Schools need proposed rise in budget
On Jan. 7, Erin Texeira reported in an article on the Howard County school budget that school Superintendent Michael E. Hickey's proposed $271.5 million budget "calls for the largest dollar increase ever requested in a school budget."
This is incorrect. As Dr. Hickey clearly stated in his presentation on Jan. 6, he has in the past often proposed budgets which exceeded this year's increase both in dollar terms and in percentage.
From 1989 to 1991, Dr. Hickey's proposals were for increases of $20 million to $21 million, with percentage increases between 11.8 and 16.2.
In the last seven years, the budget proposals have included increases only for "maintenance of effort," increases to reflect the growth in the number of students in the system.
For the last seven years, there have been no increases for program improvement.
Now that the county's budget and financial situation is improved and its prospects better in terms of increasing tax revenue, it is time for Howard County to return to funding the education budget as the citizens require and expect.
Howard County public schools did not get to be the best in the state by "maintenance of effort" spending.
If the system is to remain the best, it is time to begin to fund "program improvements," as proposed in this year's budget.
Dr. Hickey's proposal calls for an increase of $18 million over last year's budget; $7 million of that is "maintenance of effort" increase. Of the remaining $11 million, only $3 million represents a real increase for "program improvement."
It is time for the students to reap some of the benefits of the county's improved financial situation after seven years of austerity.
No gaming, but allowing dangerous road speeds
During a recent trip from Ellicott City into Baltimore, I counted nine drivers running red lights while I was sitting at the intersection. On U.S. 40, we have had a red light crisis situation for a long time at Rogers Avenue and Rolling Road intersections.
All over Howard County, we have had a problem with violations of the 25 mph limits within our communities.
Since the governor raised the speed limit to 65 mph on Interstate 70, starting at the Beltway, trucks and autos are running at 70 mph to 75 mph. Now we have the governor raising the speed limit to 65 mph on Interstate 95 between the beltways.
I recently ran a section of I-95 at 65 mph. I passed two vehicles, one of which then passed me. Scores of autos and trucks roared by me.
The raising of the limits on I-95 reflects a complete lack of recognition of the exponential increases in the noise levels in all the neighboring communities. These higher speeds are resulting escalating speeds all the way down to our individual communities, where we have zero enforcement capability.
Who is successfully lobbying the governor? We can probably guess part of the answer. Trucks are running too close to other vehicles to handle any kind of emergency. Statistics from other states reflect increased fatalities (500 in nine months).
We are also ignoring the need for a lower set of speed limits during inclement weather (rain, snow, darkness).
I have recently been forced to move over on the Beltway because trucks were passing me (at the posted speed limit) and burying up to three cars on each side in a blinding spray against the windshield.
One solution would be to take trucks off the highway during rainstorms, and ship all interstate freight by rail in the winter. It should be clear that that this country cannot afford to continue to build more roads and let the rail system die.
These days all the TV commercials for cars are selling speed. When I was growing up, the State Police frequently came to the high schools and ran demonstrations with young drivers. The officer would put the student in the driver's seat and explain that he would fire a gun when he wanted the driver to come to an emergency stop. A second gun would fire when the vehicle stopped, making a second powder mark on the road. The officer would then pace off the distance, with the young driver, explaining how much distance he had traveled before he could come to a stop -- the point being the safe driving distance needed between vehicles.
Watching young women drivers on the road, I have concluded that the schools have stopped teaching physics. Young boys never did translate their studies into stopping distance for their pickups and small cars. 65 mph is too fast for trucks anywhere in Maryland.
Can we believe the governor when he says he is against gambling in any form?
James M. Holway
The recent tragedy in Dundalk ("Teen-ager killed, 4 others hurt in single-car crash," Jan. 3) underscores American society's failure to deal with the epidemic of unnecessary deaths due to our children having access to deadly automobiles.