Readers Respond

July 07, 2009

'Fair share' about more than negotiations

Collective bargaining means much more than sitting down at a bargaining table ("How fair is 'fair share?'" July 3). It means educating employees about their rights, training shop stewards and providing materials and resources to employees. It means involving employees in workplace policies and practices through labor-management committee meetings which are designed to improve workplaces. And it means representing employees in issues regarding the enforcement of contracts.

This is happening in an environment in which many managers still find it acceptable to intimate employees and ignore their own rights under the law and the collective bargaining agreement. With hundreds of work sites and over a dozen major departments, this means lots of work and resources are necessary.

Sue Esty, Annapolis

The writer is assistant director of the American Federation of State, County and Municipal Employees, Maryland.

'Fair share' is political payback

Restating the last line of your editorial, AFSCME does believe in the power of the legislature it has paid for and now wants its pound of flesh.

This new law was enacted by the legislative effort of the governor, upon whom the union spent money to get elected. Their reward is a union shop for government employees in Maryland. If you are not in AFSCME you will have to pay a fee to it. It's repayment for the last election and an advance payment on this next one.

Joseph Schvimmer

Red Line would help Canton

It would seem that most people in the Canton area understand and support the need for the Red Line, which is critical for the city of Baltimore in reducing dependence on the automobile (Readers respond, July 6). The problem arises with the plan to run the Boston Street part of the Red Line light rail system on the surface rather than underground. Most folks (at least the most vocal) appear to be opposed to this proposal, primarily afraid of its supposed adverse impact on property values and "cutting off" the waterfront from the rest of Canton.

I have lived in a townhouse on Boston Street in Canton since 1988, and I support this plan. I do so principally because, by reducing the traffic lanes to one in each direction, it will greatly reduce motor vehicle traffic on Boston Street.

Boston Street has become a significant commuter route into the city, as can clearly be seen by the intense increase in traffic during the rush hours. In the rather long stretch between the traffic light at Montford Street and the traffic light at O'Donnell Street, it is difficult for pedestrians to cross to and from the marina, high rise and town homes on the south side of Boston Street and the Can Company businesses and Safeway store on the north side, and next to impossible during the rush hours.

It is equally difficult to pull one's car out onto the street in this area. And cars quite often accelerate well above the speed limit along this stretch. So, anything that could significantly ameliorate these problems would greatly improve our quality of life.

In addition, it seems to me that there are other benefits to be derived from a surface light rail system on Boston Street (at least for those of us who live on Boston Street):

* There will be less street noise since new technology will make the light rail trains much quieter than the cars, buses and trucks they will replace.

* There will be cleaner air in the community since the light rail system will generate more than 90 percent less CO2 than the cars, buses and trucks it will replace.

* The proximity of the new light rail system may well enhance adjacent business and residential property values as apparently has been the case in Portland, Ore., and Sacramento, San Diego, and Santa Clara, Calif.

* The construction period for a surface line installation will undoubtedly be shorter than an underground installation and thus less disruptive.

I therefore urge our elected representatives to support the Red Line plan.

Dan Tracy, Baltimore

EZ-Pass is a boondoggle

What an incredible tale of waste, incompetence, and perhaps fraud Michael Dresser tells ("EZ-Pass free ride ends: It's about time," July 6)!

Apparently state officials set up a program to provide more than $11 million in freebies to about half a million folks, some of whom aren't even Marylanders! (E-ZPass transponders have been free to motorists, says Dresser, but cost the state $21 each.)

Apparently state officials have set up a program that costs $14 million in administrative expenses each year, without any benefit to the state. (Each of the half-million E-ZPass accounts costs at least $26 to administer, says Dresser, quoting a state official, and yet the E-ZPass program is merely an alternative way for motorists to pay the tolls they'd pay anyway.)

Apparently state officials have chosen (despite what Dresser says) to continue the E-ZPass "free ride," albeit at a reduced rate. ($1.50 a month from 72,000 motorists does not recover the annual $1.9 million that Dresser says it costs to maintain these accounts. Do the math.)

Please, Mr. Dresser, stay on this story! You might even investigate whether the E-ZPass program provides any benefits whatsoever to Maryland or whether it is a total giveaway to frequent (and some infrequent) travelers.

Rick Gilmour, Towson

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