Full-time legislators could avoid scandalIt would be...

LETTERS

January 01, 1998

Full-time legislators could avoid scandal

It would be helpful if your reporters covering allegations against state Sen. Larry Young gave consideration to the role that a part-time legislature plays in fostering relationships between its members and special interests that often result in conflict of interest.

Citizens are right to expect legislators to avoid having financial interests in the issues on which they vote. Because of our unwillingness to pay General Assembly members a full-time wage for what is in reality a full-time job, however, we force legislators to seek outside sources of income.

We should not be shocked to find out that those most willing to provide that source of income often have some financial interest in matters before the General Assembly. We should also not be shocked when legislators accept these offers and then go to great lengths to avoid legitimate questions about potential conflicts of interest.

If we were to pay state legislators a full-time wage and impose significant restrictions on outside income, Sen. Mike Miller and the state prosecutor could be spared investigating whether Senator Young's business activities violate state ethics laws.

This would not eliminate corruption, as congressional examples demonstrate, but it would end the hypocrisy inherent in a system where citizens expect competent, informed legislators to serve the public interest at bargain-basement prices.

If Maryland taxpayers are not willing to pay for effective representation, we know from cases like Senator Young's that the special interests are more than willing to make up the difference.

cott A. Nelson

Baltimore

After Rita's death, still flaws in foster care

The death of 9-year-old Rita Fisher this past summer rocked our community. Close scrutiny of Child Protective Services in Baltimore County by state and county officials exonerated the agency but led to recommendations designed to minimize vulnerabilities in the system.

Increases in staff and the addition of a supervisory position are called for, as are intiatives with other agencies to improve comunication and boost collaboration. Legislative changes in confidentiality laws have been proposed to allow more openness. This is all good. How terribly sad that it took the death of a child to wake us up.

Have we learned from this? The articles I've read have made no mention of another very critical component of child welfare services: foster care. I remember reading that placements have doubled in the months since Rita's death, yet there has been no word about additional resources to meet the needs of these children and their families. Are we waiting for another disaster?

David Burdette

Forest Hill

News about alcohol could doom the unborn

News reports are headlining new research by the American Cancer Society on the health effects of alcohol.

We have absolutely no problem with the science that seems to prove moderate alcohol consumption is beneficial to lowering death by cardiovascular disease.

However, we are extremely concerned that in the excitement abut the ''good news," the news reports have failed to cover a glaring negative aspect. Alcohol consumption during pregnancy

FTC the leading known cause of mental retardation, and there is no proven safe level of consumption for a pregnant woman. This cause of mental retardation is 100 percent preventable.

Every year, as many as 12,000 children are born with severe physical deformities and irreversible organic brain damage because their mothers drank during pregnancy. Additionally, there may be two to three times as many born with organic brain damage, but no physical deformities, that goes undiagnosed and, therefore, untreated.

The economic costs are severe. Children born with full-blown Fetal Alcohol Syndrome cost Americans more than $2 billion every year in direct health costs.

The incidence of FAS is greater than many more widely recognized children's health issues, such as Down Syndrome, SIDS, cerebral palsy, cystic fibrosis and spina bifida.

Lance J. Friedsam

Washington

The writer is president of the National Organization on Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

Commuters menace Homeland streets

As residents of Homeland, and particularly of a cross street, Taplow Road, strongly affected by recent traffic changes, we wish to respond to the Intrepid Commuter's Dec. 15 remarks about our neighborhood.

Obviously, the rude behavior of Homeland residents described in the column cannot be excused. Our experience as newcomers to this neighborhood is that such abusive conduct is rare.

Much more common is rude, noisy and dangerous behavior by motorists from outside the neighborhood who use the narrow cross streets and even narrower lanes of Homeland as speedways when rushing to work or to their children's school.

If the Intrepid Commuter is truly intrepid, he and his children should get out of the car and try walking the cross streets and nearby lanes at rush hour some morning, while commuters barrel along on their way through our neighborhood.

The measures in effect during the Homeland Avenue reconstruction are not perfect, but are an attempt to balance everybody's interests in this difficult period. They are not the product of some unreasonable prejudice against outsiders, which is the impression one would draw from Intrepid Commuter's column.

'Franklin and Michela Caudill

Baltimore

Pub Date: 1/01/98

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