Letters To The Editor

LETTERS TO THE EDITOR

February 23, 2007

Council continues to soak homeowners

Bravo to Mayor Sheila Dixon for taking on the city's high and very uncompetitive property tax rate ("Dixon studies tax cut method," Feb. 16).

But despite the mayor's good intentions, those taxes will likely remain way too high again this year, unless there is significant intervention by the public.

Under a little-known state law, a "constant yield" tax rate is set by the state each year for Baltimore.

This is the property tax rate that would produce the same revenue raised the previous year. For example, if property assessments doubled, the tax rate would drop in half.

The constant yield tax rate offers the city a fair way to control the unintended consequences of rising property values.

The law requires the City Council to provide notice and public meetings for any tax rate that is higher than the constant yield rate.

The council annually does so, most recently under the guise of lowering taxes.

As the Web site for the Maryland State Department of Assessments and Taxation shows, Baltimore's constant yield tax rate for 2006-2007 was $2.224 - which is about 8 cents lower than the actual rate for the previous year because of increased property values.

So what happened to that rate and where did the recent 2-cent property tax cut come from?

Right under the noses of an uninformed public, our City Council shunned the 8-cent tax rate adjustment in favor of a 2-cent cut and the higher tax revenues it would bring.

Thus the "2-cent cut" really served to fatten the city's already bloated property tax revenues - all without the messy need to justify the real increase to the taxpayers.

The first step in addressing this critical issue is to stop calling a tax increase a tax cut, and for the public to demand adherence to the constant yield tax rate and greater accountability for any revenue increases beyond that rate.

R. Paul Warren

Baltimore

Let risk-takers pay full insurance tab

Citizens who take the risk of building properties near the ocean, in flood plains or in areas subject to forest fires, mudslides and other disasters should be prepared to face the risk of loss without the rest of the insurance-buying public paying for their possible loss through increased insurance premiums ("Insurers shrink from coasts," Feb. 18).

If elected officials demand that the insurance industry cover such hazards, they should advise their constituents that such a regulation will increase insurance costs.

Tom Grimes

West Friendship

The writer is a retired insurance broker.

Coverage mandate just wouldn't be fair

I certainly hope our legislators do not force insurance companies to cover the million-dollar homes built on sand dunes by the sea ("Insurers shrink from coasts," Feb. 18).

If they do so, the insurance rates on my little shack on top of this rocky hill will surely go up to cover the costs.

Let those who choose to build, and can afford to build, on sinking sand pay their own way.

And if the insurance companies are making too much profits, let the regulators force them to lower my premiums.

David Heston

Glen Arm

Democrats prevent efficient taxation

I was stunned to read the editorial "Not the ticket" (Feb. 15) regarding a proposal to sell the state lottery.

The editorial proposed an alternative: "Why can't the politicians in Annapolis devise the most efficient and effective state government possible and then set a sensible and fair tax system to finance it?"

Since when does "Pravda West" advocate efficient government and fair taxation?

Have Republicans taken over The Sun's editorial board?

The problem with The Sun's idea is that Marylanders keep electing Democrats, making efficient government and fair taxation impossible.

Patrick Dornan

Glenwood

One-sided U.S. policy blocks path to peace

The Sun's article "A summit with varying expectations" (Feb. 17) correctly describes the difficulties that U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice faced in meetings with Israeli Prime Minister Ehud Olmert and Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas on an Israeli-Palestinian peace plan.

The main problem stems from the United States' continued one-sided, pro-Israel, anti-Palestinian Mideast policy.

While Ms. Rice demands that Hamas agree to certain Israeli-U.S. conditions, she ignores the fact that Israel refuses to discuss the three basic elements of any peace settlement: Israel's withdrawal to pre-1967 borders, compensation for the 700,000 Palestinian refugees driven out of Israel, and the establishment of East Jerusalem as the capital of the new Palestinian state.

The U.S. could broker an immediate peace settlement by threatening to end the billions of dollars in aid we give to Israel every year and ending our uncritical political support.

This not only would bring about peace in the region but also would greatly benefit U.S. interests and security.

Ray Gordon

Baltimore

Who will restore our democracy?

We have a president who doesn't care what citizens think and doesn't care what the world thinks of us ("British troop pullout is likely," Feb. 21).

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