Letters to the Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

December 14, 2003

Praising effort to cut racial scholastic gap

The Anne Arundel County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) would like to go on record as expressing our strong support for the decision of School Superintendent Eric J. Smith to have Deborah Williams spearhead the efforts to close the scholastic achievement gap between white and minority students.

Dr. Smith and the Board of Education are to be commended for taking a proactive approach toward addressing the systemic disparities that exist at Annapolis High School and other public schools in our county.

On Wednesday, at the next meeting of the Anne Arundel County Board of Education, the NAACP will join with other community organizations and elected officials to reiterate our unequivocal support for Principal Williams and Dr. Smith.

We also support a resolution pending before the Annapolis City Council that was introduced by Alderwoman Cynthia Carter, Alderman George O. Kelley Sr. and Alderwoman Classie G. Hoyle that will put the City of Annapolis on record as supporting these leaders in their efforts to close the gap between students.

Gerald G. Stansbury

Annapolis

The writer is president of the Anne Arundel County branch of the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People.

Add bicycle lanes to Rowe Boulevard

I read with much interest the recent article in The Sun concerning the proposed road improvements to Annapolis, in particular, to Rowe Boulevard and its two bridges ("Projects likely to cause delays," Dec. 8). What a fantastic opportunity for the County and State to do something good: Use this opportunity to enhance accommodations for bicyclists on these streets.

Although the B&A trail, along with some other trails, is a nice recreational place to ride, many bicyclists ride on the streets and roads to commute to work and to otherwise engage in such an invigorating physical activity as bike riding. Providing for marked bicycle lanes on the roads under construction would go a long way in improving the situation for cyclists, and could easily be accomplished as part of the planned construction.

John Foulkes

Annapolis

The writer is director of the Army Test and Evaluation Management Agency, Office of the Chief of Staff.

Understaffing causes firefighter overtime

I would like to respond to the Dec. 5 editorial "Quenching the fires of overtime." I have been employed by Anne Arundel County within the Fire Department for over 12 years, and not a single year has gone by where overtime expenses have not been a concern. Twelve years covers the Neall, Gary and Owens administrations, as well as other fire administrators besides Roger Simonds. This issue is not a new problem and Chief Simonds is just the latest victim of this scrutiny.

The alleged abuses of the overtime system (i.e. warehouse construction, unfunded positions) fail to analyze the overall impact these projects have had on the overtime budget. For example, your Dec. 3 article mentions one project that cost "about $200,000," but this is only 2.8 percent of overtime overruns. A very small drop in the overtime bucket.

Also, your review fails to reveal what the cost or savings of the warehouse project would be if the County's Facilities Management Department or an outside contractor did the work. Finally, on this point, why didn't your article mention how much money was spent to renovate other parts of the building which are used by other County agencies? This would only be fair to the Fire Department.

The major concern that comes out of the overtime costs issue is the continuous short staffing that takes place every day. Why doesn't your paper take on an investigation into the tax base of the County and the use of those funds overall? With the tremendous amount of commercial and residential development taking place and completed throughout the County, there should be more funds available for basic county services such as fire protection and emergency medical services. Yet all we hear about and suffer through are budget cutbacks and depleted staffing.

More firefighters and paramedics need to be hired immediately due to the increased number of employees who are eligible to retire. With a fire school class taking six months to matriculate, there is no hope in sight to come close to resolving the present staffing shortages. The longer the County waits, the greater the number of retirees. But we don't see the number of [emergency] responses decreasing. Also, any new hires within the next year will only attempt to fill the existing gap, not increase staffing.

With regards to revising the policies concerning the different types of leave, these are decided through mutual agreement within labor contracts. And the reality of the situation is that once a benefit is granted, it is not turned back easily. Of course benefits could be further reduced for those employees not covered by labor agreements, but why kick them when they're down already.

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