Elected leaders are engaged, accountable on...


August 02, 1999

Elected leaders are engaged, accountable on transportation

I am writing in response to The Sun's article "Billions in transit funding put at risk" (July 27) and a related editorial "AWOL on transportation" (July 28).

The federal government has expressly given local elected leaders the right to empower designees to sit on transportation planning committees.

I delegate qualified people to represent and report to me on a variety of important matters, including the regional Transportation Steering Committee (TSC).

Delegation does not signify contempt or lack of interest, as The Sun implies. It does not constitute abandonment.

Indeed, my elected colleagues and I met with the TSC on May 18. At that open meeting, we reiterated our commitment to communicating with the public and encouraging citizen participation in the transportation planning process.

We will continue to confer with our designees to the TSC several times a year in open forums. Our next meeting is scheduled for mid-autumn.

I am keenly aware of the importance of transportation planning. My record reflects that. Elected leaders are deeply involved in these issues.

And we -- not the people we designate to represent us -- are accountable to our citizens for decisions on how transportation funds are spent.

C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger, Towson

The writer is the county executive of Baltimore County.

Commuter tax could fund transportation needs . . .

In a recent op-ed article in the New York Times, Richard Ravitch, Robert Kiley and Steven Polan, all past leaders of New York's Metropolitan Transportation Authority, advocated the return of New York City's repealed commuter tax.

In Maryland, a commuter tax dedicated to transportation in the Baltimore area could meet several needs -- including the estimated inability of the state's gasoline tax revenue to pay for needed transportation capital investments.

A small commuter tax could support a bond offering. When matched with federal dollars, this could fund much of area's investment in transportation.

A commuter tax would also underline the interdependence of Baltimore and its surrounding counties.

Much has been discussed about the need to strengthen the link between the city and counties, but little has been accomplished.

A commuter tax might be politically feasible, if its revenues went back to those taxed as improved transportation.

Con Manning, Cockeysville

. . . or surplus could support state Transportation Trust

The Sun's editorial "The needed route on roads and transit" (July 27) called for using some of the surplus state general fund dollars to shore up the Transportation Trust Fund.

That would be a far more fiscally and politically responsible course for Maryland, with its robust revenue growth and growing surplus, than raising sales and gas taxes.

According to the National Governors Association's "Fiscal Survey of the States," Maryland ended fiscal 1998 with the second highest year-end surplus, as a percentage of general fund expenditures, among East Coast states. And this fiscal year has seen the state's surplus continue to grow.

A good start would be for the General Assembly to use some of this surplus to pay back the approximately $50 million the Transportation Trust loaned the General Fund earlier this decade.

Tom S. Saquella, Annapolis

The writer is president of the Maryland Retailers Association.

A different solution: Keep new residents out

The Sun's editorial "The needed route on roads and transit" said, "By 2020, Maryland will boast 1 million new residents" (July 28).

But "without added revenue, Maryland cannot meet demands of growth," it said, so, "state officials must get to work finding ways to fund needed transportation improvements . . ."

Personally, I'd rather have them get to work finding ways to slow the arrival of the extra million people.

Cliff Terry, Baltimore

Large renewal projects are an outmoded approach

I was saddened by Martin L. Millspaugh's letter seconding The Sun's endorsement of the West Side Development Corp. ("West side's story could recreate downtown's success," July 26).

Mr. Millspaugh, and others who support such initiatives, seem to yearn for the "good" old days of urban renewal, at a time when other cities have long since abandoned such outmoded, big government programs.

That outmoded approach resulted in the senseless destruction of such landmarks as the old Sun building, the National Exchange Bank, the Metropolitan Savings Bank and the 1848 tobacco warehouses.

These were replaced by empty, windswept plazas and blank walls that are crumbling already.

If Mr. Millspaugh wishes such people-unfriendly spaces to be his monument, that's his choice.

It's not too late for the rest of us to learn from such mistakes.

John Maclay, Baltimore

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