Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

March 14, 2006

Public financing can purify politics

Public financing of political campaigns is the most important issue before the General Assembly ("Reform that counts," editorial, March 8).

If legislators were relieved of the corrupting influences of money on the decision-making process, decisions could be made only on the basis of what is in the best interest of the public. We could then have far greater confidence that the important issues would be decided on their substantive merits, rather than be tainted by how a vote might adversely affect financial contributions to lawmakers' re-election campaigns.

The bills now before the legislature are patterned on successful laws in Arizona and Maine, and the funding mechanisms, primarily a $5 tax check-off, are certainly modest.

As the overwhelming majority of voters favor public financing of campaigns, I believe they would gladly pay $5 per year as a modest investment in this basic good-government reform.

When I was in the legislature, I sponsored a bill on public financing of campaigns in 1971. After years of resistance, it was enacted with a $2 check-off.

But the legislation that actually passed hardly resembled the original bill. It was flawed, and mercifully, it expired. The idea was, apparently, ahead of its time.

But the current bill is well thought out, based on experience, and the public supports it. Now is the time.

How refreshing and reassuring it will be for Maryland to take this vital step toward better government.

Howard J. Needle

Baltimore

The writer is a former member of the House of Delegates.

`Clean elections' bill could pay for itself

I am writing in support of the "clean elections" bill ("Reform that counts," editorial, March 8).

This bill provides for public funding for candidates who chose to participate in a system for public financing of campaigns in Maryland. It would be totally voluntary, and candidates would have to qualify by raising a minimum number of small contributions.

This idea has been tested in Arizona and Maine, and studies there have shown that public funding changes the behavior of elected officials for the better.

Without public financing, special-interest legislation costs the taxpayers huge sums in tax breaks and extra spending that benefits very narrow interest groups.

Public financing could reduce these costs to the taxpayers by more than what the public financing of campaigns costs.

More important, when substantial numbers of candidates volunteered to use public financing, this would increase our faith that our legislature would be looking after the public interest.

S. B. Hopkins

Baltimore

Find council leader who is more ethical

Employing relatives, voting on contracts that affect a relative's employer, steering no-bid contracts to friends - enough is enough: Either City Council President Sheila Dixon is ethically challenged or she's an incompetent manager ("Dixon steered work to ex-aide," March 12).

Whatever her excuse this time, shouldn't the citizens of Baltimore demand a more ethical and responsible City Council president?

Joseph M. Koper

Hunt Valley

Council members should seek new job

In 2002, the voters of Baltimore wisely reduced the size of City Council by four members. Clearly, the time has come to reduce it by two more ("War of words over crime," March 9).

If council committee chairs want to call a hearing and then walk out without listening, they should have the decency to continue walking - right back into the private sector.

Rick Gilmour

Towson

Billions funding war are needed at home

It upsets me that President Bush wants nearly $70 billion more of the public's hard-earned dollars to squander on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan - money that could be used here in the United States (in New Orleans, for example).

Sadly, Mr. Bush will be president for another three years, so this will not be the last $70 billion that he will ask for.

And since he is unable to admit that this war is a mistake, Mr. Bush will leave the withdrawal from Iraq, and the ensuing civil war, for the next administration to handle.

But I can't help wondering what just a portion of that $70 billion could do for the education of Baltimore's inner-city kids.

Eric Holzman

Ellicott City

PSC isn't serving state's consumers

I always thought the objective of the Public Service Commission was to prevent utility company monopolies from imposing unreasonable rate hikes that would cause financial hardship to customers ("Rising electric bills elicit fury, desperation," March 11).

I believe the pending electricity rate increases will do just that, especially to those on fixed incomes. So exactly what public service is the commission performing?

It has basically given Baltimore Gas & Electric Co. the go-ahead to impose this huge increase and has proposed a financing program, with interest, to those unable to pay the additional charges.

If this is what the PSC considers looking out for the citizens of Maryland, perhaps it is time to disband the commission.

Dennis Colson

Westminster

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