State legislators should increase fines for polluting...


February 20, 2002

State legislators should increase fines for polluting the air

The Sun's editorial "Downwind of trouble" (Feb. 11) showed how air pollutants leave both asthma victims and aquatic life in Chesapeake Bay gasping for air.

Recently, the Maryland Department of the Environment gave us another example of why we need to be concerned about air pollution. The department issued fish consumption advisories warning us to strictly limit the amount of fish we eat from all of the state's freshwater lakes and ponds and many tidal tributaries ("MDE warns about fish," Dec. 13).

Mercury, released to the atmosphere from coal-burning power plants and incinerators, is the major pollutant that triggered the advisories.

Several immediate actions must be taken to address Maryland's air pollution problem. On a state level, the Maryland legislature is considering a bill to increase the penalties for businesses and industries that violate their air discharge permit.

If businesses are discharging more pollutants than allowed, they should be penalized. Marylanders' health and the bay should not pay the price of such pollution.

On a federal level, the Bush administration's intentions to relax standards on electric power generation would introduce even more mercury to the bay as emissions from power plants in the Midwest and South are carried east by prevailing winds.

We urge all elected officials to support the air pollution enforcement bill in the Maryland legislature and not to weaken federal Clean Air Act regulations.

Theresa Pierno


The writer is Maryland executive director of the Chesapeake Bay Foundation.

Campaign finance reforms curtail freedom of speech

I am extremely discouraged by the behavior of most of our senators and representatives in passing the two versions of campaign finance reform ("House OKs campaign reform bill," Feb. 14).

Both [the Senate and House] bills would curtail free speech, in direct opposition to the Constitution. The First Amendment to our Constitution states that "Congress shall make no law... abridging the freedom of speech" specifically so U.S. citizens can express political views.

But what the so-called protectors of our rights have now done is unashamedly limit our ability to support a candidate or to criticize an incumbent, not to mention ridiculously entangle us in a morass of unenforceable regulation.

Why can't I be allowed to pool my money with a pal or two and say, "I knew John Smith in the Army and he was a rat - don't vote for him?" Why can't I or why can't you?

This campaign finance reform legislation is just terrible.

Paul Fordiani


The campaign finance reform bill would be more rightly named if it were titled the "Restrict Free Speech Bill."

Dick Seymour


West-side merchants represent city's future

The Sun's editorial "Giving the store away" (Feb. 10) was off-base. When the city condemns a business, a merchant has a choice - close or relocate. Owners don't get paid for the value of their business, and the law allows them only $10,000 for relocation expenses.

But the merchant must outfit a new store from scratch, which costs from $50,000 to $100,000 for a typical storefront.

Faced with this harsh reality, Mayor Martin O'Malley agreed to pay for the merchants' inventory, at cost, to save them from financial ruin.

The west-side merchants are the salt of the earth. Many are African-Americans or immigrants from Korea or Eastern Europe. They represent Baltimore's future.

Instead of chiseling them on their closing costs, The Sun ought to beat the drums to keep them alive.

John C. Murphy


The writer is an attorney who has represented several west-side merchants.

NBC's focus on Americans demeans the Olympic ideals

You know those pictures that show the country from the viewpoint of New Yorkers, with New York taking up most of the map? That's how I think NBC's [Olympics] reporters and editors must think all Americans see the world: America as a huge chunk of the world, and all other countries just little dots on the globe.

I, for one, want to watch athletes from other countries who are the best at their sports, and not just those sports in which Americans excel. Isn't that what the Olympics are about?

It would be wonderful if our reporters would abandon their ethnocentricity so that the rest of the country could also do so.

Kathleen A. Morse


Judging makes skating a pageant, not a sport

Why is there such a fuss over the ice skating "scandal" at the Olympics ("Medal dispute puts skating in a spin," Feb. 14)? Ice skating isn't even a sport in the first place, nor is anything that is judged subjectively. A sport is a contest with an easily identified winner: the one who scores the most points, goes the fastest or crosses the finish line first. Hockey is the only sport on ice.

If they really want to include non-sports in the Olympics (ice skating, ice dancing and the snow events that rely on style points such as freestyle skiing), they should separate events into two types - sports and pageants.

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