Self-Government is Always MessyThe editorial in The Sun...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

September 03, 1995

Self-Government is Always Messy

The editorial in The Sun for Howard County of Aug. 4, "The Business of Incorporation," does us all a real service by examining the decision of our county Chamber of Commerce to reject the proposed incorporation of Columbia. The chamber's main reason for rejecting the prospect of incorporation was that it could produce an instability bad for business.

It reminds me that in 1770, and beyond, many "royalists" of our 13 colonies rejected our revolution and the prospect of establishing a constitutional federal "incorporation" called the United States of America. They resisted for the main reason that they saw "incorporation" producing instability.

It did and it does! But Americans have preferred the relative instability of full self-rule to the relative stability of paternalism -- even by a generally enlightened "pater," such as the Rouse Company, which, as one journalist puts it, has been "Columbia's phantom power-broker from the beginning," but now includes some controlling interests, perhaps absentee, for whom the bottom line begins to blot out some of our city's original humane ideals.

We have a dear friend in Moscow who lived with us in Columbia for three months and visited America at many levels in many JTC regions, just as we have visited her and the former Soviet Union many times. After the failed Moscow coup and the unstable beginnings of democracy in Russia, Nina called us from Moscow to say, "Every day, Oleg and I are finding that democracy is messy. But we love the new freedoms and the new responsibilities. Be patient with us. We'll learn to do it well in our own way and time."

Parental family stability can be natural and nice for children. Adolescent instability can be natural and not nice, but is a necessary learning transition to self-reliance, freedom and responsibility. At 27 years of age, Columbia is a young adult. What we . . . reformers want for our beautiful, humane, convenient, relatively stable "company town" is a typically instable transition to full democracy, self-government, home rule, taxation (the "assessment") with full representation and whatever degree of dynamic stability we can together create. The basic business of America and Columbia is not business; it is "of the people, by the people and for the people."

Dick and Jean Rodes

Columbia

Casino Gambling's Flim-Flam

Legalized gambling will be an issue before the 1996 General Assembly, regardless of the fact that there does not appear to be any significant support for it from the community or its elected representatives. Only the gaming industry is telling us that casinos are a good thing. However, while there is no widespread support for legalized casino gambling currently, by the time the General Assembly convenes in January that picture may change. I am strongly opposed to legalized casino gambling in Maryland.

Seventeen states allow casino gambling on Indian reservations. Only eight allow non-Indian casinos, most of them on riverboats. Only Nevada, New Jersey and Louisiana have land-based, non-Indian casinos. So far several East Coast states, including Virginia, Pennsylvania and Florida, have rejected this type of land-based casino. Now, casino interests are focusing their efforts on Maryland to gain an increased presence on the East Coast.

Casinos fill our heads with dazzling promises of more than $400 million in additional revenue and 31,000 new jobs. But like the proverbial flim-flam artist, they tell us only half of the truth.

Atlantic City officials jumped at this bait, only to discover that while casinos generated additional revenue, they also increased government expenses. Much of the additional casino revenue had to be spent on increased law enforcement, social services and infrastructure maintenance and repair to accommodate the casinos. Atlantic City officialdom also found that very few of the 31,000 new jobs created by casinos went to Atlantic City residents.

Far from improving the Atlantic City economy, casinos have dealt it a fatal blow. Casino gambling has made two Atlantic Cities, where only one existed before. There's the gaudy Atlantic City of blazing lights and beaches. Then, there is the other Atlantic City which went from 50th in per capita crime among New Jersey cities to No. 1 since the casinos opened. This other Atlantic City has seen its number of business failures rise along with its number of unemployed. According to a 20th Century Fund study, the number of Atlantic City restaurants declined from 243 in 1977 to 145 in 1987.

One look at Atlantic City is all anyone should need to be convinced that legalized casino gambling in Maryland should be opposed.

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