April 18, 2009

Trash limit meets needs of families

For a column purportedly based on math, "Trash math problem" (Commentary, April 15) does a bad job drawing inferences from numbers.

It is true, as the author writes, that the Environmental Protection Agency has found that the average American produces 4.62 pounds of waste a day. However, it is incorrect to suggest all this waste would be handled by the city's household trash disposal program.

The EPA based this figure on aggregate municipal waste production, including waste from commercial ventures such as restaurants and supermarkets that would not be affected by the 64-gallon household limit the city is proposing. Moreover, a good portion of that waste is recycled, though the figure is approximately 33.4 percent of all waste, not the 25 percent cited in the column.

So let's run the numbers again. Assuming your average Baltimorean is out in the city about half his or her waking hours and recycles about one-third of his or her waste, a family of four will create about 44 pounds of trash a week.

Indeed, this estimate almost matches the actual figure provided by Baltimore's Department of Public Works: Serving 233,000 households and disposing of 750 tons of trash a day, the DPW disposes of approximately 45 pounds of trash per household per week.

I enjoy the twice-weekly trash pickup offered in Baltimore, but having lived in several cities that function just fine with once-a-week service, I have to wonder if there aren't better ways to use limited city funds.

Megan Brown, Baltimore

The writer is a graduate student in public policy at the Johns Hopkins University.

Save Preakness, sacrifice Pimlico

Much has been said in recent weeks about the Preakness Stakes, but in the legislative fury around it, I'm afraid we've lost track (pardon the pun) of the fact that it is just a race, not a racetrack ("Preakness bill signed," April 15).

It's an event, albeit one of historic proportions in Maryland, and there is no need to overreact and assume the state needs to step in and buy two tracks to salvage a once-a-year celebration.

The unfortunate time has come for us to let go of Old Hilltop, or Pimlico, and move the Preakness to Laurel Park.

In this age of simulcasting, the state just does not need, and cannot support, two racing facilities.

Both tracks have languished under the care of Magna Entertainment Corp. and the Maryland Jockey Club. But Laurel happens to have an ideal location between the Baltimore and Washington markets, and has commercially viable real estate adjacent to it.

Maryland is doubly fortunate to have multiple bidders interested in buying and restoring the Laurel racetrack as well as viable bidders for slots emporiums either on site at Laurel or at Arundel Mills.

The revenue from slots could help restore racing purses and make the industry viable again, if the state will just step aside and let business take its course.

Does the state need to protect the Preakness?

I say yes. But let's stop at the race and stay off the race course.

Neil Ridgely, Finksburg

Make speeders pay for their haste

I think it is great that cameras will make speeders help keep my taxes lower and make schools and work zones safer ("Speed-camera bill brought back to life, OK'd," April 3).

I think it is funny that some people think it is OK to speed and not pay the cost.

Let's put the cameras everywhere, and make the fines issued the same as those for a regular speeding ticket.

Joe Heldmann, Catonsville

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