Saturday Mailbox


March 08, 2003

Open space is critical to our quality of life

Just as good schools, good transportation systems and public safety are essential for our high quality of life, so are good parks. And good planning and land protection are essential if Maryland is to remain a desirable place to live.

As far back as 1969, our leaders had the foresight to pass a law creating Program Open Space - a fund generated from the real estate transfer tax for the creation and conservation of parks, natural areas and farms.

This dedicated tax, in effect, ties the rate of (or at least the funds for) land conservation to the rate of development, by generating funds from each real estate transaction.

Since its inception, Program Open Space funds have created 4,300 local parks and 50 state parks and conservation areas and protected more than 785,000 acres of open space. But now, when development pressures in Maryland are at their highest level ever, those funds are being diverted from their original purpose ("Open-land programs might be squeezed," Feb. 16).

This budget season, there is a proposal to permanently cap funds for the program at $50 million - which is less than 50 percent of what the transfer tax is expected to generate - and divert the remainder to the general fund. This on top of $600 million already diverted from the program to other purposes in recent years.

Maryland needs to invest in its own future with the revenue generated for that very purpose. Any diversion of these funds is shortsighted and jeopardizes our quality of life.

Julie Enger


The writer is project manager for the Trust for Public Land.

Investors expect no guarantees

Nicholas Leonhardt's analysis of the vagaries of Wall Street ("To a teen, Wall Street's beyond belief," Opinion*Commentary, Feb. 23) was incisive, thought-provoking and revealing. It reveals his belief that a guarantee is an entitlement and that someone or something else should be responsible for ensuring every dream becomes reality.

If Mr. Leonhardt wants a financial guarantee he should put his money in the bank, where he will be guaranteed to lose it. Well, not lose his money, but lose buying power, and isn't that why each of us wants money in the first place?

In no long-term scenario has the after-tax yield of bank interest ever exceeded the rate of inflation.

Investors such as me may not understand all the nuts and bolts of the financial markets, but we understand one thing: Throughout financial history, the only way to build wealth and security, besides starting one's own business (which is beyond the courage and resources of many of us), is by owning equities.

When I visit my doctor I do not understand all the science and experience that contribute to his prognosis, I come away with no written warranty regarding his counsel, yet I continue to schedule an annual physical. The same thing dictates my relationship with my financial adviser.

And as for a "whiny Wall Street" failing to accept blame for market reverses, Mr. Leonhardt simply does not understand the role of the markets. Even in today's litigious environment, few would hold Safeway to blame if a choice of frozen pizza turned out to be a disappointment. Safeway just brings the product to market, and does not "guarantee" that it will meet with one's favor. Yet we still shop there.

You get a guarantee when you buy a toaster. Anything much beyond that, anything truly important, carries risk.

Ronald Pilling


Estrada generates broad opposition

The Sun's assertion that "a few" Hispanic groups oppose the confirmation of Miguel Estrada to the U.S. Court of Appeals and "many major Hispanic groups" support his nomination is inaccurate ("Stalemate over Bush nominee previews `coming attractions,'" Feb. 24).

In truth, a significant majority of the Hispanic organizations (including our local League of United Latin American Citizens chapter), which have been working for equal opportunity for all Americans for several decades, have come out against the Estrada nomination.

The threat Mr. Estrada poses to affirmative action, worker's rights, bilingual education efforts and a host of programs and policies important to the larger Hispanic community has unified a broad spectrum of national public interest organizations and many other civil rights, labor, reproductive rights and environmental groups.

The Sun's article vastly underestimated the level of opposition to Mr. Estrada in the Hispanic community.

Rudy Arredondo

Takoma Park

The writer is president of the League of United Latin American Citizens of Montgomery County.

Toughen sanctions for fisheries abuse

Current regulatory, enforcement and judicial procedures are not sufficient to protect our declining fisheries resources from the minority of watermen who repeatedly violate fisheries regulations.

One such person recently used high-tech equipment and night-vision goggles to avoid detection while he crabbed at night ("Repeat offender gets jail time for illegal crabbing," Jan. 10).

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