Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

November 25, 2005

On the right track for a better MTA

I found it ironic that a recent editorial attacking the Ehrlich administration's transit program was titled "Wheels off the bus" (Nov. 21).

Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. has focused on fixing fundamental transit challenges, and one of those was the "bus wheel problem" our team inherited from the last administration.

In 2002, there was little confidence in the safety of the state's bus fleet. In 18 separate incidents, wheels had fallen off Maryland Transit Administration (MTA) buses. The Ehrlich administration implemented new maintenance procedures and developed a computerized tracking system.

As a result, the "bus wheel problem" is a thing of the past.

When Mr. Ehrlich came into office, an average MTA bus broke down every 976 miles. A March 2005 study showed that similar failures occur once every 5,305 miles - more than a 500 percent improvement.

Similar improvements have been made throughout the state's transit network.

And when Mr. Ehrlich took office, the state's paratransit service for disabled Marylanders was mired in problems.

Now, after two years of improvements, the on-time rate exceeds 90 percent, up from 76 percent, and this improvement has been documented by the Federal Transit Administration. Customer complaints have plummeted.

I am proud of the work our MTA employees are doing to reform an agency that is critical to hundreds of thousands of Marylanders.

A more accurate editorial would have been titled, "On the right track."

Robert L. Flanagan

Hanover

The writer is secretary of the Maryland Department of Transportation.

Sun ignores words of conciliation

The Sun's article "Rumsfeld, Bush attack criticism of war policy" (Nov. 21) says that President Bush and Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld stated that "those calling for a hasty withdrawal were jeopardizing the safety of Americans abroad and at home."

But the article omits the fact that Mr. Bush also said: "This is not an issue of who's [a] patriot and who's not patriotic. It's an issue of an honest, open debate about the way forward in Iraq."

At a time when bitter polarization characterizes our politics, and Democrats accuse Republicans of impugning their patriotism, Mr. Bush's conciliatory comments ought to have an ameliorating effect. But they can't do so if The Sun doesn't fully inform its readers of what the president said.

Moreover, the article refers to White House and congressional Republican attacks on a congressman [Rep. John P. Murtha] but omits the fact that Mr. Bush, although disagreeing with Mr. Murtha's position, said: "Congressman Murtha is a fine man, a good man, who served our country with honor and distinction as a Marine in Vietnam and as a United States congressman."

The Sun would do a better job of informing the public if it took greater care not to distort its coverage.

Nathan Dodell

Rockville

Murtha continues to serve with honor

President George W. Bush left something out when he described Pennsylvania Rep. John P. Murtha as "a fine man, a good man who served his country with honor."

Mr. Murtha is still serving his country with honor - a noteworthy point the president seems to have missed.

Dennis E. Prothro

Baltimore

Long stay in Iraq makes things worse

We must set a deadline for withdrawal from Iraq. Unless we do so, there is no way forward ("Iraqi factions advance pullout," Nov. 22).

From the standpoint of an Iraqi government, as long as the greatest military force on Earth is there to prop it up, the path of least resistance is the status quo.

Until the Iraqi government and the Iraqi people see the writing on the wall and are forced to face the impending doom that will surely come from failure no real progress will occur.

Now is the time to leave Iraq, before we have generated any more hatred for us and between the factions in Iraq.

So let's announce the departure deadline now. And let it be before the end of 2006.

Staying in Iraq will surely make the situation worse. And we can still influence things from a distance.

Let's leave Iraq so that our 2,000-plus soldiers will not have died in vain.

Rod Murphy

Columbia

GOP's moderates not switching sides

While I certainly agree that party loyalty is a daily struggle for both Republicans and Democrats on Capitol Hill, The Sun's analysis pointing to GOP moderates as key in blocking budget bills and legislation on oil drilling the Arctic National Wildlife Reserve (ANWR) is mostly incorrect ("Moderates grow in influence," Nov. 21).

In fact, GOP moderates are voting as they always have - especially on ANWR.

The votes that the GOP leadership is missing on ANWR drilling are those of usually reliable conservative Democrats who usually offset the votes of GOP environmental moderates.

These "Blue Dog" Democrats are not willing to back a Republican budget that has unpopular spending reductions -- ANWR or not.

That is why after leaders took ANWR out of the budget bill, they still couldn't pass the budget cuts until more changes were made.

Frank Maisano

Gambrills

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