Workers suffer while politicians pocket big raise The...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

April 21, 2002

Workers suffer while politicians pocket big raise

The salary increases that the Maryland legislature just gave itself, 9 percent now and 38 percent over four years, are deeply offensive to Marylanders in general and state employees in particular.

State workers were promised a small salary bump of 2 percent -- a cost-of-living adjustment (COLA) that doesn't even keep up with inflation -- but the Assembly rejected it, crying "fiscal restraint."

Restraint? Since 1987, in boom times or bust, our legislators have hiked their salaries by an average $1,000 a year. And now they have upped their salaries another $3,000 a year. A Maryland legislator's salary will rise from $31,500 to $43,500 in the next four years -- for a part-time job.

There's no shortage of politicians clamoring to join the legislature. There is, however, a crisis of recruitment and retention of state workers. Public employees, skilled but underpaid, are quite reasonably moving to the private sector and better wages.

These professionals seem invisible until you need them. But here are a few who did not get a COLA this year:

The emergency specialists who measured air quality during last year's train tunnel fire.

The scientists and technicians who tested for anthrax last fall, controlled the West Nile virus and monitored pfiesteria in the bay.

The bridge engineers, accountants, nurses, prison guards, social workers and many others who ensure that life in Maryland is safe, fair and comfortable.

This summer when you get a mosquito bite, drive across a bridge or through a tunnel, challenge a tax assessment or summon social services for a troubled neighbor, just hope your case file doesn't land on an empty desk.

Many of us are taking our skills elsewhere.

Debra Perry

George Myers

Annapolis

The writers are presidents, respectively, of the Maryland Federation of Nurses and Health Professionals and the Maryland Professional Employees Council.

Look at regents' role in Towson's troubles

The Sun's coverage of the Towson University mansion controversy was very effective in profiling former president Mark Perkins' spending spree.

But the Towson scandal is highly reminiscent of another mini-drama recently played out on the Maryland stage -- can you spell Allfirst?

In the Allfirst matter, however, The Sun attempted to track down those responsible for oversight of the rogue trader. This raises the question: Why didn't the Board of Regents provide timely oversight of Mr. Perkins' attempt to respond to its mandate to raise Towson's profile?

Are we to believe a university president is a free agent in making spending choices? Where does the buck stop in Maryland's university system?

Somehow, I suspect Mr. Perkins is being used as a fall guy who never got a chance to implement the good ideas he was reported to have. What a loss.

Joyce Spencer Quarles

Baltimore

I find it hard to believe that Mark Perkins alone made all the decisions with regard to the mansion, the medallion and the inauguration. I think it's time for someone to make a serious evaluation of the Board of Regents.

Who is on the board? How much do they make as members? Was the real estate agent who sold the Greenway house connected to the board?

The Sun has been scratching the surface. An impropriety of this magnitude goes more than skin deep. My bet is that it goes straight to the bone.

Denise A. Whiting

Baltimore

Why oppose a train as quiet as Maglev?

Some Howard County officials and developers oppose the Maglev train passing near a community of $500,000 homes, calling it a "train for highly paid executives" ("Howard makes tracks to oppose Maglev plan," April 13).

I don't know why someone would oppose a virtually silent, pollution-free train. Perhaps they are worried that those "highly paid executives" will buy $500,000 homes in Baltimore instead?

David Plaut

Reisterstown

Backing coup shows a lack of integrity

The failed coup by a U.S.-backed oligarch in Venezuela is emblematic of the repugnant deceit with which the Bush administration treats the world ("U.S. officials, group met on Chavez ouster," April 16).

It is criminal that this story, which exposes the lies, prevarication and total lack of commitment to democracy of the Bush administration, was buried on page 10A of The Sun.

The fact that senior officials clandestinely met with the business-aligned coup plotters, failed to denounce the rightist putsch, then back-pedaled and half-heartedly welcomed back the nation's president makes crystal clear the Bush administration's total lack of integrity.

Wake up, America: This is big business vs. democracy.

Jay Dover

Baltimore

Palestinian hostility makes all sides suffer

Recent coverage rarely puts the Middle East situation in perspective. But Israel is a tiny sliver of desert that has, since day one, had to fight off Arab armies.

I know many Israelis; few want to occupy territories such as the West Bank, but none wants to again face the consequences of not having control.

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