State support for circuit courts still neededThe Sun's...

April 17, 1999

State support for circuit courts still needed

The Sun's support for a greater state role in the funding and management of Maryland's Circuit Courts reflects an appreciation for the inequities that permeate the present system. These inequalities arise out of the differences in wealth and commitment to the courts among the counties and Baltimore City.

Since poorer jurisdictions have been unable to fund the Circuit Courts as fully as the wealthier ones have, the caliber of justice Marylanders receive can depend on where their case was filed.

This variance in support for the courts is understandable because the state has only managment authority over the Circuit Courts and, at the local level, they must compete compete for funding with such other priorities as education and public safety. The Sun's coverage of the unfortunate condition of Baltimore City's court system has documented the consequences of these inequities.

In response to this problem, and building on last year's limited increase in the state's role in the Circuit Courts, Gov. Parris Glendening this year included in his legislative package a bill to enlarge the state's presence in the Circuit Courts. The governor wisely chose an incremental approach, focusing on Circuit Court functions where a State presence already existed. The Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) worked with his administration to try to pass this important legislation.

The bill passed the House of Delegates. Unfortunately it died when the committee it was assigned to in the Senate, the Judicial Proceedings Committee, failed to bring it to a vote.

In your March 27 editorial ("After election pledge, where is leadership") The Sun suggested that Governor Glendening provided only tepid support for his bill. To the contrary, his administration worked diligently for this bill. The governor is very knowledgeable about the issue and his staff was deeply engaged in preparing the legislation and lobbying for it.

Working as partners, MACo and the Glendening administration are committed to securing a greater state role in the Circuit Courts. Countless studies have found that this is needed to redress their existing disparities and inequalities.

Murray D. Levy, Annapolis

The writer is president of the Maryland Association of Counties Inc.

Lucky beavers, less lucky beavers

The cherry tree chomping beavers on the tidal basin in Washington, D.C. are very lucky. Due to geography and good public relations, their lives will be spared.

If they lived in Maryland those beavers would not be so fortunate. In this state it is illegal to relocate many furbearing creatures. By law, they must be killed. The method of their death is up to the trapper. The animals can be drowned, strangled or beaten to death and it is all perfectly legal.

Two years ago in my Bel Air neighborhood a family of beavers were drowned by a trapper because they were snacking on the local landscaping. The neighbors who called the Dept. of Natural Resources Nuisance Wildlife number to report this problem were unaware that they had signed the animals' death warrants.

I suggest that Marylanders call their local humane society or other animal welfare group for tips on living with the wildlife in their area. This may not only save animals, but save you money, as the trappers' services are not free.

Pamela M. Cobo, Bel Air

Concerns about Mfume and the race for mayor

My concern over the upcoming Baltiomore mayoral race is growing. Recent reports ("Officials rolling out red carpet for Mfume," April 12) make me wonder whether the courtship of Kweisi Mfume is legal or healthy for Baltimore.

There is no doubt that Mr. Mfume is a genuine celebrity with an impressive resume, that he has charisma and wears nice suits to match his dazzling smile, but is that all we need? Mfume doesn't seem to want to lead Baltimore if it inconveniences him on the lecture circuit or slows down his career ambitions.

I don't want a celebrity mayor who wants the job to pad his resume. I want a mayor who wants to be mayor.

And if we have to bend the rules to make the job seem more attractive to him, doesn't that send a signal that the job itself isn't terribly important?

I am amazed at the state and city leaders who seem to be bending over backwards to entice Mfume with optional office hours, residency rules, salary enhancements, and other perks. Can you imagine what the $60,000 proposed salary increase for the next mayor could do for some of our decaying neighboorhoods? It could hire a new teacher or three, or repair a few potholes clean up a few blocks, or fund some after school programs.

Have we forgotten that the mayor is supposed to serve the city, not the other way around?

Paul K. Tolar, Baltimore

Mayor Schmoke's suggestion that we allow future Baltimore mayors to receive speaking fees is simply incredible. The ban on such fees exists for many good reasons, the most important of which is that it prevents groups from using such payments to curry special favors from the mayor.

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