Saturday Mailbox


December 11, 2004

Paltry spending on school repair endangers kids

The editorial "Building schools" (Dec. 2) graphically spells out the extent to which we are disadvantaging Maryland's youths by failing to address deteriorating and dangerous school facilities.

In 2003, Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. and the Maryland General Assembly received a report from the Maryland State Task Force to Study Public School Facilities detailing nearly $4 billion in needed renovations and construction to provide minimally adequate school buildings.

Of that figure, $300 million is needed immediately to correct urgent health and safety issues in Maryland's public schools. These issues include exposed wiring, structural problems, moldy carpets, communication systems that don't work -- and the list goes on.

What has the state done in response to this report detailing health, safety and educational deficiencies in schools?

Did it immediately respond to this dangerous situation with an emergency plan to remedy all serious threats immediately and address the rest of the inadequacies in a reasonable amount of time? No.

Instead, the state has continued to fund public school renovation and construction at the same levels prior to the report -- a miserly $100 million a year for 24 public school jurisdictions to share.

The state agency responsible for making sure we are fiscally responsible when issuing debt has determined that Maryland can issue another $1 billion in debt and still be fiscally frugal.

So the American Civil Liberties Union wonders why -- if we have an identified need, the money to pay for it, and the constitutional responsibility to provide our children with a "thorough and efficient" education (which surely includes safe buildings) -- the governor and other state leaders have not immediately worked to resolve this need.

Sally T. Grant


The writer is president of the American Civil Liberties Union of Maryland.

Huge debt will ruin tax-cutting fantasy

This country has had more wake-up calls than the world's laziest traveling salesman. Still, Thomas L. Friedman's column "Flying elephants and the 9/11 bubble" (Opinion

Commentary, Dec. 3) is especially sobering to any household facing mounting debt.

Those of us in such a situation understand all too well how deficit spending by way of credit cards leads to ever-increasing monthly payments that can ultimately lead to those payments exceeding the debtor's income.

Although no one in the administration cares to admit it, our country is headed down that same slippery slope.

The Republicans have been relying on an all-gain, no-pain strategy to win elections for more than 20 years now. No one can doubt their success in the short term.

Tax cuts appeal to voters' self-interest and leave the opposition hamstrung with the tag of "tax and spend."

It seems the fiscal conservatives in the GOP have forsaken responsibility for the pursuit of power.

But cutting revenue sources while opening up a perpetual black hole of spending in the name of the "war on terror" takes the "war on taxes" into very dangerous ground. Sooner of later, as the national debt and deficit rise uncontrollably, artificially low interest rates will begin to rise, which will dampen the real estate and business climate.

Ultimately, credit card interest rates will follow the rising trend, and many more consumer debtors will find it impossible to pay their bills.

Like credit card companies for individual and families, foreign governments such as China and Japan will be far less willing to shore up America's rising debt.

Taxes are a government's income. That income should -- in fact, must -- be our means for meeting America's financial obligations.

The fantasy-land in which we now live is a recipe for financial disaster, sooner or later.

Joe Roman


Scrutiny of BDC is long overdue

I am delighted to see the Baltimore Development Corp. (BDC) under such scrutiny by The Sun, and congratulate the plaintiffs for their courage in this lawsuit contending it is a public agency ("Public agency or nonprofit group?" Dec. 1).

I have long wondered how the "quasi-public" status of the BDC could be legitimate -- a private, closed-door agency funded with tax dollars, appointed by the mayor but not accountable to the citizenry.

As seems so often to be the case in Baltimore development, we lowly taxpayers are expected to foot the bill yet meekly acquiesce that the BDC and the mayor's office know best, even if their actions involve the abuse of eminent domain powers or sweetheart deals for the wealthy and well-connected.

We are often reminded that there is no money for services, but there seems to be plenty to spend in some places.

It is heartening to see challenges by activists, such as Joan Floyd's fight against the closed-door dealing that has been the norm for so long.

But more citizens need to be the watchdogs of the government as well by demanding an open and accountable process for the spending of tax dollars.

Kathryn Parke


Insurance must serve patients, not lawyers

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