Your Opinions

March 19, 2006

Utility bills should be delegation's focus

Inadvertently, Del. Tanya Shewell may have achieved her goal of improving marriages in Carroll County. With an anticipated 72 percent increase in our utility bills, there will be many more romantic, candle-lit dinners after July 1.

In Hampstead, my friends, neighbors and constituents are asking some questions. What happened to the competition promised by electric deregulation? How is it that Constellation Energy is making record profits? How are we going to afford air conditioning this summer? Air conditioning ... I'm not sure I will be able to afford my electric toothbrush.

An increase in utility costs has a disproportionate impact on low and fixed income families. This includes many of our older residents. The insane increase in electricity prices comes at a terrible time for families coping with rising gas prices, taxes and other household expenses.

A few months ago, Del. Shewell stopped by a meeting of the Carroll County towns. She spoke about one of her legislative priorities - limiting the condemnation power of local governments. Del. Shewell read a book, you see, and this book alarmed her.

While I agree with limiting the power of government to take private property, in Hampstead we have not declared eminent domain in our 118-year history. Maybe I am missing something here. Isn't dealing with the electrical deregulation mess a little more important than trying to curb the potential abuse of a power we haven't used here in over a century or creating a new government program to mandate pre-marital counseling?

Our state officials seem to get more ideas from talk radio than from talking to regular folks. While it may please some to have our state officials trying to legislate better marriages, most residents of Carroll County have more immediate concerns.

Our schools are overcrowded. Our roads are congested. Growth and development are eroding our rural quality of life. The average person cannot afford to buy a house and unless the State Legislature fixes the mess they created, many of our residents will not be able to afford a monthly BGE bill.

Meanwhile, this delegation insists on micro-managing Carroll County from Annapolis. The time has come for our state officials to take more of an interest in electrical power and less of an interest in political power.

Haven N. Shoemaker Jr. Hampstead

The writer is mayor of Hampstead and a candidate for the House of Delegates from District 5A.

Shewell counters Radinsky's claims

As a lawmaker, I obviously value living under the rule of law. There has been no orientation nor any training for me as a new delegate. All I have learned is from experience and the advice of fellow legislators. After reading recent events surrounding a request from Mr. [Martin] Radinsky, Chair of the [Carroll County] Democratic Central Committee, many of these same legislators are asking me how they would know they had received a Public Information Act request, even one lawmaker who has served for over twenty years.

My legislative aide in Annapolis and I have a work process whereby e-mails, letters, and other requests are sorted as to those in my district and those who are not in my district. Constituents in District 5A receive priority. The others receive a response if and when we have time. With hundreds of e-mails, many times in one day, on three different e-mail trees, letters, calls, appointments, scheduling of witnesses to testify on bills, preparing bill testimony, and a myriad of other duties, my Annapolis aide works overtime often just to keep up with my constituents.

When Mr. Radinsky appeared in my office on December 22, 2005, my aide handled his letter as always, since he lived in Marriottsville and not my district, by putting it on the stack to be responded to when and if we had time. Mr. Radinsky was informed by my aide that I was not in Annapolis as my son was married in Florida in December; and I remained in Florida for a family reunion over the Christmas holidays.

On February 17, Mr. Radinsky appeared in my office demanding my notes and that I see him. I was in a closed-door meeting preparing testimony and witnesses on my bill that was being heard in five minutes in the Judiciary Committee. When my aide interrupted to say Mr. Radinsky was insisting on seeing me, I told her to tell Mr. Radinsky to make an appointment, but I could not see him at this moment.

On February 17, I later received a faxed letter from Mr. Radinsky. This letter clearly indicated that it was a request under the Public Information Act for copies of my working notes of an informal survey I had made when making my decision regarding the commissioner districting issue.

On February 20, the Assistant Attorney General phoned my office to say she had been contacted by the Baltimore Office of the Attorney General to report that Mr. Radinsky had called them. He was told it would be forwarded to the Annapolis office that handles such requests for legislators.

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