Smart Growth isn't why houses are so expensive In The...

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 21, 2002

Smart Growth isn't why houses are so expensive

In The Sun's article "Local developers go far" (Aug. 4), home-builders blame Smart Growth for the rising cost of new homes in the Baltimore region. Their argument has a shaky foundation.

Smart Growth is a state policy that does nothing to restrict land supply. It merely directs state funds for public works projects to Smart Growth areas designated by the counties.

The prices of homes, new and old, have been rising dramatically because of market forces that have nothing to do with land supply. Lower interest rates stimulate demand, create a seller's market and cause escalating asking prices for homes.

Yet development opportunities abound throughout the region in the form of vacant and underutilized land -- so-called grayfields. Baltimore alone has 40,000 vacant homes.

Developers need to view grayfields as the preferred raw material for development, rather than the greenfields of farms and forests.

The developers quoted in the article are right about one thing: There is no longer room in Maryland for large subdivisions of homes on lots of an acre or more. A small state, Maryland cannot afford to sacrifice its remaining farms and forests so wastefully. Nor can the Chesapeake Bay afford to absorb the excessive runoff from such development.

But fully exploiting grayfield development opportunities makes sense for the state, for our communities, for the bay and for builders.

Theresa Pierno

Annapolis

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

Norris' spending isn't out of line

As a former corporate executive, I can tell you that corporations spend money the way Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris did all of the time ("Norris, police spend off-the-books funds on trips, gifts, meals," Aug. 14).

Should better records have been kept? Yes, there is no denying that. Was this stealing? Not from anything that has been revealed so far.

Poor choices may have been made, but business (and government) often spends money on hotel rooms, meals, etc. It's hard to convince someone to come work for you, when you're staying at the Holiday Inn and eating at McDonald's. Is it fair? Probably not, but it is how you make things work.

And we should keep in mind that, in reality, the amount of money we are talking about is minuscule compared to the budgets of the city and its Police Department.

We also don't know what percentage of the expenditures would have been approved if the account had been audited. But surely some of them, if not most of them, would have been approved.

And we shouldn't be jumping to conclusions when the city's administration and the Police Department have both been doing a great job.

Stephen M. Chittenden

Baltimore

Funds were intended to aid needy officers

Baltimore Police Commissioner Edward T. Norris' misuse of a fund that was intended to serve employees of the department and their families in crisis is a disgrace to the city ("Norris, police spend off-the-books funds on trips, gifts, meals," Aug. 14).

Even if he is not an accountant, surely Mr. Norris' "top of the line" laptop computer could have been used to more accurately document his frivolous use of the monies intended for support of his officers and their families.

What he seems to lack is the will to do so; it might have cramped his style and exposed his inflated ego.

D. Warner

Columbia

Make mayor sign off on city's accounts

How many more "slush funds" do department heads in the city of Baltimore have?

Maybe we need the mayor of Baltimore to sign off on the city's books as the CEO's of major corporations must do for their companies' accounts.

Dennis R. Kennedy

Baltimore

Barely noted tragedy bloodies city's streets

It was a small piece, just a few paragraphs on page 2 of the Maryland section; but it had a large emotional impact on me -- a 16-year old boy, shot dead at 3 a.m. was the 158th homicide in the city this year ("East-side youth, 16, is fatally shot," Aug. 11).

Both parents in jail, he was being raised by a great-aunt.

I weep at this textbook tragedy.

Molly Kinnaird Johnston

Glen Arm

Forum shows again Bush has no answers

President George W. Bush proved once again he has no answer to the sagging economy, as his "economic forum" proved to be no more than partisan rhetoric ("Bush insists outlook strong," Aug. 14).

I can only hope the bill for this political charade was footed by the Republican National Committee, and not the American taxpayer.

Michael Baker

Baltimore

CareFirst should put its house in order

The article "Bigger premium boosts expected at CareFirst" (Aug. 9) indicates CareFirst will request another large increase in premiums.

In the last two years its policies for small businessmen have had two double-digit premium-rate increases. And it takes a lot of chutzpah to ask for more increases after all the negative publicity about executive compensation and the company's proposed sale to WellPoint Health Networks Inc.

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