A civic group that has betrayed citizen activists Two...


September 24, 2000

A civic group that has betrayed citizen activists

Two weeks ago 1000 Friends of Maryland demonstrated that they are also the 1000 Enemies of Civic Activism. After two years of public debate regarding the 508-acre mixed-use development proposed for Fulton, our "friends" decided to jump into the fray ("Group backs project density," Sept. 7).

They rolled into Howard County, called a press conference at the Route 216 park-and-ride lot, stamped a Smart Growth label on a project they knew little about, decried "angry residents" they had never met or even bothered to speak with and rode off back to their enviro-fantasy world.

Not only did our "friends" not bother to discuss the competing viewpoints with local civic leaders, they ignored the county Sierra Club, which is adamantly opposed to the project.

This seems like odd behavior for a group which claims among its goals: increasing public awareness and sensitivity to issues regarding revitalization and directed growth; advancing a legislative agenda, based on broad public input, which supports revitalization and directed growth; and increasing the capacity of local civic, business and environmental groups to undertake planning, education, organizing and advocacy activities on revitalization and directed growth.

How do you advance goals involving public input and increasing the capacity of civic and environmental groups to become involved in growth issues, when you treat such groups with an absolute lack of respect and accuse them of irresponsible acts without even discussing the matter with them?

Considering that our "friends" did not testify at the public hearings, and thus, had no legal input, it seems that the timing of their press conference (shortly before the Zoning Board was to rule on the project) was an unethical attempt to influence the decision-making process outside procedural bounds.

I have provided legal services to community and environmental groups all over Maryland, including to the Sierra Club, on several occasion; therefore, I will not be lectured to by "friends" who serve at the pleasure of developers.

With "friends" like these who needs enemies.

Maryland civic and environmental groups would do well choose their "friends" wisely.

Thomas Dernoga


Friends of Maryland stood up for what's right

As a Howard County resident and business owner, I must applaud the courage and clarity of the message delivered by the 1000 Friends of Maryland during their announcement regarding Smart Growth and the Maple Lawn Farm development ("Group applauds project density," Sept. 7)

If we are truly attempting to control sprawl, one of the clear solutions is to make efficient use of land that has already been planned for future growth.

For some to call 1000 Friends of Maryland busybodies and a "thousand enemies of common sense" is not only self-serving but disingenuous.

George L. Doetsch


A typical boy, put in danger by his parents

When I read The Sun's front- page article "A deadly safari ends in a cry for answers" (Sept. 17)) and Brucie Jacobs' article on her son's very tragic death while on safari in Botswana, ("My son Garrit, `Little Bum,'" Sept. 17), I saw a very typical little 11-year-old boy taking chances, as boys will do.

He was obviously wealthier than most boys, but typical in his ambitions, dreams and games and his potential and intelligence.

While other young lives are cut short by means of auto accidents, falls out of trees, unsecured firearms and other perils of domestic risk taking, this one was lost to hungry wild animals in the jungles of Africa.

I also saw a parent who doesn't seem to understand that it is usually a lack of common sense on the part of adults that puts children's lives in jeopardy.

While Ms. Jacobs can note "the half-baked police investigation" and the "unresponsive Wildlife Department and HATAB organization," one truth is rather painfully intuitive: An 11-year-old child was left essentially alone and unguarded in a tent in the middle of the African jungle.

He wasn't camping out in his back yard and he didn't go on safari in Disneyland.

Guess who owns the shoulders which carry the responsibility for this young man's death?

William R. Ward

Ellicott City

County school board must mend its ways

I have been following the recent progression of articles concerning the Howard County School Board and the "Listening Post" ("School board not happy with forums," Sept. 6).

I would suggest that the "Listening Post" always was a sham. There is no ability to have a voice about anything on the agenda of the school board's meetings.

If the school board truly wants to redeem itself, I would suggest that it do the following.

Take the $16,000 it gave former superintendent Michael E. Hickey out of members' own pockets and put it back in the budget;

Rescind the raises and automobile perks it granted the assistant superintendents, who are being rewarded for having been good soldiers for Mr. Hickey;

Reduce the number of assistant superintendents to one.

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