Letters To The Editor


October 28, 2003

Let developers pay the costs sprawl exacts

The Sun's article "Lawmakers divided over how to cover growth costs" (Oct. 19) presented a conflict between local and state officials. Counties want to be able to charge developers for the costs of schools, roads and other infrastructure needed to serve new developments, but state legislators often refuse to allow them to do so. This issue is now simmering in Carroll, Harford and Howard counties.

Counties should be allowed to decide their own fate on this issue. The county budget is hit hardest when new schools need to be built and sewage treatment plants need to be expanded.

When the school-age population expands, schools need to be built. When subdivisions go up, new firehouses are needed. It's not a matter of being wasteful. It's a matter of who pays.

The Maryland Public Interest Research Group (MaryPIRG) recently surveyed all Maryland counties to learn how much they are charging developers for the costs of infrastructure associated with new developments. We found that only 10 of the state's 23 counties charge anything at all, and those that do charge for fees recover on average about one-third of the cost of development.

Carroll County recoups less than a one-quarter of its costs. Howard County charges 14 percent. Harford County charges nothing at all. This means that the rest of us are subsidizing the sprawl that's spreading further into open space at the fringes of our metropolitan areas.

County delegations in Annapolis should not be holding up the counties' efforts to recoup the costs of development. They should be the first to be pressing the General Assembly to allow counties to take care of their own budgets.

Brad Heavner


The writer is the director of MaryPIRG.

Public is the loser in charity fraud

The Chimes case ("Disclosure at Chimes puts donors in the dark," Oct. 22) along with The Sun's editorial "For whom the Chimes toll" (Oct. 23) and The Sun's earlier article "Some foundations spend lavishly on own board members" (May 11) may disclose only the tip of an iceberg - the iceberg being massive charity fraud in this state and nation.

The fact of the matter is that we do not know. As The Sun's editorial pointed out, the Internal Revenue Service does not closely monitor nonprofits. This is in large measure because the Congress and the White House are not interested in any effective oversight of nonprofits. And Maryland does not provide effective regulation of the nonprofits within its boundaries.

Combine these failures with the state's lack of a requirement for charities to have an independent board, and the result is often excessive salaries to officers and self-dealing among board members.

The public, which extends tremendous subsidies to nonprofit groups (e.g. tax exemptions and the deductibility of contributions), is the loser.

Paul Streckfus


Greed will damage services for disabled

If future fund raising and services for the disabled are hurt, it will not be because of an unfair story by The Sun ("Disclosure at Chimes puts donors in the dark," Oct. 22), but rather because of the Chimes' chief executive Terry A. Perl's greed and abuse of his position.

Ingrid Schoeler


Money for protests but not for tuition?

I find it ironic, and somewhat amusing, that college students from the University of Maryland, who claim they cannot afford a tuition increase, have suddenly come up with the cash to form a PAC ("UM students form PAC to protest tuition rise," Oct. 21).

As we all know, the University System of Maryland provides a top-notch education. In a perfect world, the state could continue to provide generous subsidies to the system. However, escalating costs associated with providing this education in conjunction with the budget deficit inherited from the previous administration requires that these students start paying their fair share.

It is time for these students to join the rest of us in the real world. They should quit blaming Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. for circumstances outside of his control and demand some accountability from their school's administration, which has encouraged these outrageous cost increases.

Sean M. McGraw


Raising tuition, limiting access

Do you wonder why Republicans are often referred to as "the party of the rich"? You need not look any further than Richard E. Hug's comments advocating that tuition be doubled at public colleges and universities ("Regents approve tuition increase averaging 10%," Oct 18).

And who is Mr. Hug? He is a member of the Board of Regents, the higher education board that sets policy and tuition for the University System of Maryland institutions. He's also a close ally of Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr., and even more important, he has been the governor's chief fund-raiser.

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