Raising tolls tempts the state to misuse transportation...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

September 08, 2001

Raising tolls tempts the state to misuse transportation funds

The Maryland Transportation Authority's announcement of a plan to double the tolls on two major thoroughfares between Harford and Cecil counties demonstrates the spend-and-tax policies of the Glendening-Townsend administration ("MTA seeks public comment on proposal to raise toll fees," Aug. 22).

The facts are simple. Going into the 2000 legislative session, the state had a billion-dollar surplus. Now, nonpartisan analysts predict a deficit of $438 million by the end of next year.

Instead of holding the line, the MTA is taking the easy way out. Under its proposal, tolls will double at the Interstate 95 toll plaza in Perryville and the Thomas J. Hatem Memorial Bridge across the Susquehanna River on U.S. 40.

Even though this toll revenue does not go to the state's general fund, accumulations of dollars in any source is a temptation for transfer during a time of deficit.

This year, for instance, the Glendening-Townsend administration supported a $43 million transfer from the Maryland Transportation Authority to help fund the operating budgets of the MTA in Baltimore and the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority. Fortunately, the legislature blocked this maneuver.

Shifting funds designed for our highway infrastructure to mass transit operations is wrong. And safety is another important issue. Right now, many tractor trailers use alternate routes to avoid paying bridge and highway tolls.

The MTA's proposal will only encourage this behavior, increasing truck traffic on roads that are neither equipped nor designed to handle it.

J. Robert Hooper

Annapolis

The writer represents District 35 in the Maryland Senate.

Townsend has been key to better drug treatment

I am deeply concerned about Mayor Martin O'Malley's remarks concerning Lt. Gov. Kathleen Townsend's leadership on drug treatment in Maryland ("An unimpressed O'Malley taking potshots at Townsend," Aug. 31).

I work as a child and addiction psychiatrist in a community health center in East Baltimore and was appointed as chair of the Availability Subcommittee of the governor's Substance Abuse Task Force. Ms. Townsend chaired this task force and was one of the most ardent supporters of change in the alcohol and drug abuse treatment delivery system.

Public hearings were held throughout the state, including in Baltimore, where the mayor sat next to the lieutenant governor as dozens of citizens pleaded for change. She heard what was said, and as a result, many recommendations were made by the task force and are being implemented.

Ms. Townsend impressed us with her passion, her concern and her willingness to listen and make necessary changes.

Jude Boyer-Patrick Baltimore

O'Malley is right to doubt Townsend's qualifications

As a blue-collar, middle-class taxpaying citizen of Maryland, I'd like to give my interpretation of the article "An unimpressed O'Malley taking potshots at Townsend" (Aug. 31).

This is not a vendetta against Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend on a personal level. The mayor is just genuinely concerned for what's best for the people of the state. And if he thinks he smells a rat or a phony or whatever, he voices that concern.

The mayor is extremely smart, and he has a no-nonsense style. He doesn't hem and haw; he wants solutions and results and he wants them now.

Ms. Townsend, on the other hand, is more "old-school" politics, involving a lot of glad-handing, throwing the weight of her name around and socializing with the wallets -- and she's therefore really good at raising lots of money.

And that's it -- end of big story.

Kathy Quaty

Baltimore

Mayor Martin O'Malley is correct in taking potshots at Lt. Gov. Kathleen Kennedy Townsend.

The citizens of Maryland need to know the truth about her: She has never won an election in her own right, has little administrative experience and is barely articulate when speaking in public.

All she has is her family name and lots of cash. Marylanders can do a lot better.

C. D.Wilmer

Baltimore

Israel does practice ethnic apartheid

American officials, for political reasons, do not want Israel labeled "an apartheid regime," but that is what it is ("U.S., Israel leave race conference," Sept. 4).

The facts speak for themselves:

Palestinians are generally prevented from buying property in Israel.

Palestinians are issued few building permits.

Palestinians, in many locations, receive water only a few days a week, while their Israeli neighbors have green lawns and filled swimming pools.

Palestinian refugees are not allowed to return to their homes.

Sounds like an apartheid regime to me.

Albert L. Cummings

Owings Mills

Egypt deserves the blame for failure of U.N. conference

It is not enough to collectively blame the Arab and Third World countries who hijacked the United Nations racism conference in South Africa ("U.S., Israel leave race conference," Sept. 4).

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