Tallying Votes Against SmokeAs the president of the...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 27, 1994

Tallying Votes Against Smoke

As the president of the Maryland Group Against Smokers Pollution (GASP), a growing volunteer, non-profit organization with more than 1,000 members statewide, I am writing an open letter to the members of the Maryland General Assembly to solicit support on behalf of legislation to:

* Limit the placement of tobacco vending machines so that our children cannot have access to them.

* Strengthen the laws to punish merchants who sell tobacco products to children.

* Create smoke-free public places and work places so that non-smokers will not be exposed to environmental tobacco smoke (ETS).

* Increase the state excise tax on tobacco products to help compensate for the tremendous financial burden the use of these products places on the state.

Maryland GASP believes that legislation of this nature is both pro-health and pro-child protection. We do not want to eliminate the use of tobacco by adults but we do want to eliminate its use in public places when others are exposed. We also want to eliminate the use of tobacco by our children. We believe that over 30 years of surgeons general and EPA reports establishing tobacco as the number one public health problem and ETS as a class "A" carcinogen clearly dictates the need for such legislation.

We now have sufficient resources to monitor the voting records of all the General Assembly members on all tobacco-related legislation. We are going to create a score card which we will distribute to our members, the state health organizations, medical doctors, the media, religious and civic organizations statewide so that it can be used as a criterion in casting votes in the coming election. . . .

John H. O'Hara

Bowie

Mixed Use

In regards to mixed use zoning: Howard County is a small county with a limited land base remaining. Changes in land use should be done carefully. Decisions should not be experimental nor should they be reached hurriedly. . . . Their adoption will have a lasting impact on the citizens of the county both as to quality of life and cost of county government. Should not the citizens have some say in what kind of county we become?

In the case of mixed use, I have heard no outcry from the public that it favors this change. The thrust for mixed use seems to come mainly from the planners and the county government with no doubt some assistance from the development industry.

One of the reasons given for going to mixed use is that we need more commercial to balance our residential growth. Strangely enough, in the last two years, the Zoning Board, with the $H ZTC apparent blessing of the county executive, has been busily approving the change of considerable acres of commercial to residential.

The next statement has been that mixed use will provide us with more moderate-income housing. Now let us examine this point: The Human Services Department has stated that it could have provided more low-income housing if the federal government had not pulled back on the funding. Do we know how much funding the federal government is going to provide Howard County? Can we not assume that any shortfall will have to be borne by the county taxpayers?

The county government seems to be determined to ignore the wishes of the public. To continue in this direction can cause nothing but ill-feeling to the detriment of the entire county. The county needs to rethink mixed use. The public needs to be part of that process.

Ridgely Jones

Sykesville

School Discipline

A veritable ground swell of letters have appeared on the pages of The Sun for Howard County concerning the Howard County schools. The central issue raised has been a cry for improvement in the administration of discipline in our schools. This is not a black vs. white issue. . . . Discipline is an issue which is germane to the very on-going of society and cuts across all racial and ethnic lines. We do a disservice to ourselves, our youth and our community when we resort to racial labels and negativism rather than consider the message and seek to find the value to be gained from it. Yet, in our deliberations, we must remain vigilant for opportunities to improve cross-cultural and interracial understanding and cooperation.

But that is not enough. Our exploration of the message must be done with an open mind. We ought to admit that our schools are faced with discipline problems and that the problems are not isolated in our schools alone. Their manifestation in our schools, however, affect other students negatively and become barriers to learning for the disruptive as well as those who harbor a strong desire for learning.

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