Triple-A rating and four-star debtOur county government is...

LETTERS

March 09, 1997

Triple-A rating and four-star debt

Our county government is simply amazing. On one hand, on Feb. 11, one of our local media sources published a chart which showed that Howard County's debt per person was the highest in Maryland. This figure was over $1,600, more than three times that for Prince George's County, and almost four times as much as in Baltimore City.

Five days later, another local media source published an article which featured Howard officials schmoozing with Wall Street bond-rating agencies in an effort to entice more of them to grant their highest rating -- Triple-A -- to Howard County.

Granted, a Triple-A rating is a tremendous achievement. But Howard is already rated Triple-A by several agencies. Why does the county need additional financial firepower? So that the county can raise even more debt and put greater stress on the county budget?

On the federal level, we are dealing with an incredible debt. Is it fair for county government to put current and future Howard countians at risk? Let's stop the borrowing and spending, and live within our means.

William C. Woodcock Jr.

Ellicott City

Expulsion for bomb threat too harsh

I am writing this letter in response to the article in The Sun in Howard for Feb. 23 about the Centennial High senior arrested for making phony bomb threats. I am shocked to read that the students involved may be expelled from the school system.

While I congratulate Superintendent Michael Hickey for handling the matter promptly with seriousness, I also think expulsion will be too severe a punishment which may leave permanent scars in the students' lives, and their future hopes of success in life. Seems to me that the bomb threats were just simple pranks. Those seniors just did not want to go to school. Making the bomb threat was a very serious offense, which may have hurt others, but they probably did not realize that.

I am hereby requesting Dr. Hickey and Howard County Board of Education to look for an alternate punishment for the kids such as community service on the weekends, etc., and also to get their parents involved.

Jay Ghosh

Ellicott City

Vending machines hook teen smokers

I am 33 years old and was diagnosed some time ago with chronic obstructive pulmonary disease. I started smoking cigarettes when I was 14, as it was the in thing to do. They cost 55 cents a pack. I was allowed to walk into any store or gas station and purchase them.

While much needed attention has been focused on the prohibition of the sale of cigarettes to minors in stores and the like, I question whether enough attention has been focused on vending machines.

Imagine my heartbreak when I realized that my otherwise very intelligent 15-year-old daughter was experimenting with cigarettes. While the decision to ruin her lungs is indeed hers, the bottom line is availability.

When asked where she was able to purchase these cigarettes, she informed me that she and several of her friends were able to purchase them from the vending machine at Clyde's restaurant in Columbia.

I immediately contacted the general manager. He informed me that he had considered having the vending machine changed to only accept tokens that would have to be purchased from the bar or register to help eliminate the problem.

I view cigarette manufacturers and their distributors in the same respect as drug lords. I would hope that respectable establishments would oust drug dealers from their nooks and crannies, as well as cigarette vending machines.

Tammy Hall Hnarakis

Fulton

'Glasnost in Columbia': a response

Recently, I estimated the time I will have spent working on Columbia matters during my first year as chair of the Columbia Council. (My term ends on April 30.)

The total will be about 250 man-hours -- well over a month's worth of full-time work. Hours are crowbarred in around the demands of my marriage, my paying job, my service to other non-profits and all the other distractions that fill our modern lives.

I know that some of my council colleagues volunteer even more time in our collective effort to make Columbia the mid-Atlantic "address of choice." Therefore, the stinging criticism ("Glasnost in Columbia," Feb. 25) recently leveled at me by The Sun's Howard County editorialist was painful. But viewed objectively, I can see why the writer may have written as he did.

As council chair, I try very hard to make sure that everyone gets his or her chance to be heard. However, given the number of issues with which we must deal, sometimes I must limit repetitive discussion or testimony that wanders on and on ad nauseam. Perhaps I could accomplish this more tactfully. In that sense, The Sun's very public admonishment may have some basis.

Yet, I can't help wondering if the writer might not have better understood the context of the council's recent budget work session and my approach to managing it if he attended our meetings more than just occasionally.

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