . . What you're saying is it's all right to do anything as long as you make money off of dumb people."

Senator Jimeno, who voted last week against eliminating the controversial game introduced by Gov. William Donald Schaefer to help offset a $450 million deficit, said the state has little choice but to accept the new lottery.

"We don't have any options," he said. "We use gambling to balance the budget . . . I hate to find myself defending keno because I'm not fond of keno."

Del. Ray Huff, D-District 31, disputed that the game was immoral, saying figures prove it does not target people who can least afford to play.

"People who go out for dinner are playing it," Delegate Huff said.

"Instead of talking about the weather, they are playing two or three games. We're not hitting the poor people with this."

Senator Jimeno and Delegate Huff sponsored the forum of District 31 representatives to listen to their constituents midway through the legislative session.

Del. Joan Cadden, D-District 31, could not make it because of a vote in Annapolis. Del. Charles W. "Stokes" Kolodziejski, D-District 31, also was in Annapolis but arrived just as the meeting ended.

The representatives heard complaints and suggestions on everything from how to deal with terminally ill patients to how citizens can keep up with the 3,000 bills filed in the General Assembly annually.

Aside from keno, the environment took center stage. Some complained that Baltimore City uses Curtis Bay as a dumping ground for pollution-causing businesses. Others criticized the application of the Critical Areas law, designed to help save the Chesapeake Bay.

Carol Dancy, of Pasadena, complained that she just moved onto waterfront property and now is being restricted in what she can do on her lawn. "[The government] is taking our property," Ms. Dancy said. "And yet we still have to pay the tax bill. I have a brand new house in a brand new development, and I can't even use my back yard . . . Some of these laws are going overboard."

Ms. Dancy said she supports a state bill that would force the government to pay for private land when an agency won't let the owner use the property because of environmental concerns. Supporters of the bill say the government restrictions constitute a "taking," or condemnation of the land.

Senator Jimeno said a delicate balance must be struck to protect both the property owners and the environment. He said some entire communities have had their access cut off to the bay because of pollution.

"If we don't act on it now, you won't have waterfront property," he said.

But Barney Biancavilla, who lives in the Chelsea Beach community in Pasadena, said his community association planted grass on a sod bank that was eroding into the bay.

He said the county stopped the work, however, saying it violated the Critical Areas law because it wasn't the right type of grass.

"We want to protect the bay," Mr. Biancavilla said, adding that sod from the site continues to erode into the water. "But that's not good enough for you guys. You guys want it deluxe and we can't pay for it. We can't afford to get in the game."

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