Sophocleus' Candidacy and the Pension Debacle. . . Former...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 07, 1994

Sophocleus' Candidacy and the Pension Debacle

. . . Former Anne Arundel County Councilman Ted Sophocleus is now officially a candidate for county executive. In political circles, he is considered the front-runner. This absolutely amazes me. Does Mr. Sophocleus sincerely believe that the voters of this county have forgotten or forgiven him for voting for the now infamous 1989 pension law, which reduced the retirement age for certain county officials from 62 to 50, including Mr. Sophocleus and his wife, who was also on the county payroll as an aide to her husband?

This pension bill has cost Anne Arundel County taxpayers dearly ($16 million over the next eight years), economically and in a renewed lack of confidence in public officials. Think of the number of textbooks that we could have bought for the young people of this county. Teachers are using textbooks from the '70s. The people of Anne Arundel County have not forgotten. . . .

We voters have not heard one word from Mr. Sophocleus explaining why he hired his wife, why he voted for the pension and why they continue to collect these pensions. The only thing that I have seen reported is that Mr. Sophocleus blames the pension commission for not properly advising him on the pension bill.

Didn't he read the bill and understand before he voted? Of course, he did. As a county councilman, it should have been obvious to him that this bill was not in the best interests of the people of this county. . . .

How can we trust him to be a watchdog for county finances over the next four years? This is a moral issue which goes to the very heart of the qualifications of Mr. Sophocleus and the other politicians who participated in this scam.

This pension bill was passed toward the end of the Lighthizer administration and lobbied heavily by Robert Agee, another Democratic candidate for county executive. How is it that two of the individuals most responsible for one of the most scandalous debacles in county legislative history have emerged as candidates for our highest office? And how is it that in political circles, Mr. Sophocleus is the favorite? That doesn't speak highly of the political circles. . . .

Robert A. Silkworth

Millersville

Needed: Community Schools

The Committee for Neighborhood Schools, drawn largely from the Folger McKinsey and Severna Park communities, has developed a set of principles that we feel should be followed by the Anne Arundel County school board and the 12-member redistricting committee appointed by the school board in any redistricting plan being considered. These principles have been endorsed unanimously by the Greater Severna Park Council and by many homeowners associations and community groups in Anne Arundel County. The following is a somewhat abbreviated version of our proposals:

* Community-based education. First and foremost, we support the concept of community-based education, which we define as the parents, the schools, the teachers, the children, local civic, social and religious organizations, businesses and government working together for the betterment of what they define as their community. When this is achieved, the parents become more involved in their children's education, the schools and teachers receive more support from business and civic organizations and the community benefits. . . .

Communities can be defined geographically as well as historically, but the most overwhelming consideration is that its members personally identify with their community; where they shop, eat, vote, attend church, where their kids play sports -- and go to school.

* Enhancing community stability. The effect of school redistricting on community stability cannot be overstated. . . . The schools should be designed to accommodate the needs of the community, rather than asking the community to adjust to fit the schools.

In any change to the schools, the board should consider the effect on resources in the community (which may include businesses, civic and social organizations) available to the schools. If changes are mandated in the school feeder districts, consideration should be given to preserving the long-standing relationship of older communities, who have supported and physically been involved with their local schools. If possible, any required redistricting should not increase the travel time or distance to the school.

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