Didn't sound like developers to meBy the time I reached...


November 15, 1998

Didn't sound like developers to me

By the time I reached the end of the second paragraph of Jill McCuan's letter ("Why make developers scapegoats?" Nov. 8) I did a double take, wondering if I was actually reading about the selfless volunteers in "Habitats for Humanity."

But, by the end of her paean to developers, there was no mistaking the subject or that her letter would bring a smile to any marketer intent on improving his/her client's "image." However, leaving out the hype and propaganda, what do we have?

Well, the usual canard that "we have all the laws and regulations in place to ensure adequate facilities and comprehensive planned growth," etc. But is "adequate" enough? Do our schools, for example, have quality facilities? Is there a decent teacher-student ratio with resources to match? Evidently, slow-growth voters don't buy it. ("In suburbs, voters favor slow growth," Nov. 8).

How about "comprehensive planned growth?" Do we really have that? Our roads and schools are being overwhelmed and resources depleted. All for what? Suburban sprawl and development.

I wonder about laws "fulfilling the people's will" if zoning exceptions and other loopholes can easily be taken, thanks to politicians cozily aligned with the interests of developers.

And what about developers themselves? My brother, who worked for someone in real estate development (in Florida) once said to me: "Show me an ethical developer, and I'll show you one who's on his way to bankruptcy." As for any comparison with "unethical salespeople" or "sanitation engineers," that is ludicrous. One or two unethical developers can wreck whole communities.

Are all developers bad? No. But I suspect that the cutthroat nature of competition forces the majority into compromising principles.

What we desperately need is a new kind of vision that unequivocally values family, community and quality of life, and that won't sacrifice them on the altar of "the market" at every turn.

Philip A. Stahl


Commission seeks input on crime

According to a citizen survey, despite substantial increases in prison spending in the past 10 years, citizens remain concerned about crime -- especially violent crime.

According to the same survey, citizens want violent offenders sent to prison but believe that some prevention programs show more long-term promise in reducing crime. Addressing these and other criminal justice concerns is the task of the Maryland Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy.

In 1996, the Maryland General Assembly recognized the need to review the sentencing and corrections practices used by the judiciary and the Department of Public Safety and Correctional Services.

The legislature created the Maryland Commission on Criminal Sentencing Policy. The commission includes leaders from the legislature, judiciary, criminal law, law enforcement and corrections, and victims' advocacy groups. The commission's work is expected to culminate in major recommendations for the legislative session. The citizen survey mentioned above is one way the commission collected information for its recommendations. The commission has also carefully analyzed sentencing and corrections data to better understand current practice and identify areas in need of improvement.

One major task of the commission is to consider courtroom practices that allow citizens to understand the announced sentence in court in terms of the actual time spent in prison.

The commission is considering proposals that increase truth in sentencing and recommending a closer correspondence between time spent in prison and the announced sentence. Regarding parole, the commission expects to recommend that post-release supervision should be retained. Parole could be restricted, but each restriction requires study.

Regarding violent crime, the commission expects to recommend concentrating prison space on career offenders and violent offenders. The commission is investigating options that provide citizens with greater assurance that violent offenders will be sentenced to prison.

Regarding nonviolent crime, a major focus is control through prevention and punishment. The commission is concerned that high levels of offender drug abuse lead to a revolving door, incarceration followed by release and recidivism.

To address this problem, the commission is investigating options that provide sentencing judges with community programs that combine greater surveillance than standard probation, with drug treatment and severe sanctions after positive drug tests.

Some may argue that crime rates are declining, and this is not the time for reform. However, correctional spending is at historic high levels, and the respite from crime increases may be brief. The commission is committed to recommending action now to improve the criminal justice system for ourselves and future generations.

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