Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

August 23, 2004

Sewage plants have sharply cut their emissions

A recent Sun editorial suggested that the Chesapeake Bay Program is "fundamentally flawed" because the bay "cleanup management plan ... has no power to enforce pollution reduction goals and holds no individual or agency responsible for lack of progress" ("Fundamentally flawed," editorial, Aug. 18).

But the real failure lies in the fixation by interest groups on holding pollution from point sources responsible for the bay's ills. That is simply wrong.

Maryland's sewage treatment plants have achieved significant reductions in nutrient emissions (which have been cut by 60 percent since 1985). These plants are accountable for the reductions they have committed to make through legally binding grant agreements between state and local governments.

To date, every Maryland local government has outperformed the requirements of these agreements.

The wastewater treatment community in Maryland and Virginia believe future reductions in nutrients entering the bay will largely be the result of initiatives such as the "flush tax" program in Maryland and the Water Quality Improvement Fund in Virginia.

But the depressing reality is that the largest reductions in pollution from specific sources are behind us and the U.S. Geological Survey's findings about the bay water quality suggest we have nothing to show for them.

We should continue to seek to reduce such pollution, but recognize there will be significantly diminished returns from such investments.

That is sobering to me. But I hope it will give us the will to look more forcefully for new ways to achieve meaningful improvements in the bay water quality.

Paul Calamita

Richmond, Va.

The writer is general counsel for the Maryland Association of Municipal Wastewater Agencies.

Tighter regulations needed to save bay

When talking about the Chesapeake Bay one has to look at indicators much more complex than a white bathing suit test ("Fundamentally flawed," editorial, Aug. 18).

For many years, many dedicated people have honestly worked to restore the Chesapeake Bay through their work in the Chesapeake Bay Program. The problems with the program are twofold:

Much of the reporting about the state of the bay has been, and is presently, colored by the political influence of the various administrations in the signatory states.

How much can we really expect when there is virtually no regulation tied to the goals of the bay program?

People may say that they want a healthy Chesapeake Bay, but when it comes to the hard choices, sadly changes only come with regulation. Management plans without teeth simply do not work.

With all of the pressures on our estuary from a massive influx of people, sewage treatment plants and farms, perhaps it is an accomplishment in itself to note that the bay's "pollution levels [have] hardly changed at all."

Betsy Kulle

Annapolis

The writer worked for the Maryland Department of Natural Resources for nine years.

Tax cuts will exact high price for years

The trickle-down economics practiced by President Bush and President Reagan just do not work ("Wealthiest 20% see income share grow to 50%," Aug. 17).

The Bush tax cuts have proven unsuccessful as far as the middle and lower classes are concerned and have not helped the domestic economy, because wealthy businesses aren't making the investments toward further employment.

The Bush tax cuts have also given this country such a huge deficit (as President Reagan's did in the 1980s) that many of the social programs that benefit the majority of citizens are bound to suffer.

When will the Republicans realize that by benefiting the rich, they are harming the country's economy for present and future citizens, who will suffer the effects for many years to come?

Florence Smelkinson

Baltimore

Prisoners, ex-felons should get to vote

The recent letter which argues that "ex-felons who have completely paid their dues to society should again be immediately granted their voting privileges" does not go far enough ("No reason to deny ex-felons their vote," letters, Aug. 16).

First, it does not consider that a substantial percentage of ex-felons were convicted of victimless crimes -- drug possession, most notably -- and thus owe no debt to society.

Second, even ex-felons who committed crimes with victims owed no debt to society, unless they committed crimes such as embezzling public funds or destroying public property.

Using cliches such as "debt to society" often substitutes for thinking. A murderer is imprisoned for the protection of the rest of us, and for retribution and deterrence, not because he owes a debt.

Finally, why shouldn't people in prison, even if they owe a debt to society, be allowed to vote? They remain human beings with legitimate interests, such as electing politicians who will finally do something about the high incidence of prison rape.

They also share everyone's interest in matters such as war and peace.

Educating prisoners about public issues and allowing them to vote could be part of rehabilitation.

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