August 25, 2008

Turn transit options into practical realities

As ridership has increased on Maryland's MARC commuter trains, the state has wisely decided to purchase additional rail cars to allow more passengers to ride ("New cars may ease MARC crowding," Aug. 20). However, as gas prices remain high and congestion gets worse on our streets and highways, it will take more than 13 new rail cars to accommodate the public demand for better transportation options.

That's why we must revaluate the way we fund transportation in the United States. Our government currently invests nine times as much funding on new highway projects as it does in public transportation, and this both limits viable options for public transit and largely overlooks the needs of current roads and bridges that are in desperate need of repair.

In 2009, Congress will consider legislation that will determine the federal transportation funding formula for the next six years.

We need our elected officials to increase funding for public transportation projects, to use a "fix-it-first" approach that emphasizes repairing our current roads and highways rather than financing unnecessary new ones, and to use taxpayer dollars wisely.

Marylanders deserve efficient and timely options for transportation, and with more federal funding for public transit, such options can become realities.

Kristi Horvath, Baltimore

The writer is a policy associate for the Maryland Public Interest Research Group.

Faith not fair topic for electoral politics

I don't often agree with Kathleen Parker, but she was right on with her comments about the presidential candidates' interviews with Rick Warren ("Candidates' church quiz un-American," Commentary, Aug. 22).

Since when has a candidate's relationship with God been a qualification for the presidency? Does this kind of interrogation mean an atheist could never be elected as president?

The separation of church and state is one of the most basic founding principles of our country and it is being eroded slowly but surely.

A person's relationship to God is personal and has no bearing on his or her ability to carry out the duties of president.

Religion is something to be practiced at home and in one's church or synagogue.

It has no place in a presidential election.

Joy Mandel, Catonsville

Kathleen Parker is spot on in her opposition to a nationally televised religious interrogation by a church leader.

Both candidates should be admonished about their participation in this insidious breach of the separation of church and state.

Their lack of judgment in this case is more important to me than any declaration of faith.

Both candidates are diminished by their pandering.

Richard Corfield, Ellicott City

Referendum gives state a gambling monopoly

The writer of a recent letter correctly points out that gambling should be decriminalized, not for the purpose of enriching the government treasury but because citizens should be "allowed to spend or waste their money in any way that they wish" ("Free to gamble your money away," Aug. 22).

Unfortunately, the constitutional amendment that will be before voters in November doesn't even come close to striking this kind of blow for freedom and in fact will make matters worse from the standpoint of individual choice.

This measure would expand and tighten the state's monopoly on gambling.

Far from decriminalizing a class of peaceful and honest activity, it would strengthen the existing general ban on other gambling by putting it in the state constitution.

I would be delighted to cast a vote for any measure that expands individual freedom rather than state power. But such opportunities are few and far between, and the slots referendum is surely not one of them.

Mike Klein, Hanover

Perhaps the counties convict people too often

When a study finds lower conviction rates in the city as opposed to some counties, why do so many people assume that the problem lies in the city ("Jury study raises hackles in city," Aug. 18)?

Is it not just as likely that juries outside the city are convicting more people than they should?

Booth Ripke, Baltimore

The writer is a Baltimore attorney.

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