State's efforts on Chesapeake right on targetDuring debate...

Letters

March 21, 1998

State's efforts on Chesapeake right on target

During debate of proposals for Maryland farmers to implement mandatory nutrient-management plans, the media have failed to provide the public with an accurate view of the success of the Chesapeake Bay Restoration Program.

There has been considerable misinformation about Maryland's successful efforts to reduce the flow of harmful nitrogen and phosphorus into the bay by 40 percent by 2000, a goal adopted in 1987.

Claims that "a voluntary program won't work," as made by Barry Rascovar in his Jan. 25 column, are unfounded. The goal of a 40 percent reduction of phosphorus will be met by 2000, and the 40 percent reduction goal for nitrogen will be met that year or soon thereafter. Mandatory controls are not required to meet these goals.

The March 3 editorial "Compromise on farm runoff" noted the need for a mandatory program because "only 68 percent of farmers have voluntary nutrient-management plans -- a shockingly low rate." It is not the percentage of farmers that is the test of success, but rather the number of acres under management plans.

Maryland set a goal of enrolling 1.3 million acres of farmland in nutrient management. By last year, almost a million acres had plans in place. This is the highest percentage of enrollment of any state and has been accomplished through a voluntary program.

The Maryland Department of the Environment has joined local governments to spend tens of millions of dollars on upgrades to waste-treatment plants to remove nitrogen. Since the early 1990s, Maryland has had a goal to require treatment plants discharging more than 500,000 gallons a day to remove nitrogen. We are well on our way to meeting that goal.

Because we will all be called on in the future to do even more to protect our bay, we need to create partnerships with all segments of the bay community, not pass laws that will divide us.

David A. C. Carroll

Baltimore

The writer was coordinator of the governor's Chesapeake Bay effort and secretary of the Maryland Department of the Environment.

For tougher restraints against SLAPP suits

If a lawsuit is brought in bad faith -- to intimidate a neighborhood group or an individual who criticizes a particular project at a public hearings or another forum -- it should be halted before achieving its unworthy goal.

Before 1970, almost no such suits were filed. Since then, tens of thousands have been, most frequently by real estate developers against neighborhood groups and residents who publicly oppose their applications for building permits. These suits are meant to intimidate organizations and individuals who speak out by saddling them with huge legal fees.

Legislation we introduced this year, Qualified Immunity From Civil Liability -- SLAPP Suits (SLAPP is an acronym for "strategic lawsuits against public participation"), is the product of a Maryland State Bar Association subcommittee chaired by Court of Special Appeals Chief Judge Joseph F. Murphy Jr., and is modeled on statutes in at least 10 other states.

Your March 10 editorial "When citizens are 'SLAPPed,' " asserted that our legislation goes too far by protecting defendants from liability if a court finds that their comments were made in good faith. The editorial further warned that defendants would be freed from liability for making emotional statements that go beyond fact-based opinion and even for defamatory statements about the plaintiff.

Uninhibited, robust and open debate is protected by the First Amendment whether the speaker is an individual or the daily newspaper.

Our legislation would immunize a SLAPP-suit defendant who had exercised that right, if done in good faith.

Michael J. Collins

Samuel I. Rosenberg

Annapolis

The writers are Democrats representing Maryland's 6th and 42nd districts, respectively, in the General Assembly.

What do schools need, insider or outsider?

Truth, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder.

Side-by-side columns March 1 profiling two former Baltimore principals illustrate that thought. As Julia Woodland was eulogized by Michael Olesker, Boyse Mosley was championed by Gregory Kane.

Baltimore and Dunbar High School were enriched by Mrs. Woodland. She demonstrated a caring concern and made Dunbar a true community school, where the doors seldom closed. Recognizing the heritage of sports in the community, she used it as a leverage for education.

Mr. Mosley, a Joe Clark, damn-the-torpedoes, full-speed-ahead clone, knew what was good for the students as he bulldozed his way through the educational forest, ignoring the seedlings -- that is, students and community -- in his quest for educational excellence. In the manner of General Motors of the 1950s, what was good for him was good for everybody.

What it boils down to is whom you prefer -- the rebel with a cause standing outside the building throwing rocks, or the person inside working within the rules trying to make a difference.

McNair Taylor

Baltimore

Reading instruction needs hybrid approach

The March 12 letter "Phonics should return to all primary schools" was misinformed and misguided. Students cannot master reading in a variety of performance-based tasks if only phonics is taught.

Balanced reading instruction known as "whole-part-whole instruction" incorporates phonics and whole language. It is described by Dorothy Strickland in the March issue of Education Week.

Students learn through whole texts, experience stories, etc. They learn parts of the texts, letter sounds and phonemic awareness. Later, they apply what they've learned to a whole text.

The issue is not "either phonics or whole language." A balanced approach must provide both elements in a holistic framework.

Avram Rips

Baltimore

Pub Date: 3/21/98

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