Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

March 15, 2003

Deal-making, bullying mark Ehrlich `change'

The recent wrangling in Annapolis has pitted Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and his administration against powerful foes, some previously considered to be his friends.

As the administration worked to secure votes, during its ultimately unsuccessful fight for Lynn Y. Buhl to lead the Department of the Environment, representatives of the administration were willing to promise anything in exchange for votes ("Looking to make a deal for Buhl," March 7).

The debate was also tinged with threats suggesting that falling out of favor with the governor now would result in difficult times ahead for those elected officials. The ultimate threat was that if Ms. Buhl was not confirmed, Kendl P. Philbrick might continue to serve as acting secretary, with the implication that this would be even more harmful for the environment.

The debate over the introduction of slot machines at racetracks has been another example of an administration that appears to be overwhelmed by circumstances.

The proposal has changed as each potential beneficiary has weighed in for a piece of the pie. With each new entrant in the debate, the demands become more outrageous, diminishing the potential earnings for education, whittling away at the promised effect of lowering the budget deficit, and disregarding the needs of potentially affected communities.

The governor's lowest act to date has been a blatant attempt to shield the true percentages to be realized by each of the stakeholders in his most recent proposal by obscuring the true figures.

During his campaign, Mr. Ehrlich promised to bring to an end to the "culture of corruption" in Annapolis. Far from changing the culture and process of state legislative debate, the current administration has resorted to blatant bullying, overt deal-making, and obscuring the truth.

Perhaps the change introduced by the governor and his advisers has been to bring the true nature of the political process out in the open for all to see.

Aaron I. Schneiderman

Baltimore

Democrats' ploys must be stopped

After reading the article on Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. considering tax hikes to get the budget through ("Ehrlich appears open to tax boost," March 13), we have to ask ourselves if the Democratic House thinks the people of Maryland are stupid and can't see what they are trying to do.

For the past eight years during the Parris and Kathleen show, Maryland went from having a surplus of cash to being in the red. The Democrats built this deficit, and now it's up to Bob and Michael to resolve the issue. However, each and every time they come up with a solution, the Democrats try and thwart their actions.

First they decided to fight Mr. Ehrlich's effort to bring slots into Maryland. The Democrats say that slots would prey on the poor, yet we have Keno and Lotto in almost every convenience and liquor store in the state. No one is forcing anyone to gamble. People will do it regardless of where or how. So why not derive some benefit out of it for the state?

Second, they're attempting to make it look like Mr. Ehrlich is raising taxes. This scheme should blow up in their faces.

Maryland has one of the highest property tax rates in the country, and all raising it would do is make the Pennsylvania and Virginia suburbs look more and more appealing to those considering a move.

I will strongly look at those people who pushed for this tax hike when voting day rolls around.

Mark Zivkovich

Baltimore

State plan favors roads over rail

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. needs to realize that he did not win the election because we Marylanders suddenly decided that our state is not polluted enough, needs more and more highways, and does not need rail transit. He won because his opponent was weak and chose bad advisers. He has no mandate for a far-right agenda.

To claim a balance between highways and transit by requesting twice as much money for highways is typical of road proponents. To them, "balance" means, "We'll build transit when we have finished all the highways we want" ("State requests U.S. funding for city transit plan," March 14).

The Baltimore Region Rail System Plan has been enthusiastically received by the public, private citizens and the business community alike, because we realize the city and the region must have rail to thrive. Buses, no matter how technologically advanced, cannot win riders and cut costs as light rail does.

In Montgomery County, citizens have worked long and hard to stop the Intercounty Connector (an environmental and transportation disaster) while obtaining wide public support for a light-rail Purple Line that would provide transportation at the lowest possible environmental and financial cost. To change the name to "Transitway" so bus rapid transit could be considered is a real slap in the face for citizens and officials in that county.

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