Out to LunchIf a tree falls in a forest and no one is...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

December 07, 1993

Out to Lunch

If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a noise?

The same might be asked of startling statements by public officials. If The Baltimore Sun does not report them, do they constitute news?

This is a large question when you consider that your reports feed the wire services and the talking heads of television. Are we at the complete mercy of a monopoly press?

Gov. William Donald Schaefer, in dedicating the Columbus Center's aquaculture research facility in Fells Point, came out in favor of a ban on oystering.

Some of us thought he was announcing one, with details to follow. A colleague taking notes said the quote was "we ought to ban oystering and give them a rest."

Either way it was a remark worth at least passing mention in a Maryland newspaper, considering its source.

The Sun reported the dedication the next day on the front page, but for some reason the most succulent part was missing. The governor had even speculated on how crazy some people would think his statement when they read it in the next day's papers.

The Sun didn't give them a chance. William Donald Schaefer may be the last person in the world to give lessons on the role of a free press in a democratic society, but when he tried the other day, the press was out to lunch.

Robert Keith

Baltimore

Terrified

The sentence ''One-party rule is working'' in your Nov. 26 editorial, ''The Year of No Gridlock,'' should have terrified every citizen who read it. One-party rule works well only for tyrants and their followers, who use it as a tool to control the people. I lived in the Philippines when Ferdinand Marcos seized power, and I saw how easily people can lose their rights and freedoms.

Two-party rule works best in free nations. You can bet one-party rule worked in the Soviet Union for those in power. They sure didn't experience gridlock or opposition. Now you want to celebrate the lack of a real opposition in the House and Senate.

What you call gridlock or obstructionism, many of us see as a chance to hammer out a better solution or to block harmful legislation that sounds good only in political sound bites. Too many puppy-dog Democrats (and some Republicans) in Congress are panting to pass almost anything the powers in Washington decree is good. But what is good for the powers in Washington can be bad for most of us Americans. The cable bill, the Hatch Act changes, and the phony deficit reduction bill come to mind.

Let's stop knocking those who oppose the tax-and-spend steamroller in Washington nowadays, and instead pray that we can restore the two-party system in America.

Allan C. Stover

Ellicott City

County Cheats Its Workers

Once again, Baltimore County government has exhibited blatant disregard for its work force and for basic fairness.

In a recent action by the Board of Trustees of the Employees Retirement System, the county has transferred an annual $2.1 million in costs from the county's operating budget onto the back of the retirement system.

Any attempt to save tax dollars and exercise fiscal responsibility should be seriously considered. However, the decision to shift costs from the general operating budget onto the retirement system raises serious questions. We ask you to consider the following statistics.

First, prior to this action, Baltimore County contributed less, in terms of percentage of covered payroll, to employee pensions than any major jurisdiction in Maryland.

The range of employer contributions statewide ranged from 83.32 percent to Baltimore County's aggregate contribution of 6.46 percent. Most employer contributions fall between the 12-20 percent range.

Second, Baltimore County employees contribute more out of their own pockets toward pension benefits than employees in any other jurisdiction.

Third, the benefits afforded to Baltimore County employees are among the lowest in the region.

Fourth, over the past decade, both in terms of percentage of payroll and in actual dollars, the county's contribution toward retirement benefits has dropped precipitously.

In 1984, Baltimore County government contributed over $16 million to retirement benefits. As a result of the trustees' recent action, next fiscal year the county's contribution will most assuredly slip to under $10 million.

Lastly, and not surprisingly, in the same period the employees' contributions rose proportionally. Baltimore County is now the only major jurisdiction in which employees contribute more toward retirement costs than the employer.

Our analysis of the situation is fairly simple. The county executive and his minions are oblivious to the plight of the work force. Fairness and equity is all that we ask.

During Roger B. Hayden's tenure, county employees have not been granted any cost-of-living increases but have been forced to double their contributions for Blue Cross and Blue Shield coverage.

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