Party prevention can keep dangers from ever arising We...

LETTERS

March 25, 2001

Party prevention can keep dangers from ever arising

We were pleased that our objective look at the handling of the Jan. 13 Marriott shooting revealed more positive than negative actions by our officers ("Police handling of teen killing found lacking," March 10).

Our goal was to thoroughly investigate the incident and report to our citizens the findings, both good and bad. While we may have found a few inappropriate actions out of the hundreds of decisions made that night, we found that the officers were working to ensure the safety of everyone at the scene.

But as we carefully review every detail of the incident, we must not lose sight of the bigger picture.

As The Sun's article mentioned, the officers walked into a chaotic crime scene, where they found two shooting victims, people jumping out of windows, screaming and running through the hotel and a gunman possibly still at the scene. Protecting our young adults was their top priority. But we were dismayed to learn that Howard County youths were able to rent two hotel rooms to hold a party which involved alcohol.

Party-goers received complaints from hotel management and, before long, uninvited guests arrived, one with a handgun. The situation was a recipe for disaster -- and one we hope to prevent in the future.

Perhaps the death of a promising young man and the injury to a popular young woman could have been avoided if the youths had been unable to hold such a hotel party in the first place.

That is why, at the direction of County Executive James N. Robey, I have called together representatives from every hotel in the county to meet with me at the end of this month. We will talk about rental policies and the best way we can avoid such parties.

While appropriate response to these incidents is important, prevention is key.

With prom and graduation season upon us, we as a community can work together to ensure that this kind of party is not part of the traditional celebration.

The Howard County Police Department will be ready to handle this type of situation if it ever arises again.

But we're hoping that, if parents, hotel owners, police and other members of the community work together, we won't have to.

G. Wayne Livesay

Ellicott City

The writer is Howard County's chief of police.

County must limit spending on education

The spectacle of parents herding balloon-carrying children before the Howard County budget hearing to clamor for increased spending for an already bloated school system demonstrates the near-hysteria that education myopia has produced ("Robey hears budget pleas," March 13).

All of us understand that the education of our children is important. However, we should also understand that education is not the only priority for the county.

Fifty percent of the Howard County budget is dedicated to education. Yet the rapid growth of the county demands increased revenue for infrastructure, especially road construction and maintenance, increased police and fire protection and support for seniors.

Approximately 60 percent of Howard County residents do not have children in the school system. They are legitimate stakeholders in the budget process and they should not have to arm themselves with balloons to be recognized.

And, while it may surprise some people, there actually are residents of the county who need to monitor their budgets and would endure hardship if property taxes are continually increased.

Our suggestion is to create a check-off system similar to the one the Internal Revenue Service uses for political contributions.

The county could send out postcards asking citizens to allow their individual property taxes to be raised in support of the school system. That might require some additional bookkeeping, but it would be a democratic way to resolve a potentially divisive issue.

Another novel possibility is to make meaningful cuts in the county budget before the economic slowdown causes serious decreases in revenue.

No one wants his or her own ox gored, but all indications are that, short of another property tax increase, county officials will have to demonstrate some political courage, ignore the balloons and make some hard and unpopular choices.

Carl LaVerghetta

Rose LaVerghetta

Ellicott City

Public school choice offers parents options

I appreciate The Sun's articles on open enrollment in Howard County ("Enrollment plan open to debate," March 11) and I've done a little research to find out what the figures are for public school choice (PSC) throughout our nation.

Here are the nationwide facts regarding PSC:

Currently 37 jurisdictions (36 states and the District of Columbia) offer parents some kind of PSC. Eighteen of these states offer statewide PSC.

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