Letting government decide where growth occurs isn't too...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

November 18, 2001

Letting government decide where growth occurs isn't too smart

Tom Horton believes that Smart Growth will "revitalize towns and cities, protect the Chesapeake Bay, save taxpayers billions and preserve Maryland's rural heritage" ("Sprawl defies good intentions," Nov. 9). Smart Growth will never deliver on any of these promises.

The idea that it saves taxpayers money must refer to the myth that suburbs are more expensive to maintain than cities. This simply isn't true. Taxpayers continue, for instance, to pay for two large sports stadiums and a light rail system, all of which were promoted as necessary to restore Baltimore to greatness.

Preserving Maryland's rural heritage sounds wonderful -- unless you're a farmer counting on your land to fund your retirement. You can't make money farming it and you can't make money selling it.

The government may offer to buy it at reduced value, but there is nothing to prevent political elites from selling it or other "rural legacy" properties in the future.

But what can Smart Growth accomplish? It can raise the cost of housing by limiting the supply. It can make it harder for people to relocate when the job market changes. It can increase traffic congestion around cities and towns, thereby producing more, not less, air pollution.

If Smart Growth is government telling you what you ought to do, Dumb Growth must be individuals deciding what they want to do on the basis of their own interests.

I'll take Dumb Growth, thank you.

Joseph J. Miller, Jr.

Linthicum Heights

The writer is treasurer of the Libertarian Party of Maryland

Federalizing the work force won't make airports safer

In separate columns, P. W. Singer ("Arguments against federalization flimsy," Opinion Commentary, Nov. 7) and Jules Witcover ("GOP taking risk on airport security," Opinion Commentary, Nov. 7) offer a choice: federalize airport security forces or face higher risks.

The choice is a false one. The question is not whether private firms have had security lapses in the past -- clearly, they have -- but whether federal employees would be less likely to make the same or similar mistakes. The evidence overwhelmingly indicates the answer is no.

Federalizing airport security jobs may not only increase costs, but risks as well. The recent lapses by Argenbright Security Inc. actually illustrate this.

Because Argenbright is a private company, it has been told to correct its deficiencies or lose the contract. If the jobs were federalized, this kind leverage would be lost.

By all means, mandate more training, better background checks, employee bonding and more controls. But don't make the mistake of believing federalizing the workforce will magically make us safer.

William E. Fleischmann

Edgewood

Bounties could encourage monitors to find contraband

Congress is trying to decide whether to hire some 20,000 federal agents to inspect travelers and their baggage at airports and perhaps other locations. But perhaps the problem isn't lack of personnel, but lack of motivation. After all, how hard can it be to detect a revolver in a suitcase?

Maybe we should hire perhaps 100 agents whose sole job would be to try to smuggle arms aboard aircrafts. Anyone who catches them would get a $500 bounty and public recognition. Anyone who lets them through gets fired, immediately.

This may be more effective (and certainly cheaper) than putting 20,000 more people on the federal payroll.

John C. Stiles

Forest Hill

The president's policies undermine our security

President Bush wants us to believe the government is doing all it can to protect us from terrorist attacks. But it's a pity he does not support his words with deeds.

He has just threatened to veto funding needed for security measures, and both he and the Republicans in Congress have resisting federalizing airport security although this could leave us subject to underpaid incompetents who can miss five knives in a carry-on bag.

Meanwhile we continue to bomb a battered country, 5 million of whose wretched people may starve this winter. This callous action is the worst imaginable protection against terrorism, as it disgusts and enrages millions around the world.

It would be helpful if Mr. Bush would focus less on empty rhetoric and more on constructive action.

Katharine W. Rylaarsdam

Baltimore

Dixon's mismanagement causes pension fund's woes

C. Fraser Smith seems to think that Richard N. Dixon deserves a medal ("He saved pension system," Opinion Commentary, Nov. 11).

This is far from true. The pension system is in disarray because of the way Mr. Dixon mismanaged it. If all members of the retirement system board had been aware of the condition of the retirement system, this financial debacle could have been avoided.

It is very easy to make money in a booming economy. However, when a recession or depression hits and easy money is no longer available, people such as Mr. Dixon, who has kept the other members of the state retirement system in the dark, run into serious trouble.

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