Ellen or Parris vs. the chance to hear some Halloween music


October 28, 1994|By DAN RODRICKS

Whenever the question of environmental protection came up during the gubernatorial campaign, there were predictable responses from both sides. Most Democrats -- and especially primary victor Parris Glendening -- pledged to maintain the vigil, while Republicans -- and especially primary winner Ellen Sauerbrey -- complained of too much regulation.

Last summer, all Republican candidates pandered to a Maryland Chamber of Commerce breakfast crowd with a lot of blah-blah about how businesses had been hurt by excessive environmental and land-use protection efforts. "Clearly, [state] environmental regulations go beyond what is required by federal law, and we shouldn't do that unless there is a good reason," said Sauerbrey. In particular, she promised to fight what she considered "overlapping" state and federal regulation of wetlands development.

Let's cut to the bottom line on this matter. Sauerbrey can whine all she likes about regulation hindering development, but that's not the case. The Chesapeake Bay Foundation, a trusted source that does not endorse political candidates, says this: The bay region loses about 4,500 acres of wetlands per year; we're seeing net loss, not net gain. In addition, the foundation discovered that few permits to build in wetlands are denied; and, in 800 permits studied, most requests were handled within seven months. That's no time at all to destroy something forever.

Beware on Nov. 8

Parris Glendening wants to spend another $300 million in local aid, for education by fiscal year 1999, and he's confident that a 1.5 percent annual increase in economic growth (or about $90 million) will pay for it. He seems to think it's OK to allow state spending to grow that much for those purposes. Ellen Sauerbrey wants to cut personal income taxes by 24 percent over four years by controlling the growth of state government and cutting operating budgets. She believes a tax cut will spur the economy and that growth will ease the general fiscal pain.

It all sounds so enticing. My advice? Keep your expectations low, friends. It's hard to imagine that either of these plans can fly high, given the mandated burdens facing state government: the growing population of schoolchildren, especially in newly developed suburban areas; increases in required spending on medical assistance for the poor and disabled; higher prison costs, created by all those new lock-'em-up laws; cost-of-living pay increases for state employes; and new spending already authorized by the legislature. Remember: Maryland's Constitution requires the governor -- Republican or Democrat, male or female -- to submit a balanced budget. So, buyer beware.

Music on the cutting edge

Not only is Helmut Licht a songwriter, orchestra leader, ballroom dance instructor, piano man at Casa Mia's in Towson and head jingle writer for the Rouse & Co. show on WQSR-FM (105.7). Helmut's also a roadside attraction on the information superhighway. He writes dozens of songs and records them at home. Each week, he offers a new tune to anyone who calls his musical telephone line (323-2779) at no charge. It's the kind of direct-connect (artist to audience) construct the techno-soothsayers have envisioned. Helmut is on the cutting edge! "That line rings 24 hours a day," Helmut says. "It's very flattering. I get calls from all over. Every Monday morning, someone calls from a Wall Street investment office and they play my song over the office intercom." Through Halloween, Helmut offers a spook tune. Check it out.

Who is that masked man?

Can I have a show of hands? How many agree that Gerry Brewster's I'm-tougher-on-crime-than-Bob-Ehrlich TV ad -- the one with the masked intruder, followed by The Brewster slamming a jail cell door -- is a crude and amateurish effort to scare up votes in the last two weeks of his campaign for Congress? When you see this one creep across your TV screen -- assuming The Brewster lacks the good sense to pull it -- make sure you hold your nose.

Hope grows in Highlandtown

The bad news is that some louse stole the trees Chris Wulin was fixing to plant on the street where he lives -- the unit block of North Montford Avenue near Patterson Park. Chris bought seven trees, each between 12 and 15 feet tall, and planted two of them with the help of neighbors and kids. Last week, the five remaining trees were swiped from a community garden. But here's the good news: Carol Hartke, president of the Patterson Place Association, says the city might come up with replacements. We'll keep you posted.

The Martians are coming

Three cool dudes and one dudette from "Star Trek: Both Generations" will perform Howard Koch's radio play of H. G. Wells' "The War of the Worlds" Sunday night at 8 on WJHU-FM (88.1). The Koch script was first performed by the Orson Welles Mercury Theater on Oct. 30, 1938, the famous broadcast that scared the corpuscles out of North America. This time, Leonard Nimoy, the original Spock, along with Brent Spiner (Data, from "The Next Generation"), Jonathan Frakes (Commander Riker) and Gates McFadden (Dr. Crusher) will perform while John de Lancie (the coolest; he played "Q" on "The Next Generation") directs. The show airs a second time at 7 p.m. Halloween Monday. Shut off the TV and the lights. This ought to be good.

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