Thanks for coping with the blizzard of '96I am writing to...


January 21, 1996

Thanks for coping with the blizzard of '96

I am writing to thank all of the residents in Howard County for their patience and assistance in getting through the most difficult week of snow removal activities in memory. I am also writing to express my pride and appreciation to the employees of the Department of Public Works and other agencies who pushed their endurance and skills to the limit to serve the public.

During the blizzard of '96, we received many questions, complaints and some compliments about how snow removal is accomplished. I would like to explain how we operate.

The county road system is divided into a series of routes with a truck and operator assigned to each route. The roads within those routes are prioritized for service into three categories: primary, secondary and residential. The primary and secondary roads receive the first service to ensure that public safety vehicles can traverse the county. During a typical snow storm, this operation takes approximately 24 to 36 hours to complete.

In the last storm, the biggest problems we experienced in getting to the residential streets were the length of time of the storm, the drifting and the depth of snow. These conditions forced us to use front-end loaders to move the snow on many residential streets. This type of equipment operates at a slower pace and we have fewer of them. Consequently, we took a lot longer to complete the plowing routes.

I would also like to express my appreciation to those citizens who gave encouragement to the equipment operators on their difficult assignments. These random acts of kindness made all the difference in the world in dealing with this problem.

Charles I. Ecker

Ellicott City

The writer is Howard County executive.

Human Relations botched follow-up

I read with interest the Dec. 31 column by Kevin Thomas, particularly the portion which addressed the Wilde Lake High School harassment issue.

As a county taxpayer, I would like to know what is going to be done about the obvious incompetence of the school system's Human Relations office. If the school system is inundated with human relations problems, the local media have failed to report a very significant issue. In point of fact, I suspect that the Human Relations office is as overworked as the Maytag repairman.

Do we really need this office when it screws up one of the few significant cases coming its way? I suspect that a majority of county taxpayers would answer in the negative.

A second issue concerns the work of Mr. Thomas. Why didn't Mr. Thomas get his facts straight, prior to condemning the "failure" of school officials to report the incident to the Human Relations office? At a minimum, the column should have included an apology to school officials for an obvious error.

I would also note that Mr. Thomas has over the past month made several spelling and grammatical errors in his columns. He states that the Human Relations office must tighten its operation. Mr. Thomas should tighten his operation.

Michael J. McCann

Ellicott City

Mortgage deduction should be capped

It is fair and possible to reform the home mortgage interest tax deduction and to continue honoring its original purpose of helping people afford a house.

A few minutes from me is a neighborhood of million-dollar homes. My family, which lives on a teacher's salary, subsidizes the people in that neighborhood when they deduct their home mortgage interest on their tax forms because we pay more in taxes to make up for their paying less. This inequity could be addressed by capping the claimable deductible interest. The claimable interest might be limited to the interest that would be paid on a mortgage for a median-priced home in the state.

For example, if the median-priced house is $120,000, a person with a $120,000 mortgage would be able to deduct all her mortgage's interest, but a person with a $240,000 mortgage would get to deduct only half her interest.

The tax code would continue to help one get into a house. But the tax code would not help pay for more than what the average person could afford. And the average person would not have to subsidize people who want to buy more than the average house.

Second, it would not be fair to reform the mortgage interest deduction in such a way that would impact people who have planned their financial security with the current tax code in mind. This is very important because mortgages are often a large percentage of one's income.

Therefore, this reform might best not apply to anyone who currently is paying off a mortgage on a house. Also, the reform could be instituted on new purchases gradually over seven to 10 years, as was done on the old personal debt interest tax deduction. The graduated implementation would allow all sectors of affected markets to adapt with a minimum of disruption.

Bob Krasnansky

Ellicott City

Bartlett's rotten environmental record

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