Readers Respond

November 11, 2009

We need more George McGowans

The week that Black & Decker announced its plans to merge with Stanley Works and move its headquarters - one of only three Fortune 500 company headquarters still left in the Baltimore metropolitan area - is the same week that one of Baltimore's most ardent fans and successful businessmen died.

George McGowan, like Brooks Robinson, was a regular guy with extraordinary skills who remained humble and grateful for his opportunities throughout his life. He was part of the community and saw his company as an integral part of the city. He guided his company, Baltimore Gas and Electric, into the future though his engineering work that developed Calvert Cliffs, and he was the company's board chair and chief executive officer from 1988 to 1992. But he never forgot the value of his co-workers or the people who relied upon his utility for their work, homes and lives.

George served on numerous civic boards, including chairing the United Way of Central Maryland, CollegeBound Foundation and the University of Maryland Board of Regents.

It is not to say that corporate leaders in Connecticut cannot be contributing members of our community in Maryland, but in reality, home is where the heart is, and we need more George McGowans to call Baltimore home.

As Baltimore tries to grow new Fortune 500 companies in the new economy, I hope that emerging corporate leaders will follow George McGowan's example of civic engagement and hometown loyalty. It will be a benefit for all of us.

Benjamin L. Cardin, BaltimoreThe writer, a Democrat, is Maryland's junior United States senator.

Maryland cyclists, pedestrians at risk

I applaud Michael Dresser's and Laura Vozzella's articles, "At what point does safety trump the right to drive" and "A ride for remembering" (Nov. 9) about the respective tragic pedestrian and bicycle deaths of Johns Hopkins student Miriam Frankl and Greater Homewood Community Corp. member Jack Yates. Thomas Meighan, who had numerous drunk driving violations but still kept his license and vehicle, faces charges in connection with Ms. Frankl's death, and Mr. Yates, whose August death is still being investigated by Baltimore City Police, was struck by a truck turning right from Maryland Avenue onto Lafayette Avenue. In spite of the truck failing to signal a turn, police have indicated that they hold Mr. Yates to be at fault.

While I thank the many Marylanders who put safety first, I'm deeply concerned about our underlying culture of speeding, text messaging, failing to signal turns and expecting bicyclists to always ride at the right hand edge of the pavement. Taking the lane in certain situations reduces the temptation for impatient/distracted motorists to pass a cyclist and then make a quick right hand turn. It also allows room for the cyclist to escape, if a motorist passes and turns right too quickly.

Maryland grants bicyclists the rights and duties of a motor vehicle operator and has published an excellent pamphlet, "Safe Cycling in Maryland." Maryland traffic law provides exceptions to the general rule of keeping right (exceptions include going traffic speed, lane too narrow to safely share side by side with a motor vehicle, turning left, right turn only lane, and one-way street). But unfortunately, nobody except experienced bicyclists seem to be aware of these exceptions. You won't find them in the driver's handbook or test.

Consequently, some motorists wrongly conclude that cyclists have no rights and do stupid things like harassing them for not riding in the gutter or cutting them off with right turns.

Part of Maryland's commitment to being more friendly to pedestrians, transit and bicyclists will be to educate and promote better understanding between nonmotorized and motorized users. The state police and the Motor Vehicle Administration will need to become involved. Public safety, not speed, needs to be the top priority. And please remember to signal turns. Doing so could save someone's life.

Jeffrey H. Marks, Baltimore

State still committed to Smart Growth

In response to the story "Smart Growth incentives fail to rein in suburban sprawl" (Nov. 3) there's no denying that sprawl continues to be a problem and that we need to work together to solve it. But the limitations of the Priority Funding Areas charted during Gov. Parris N. Glendenning's administration were known long ago. In fact, they were pointed out 11 years ago, not long after the law passed, in a report by the nonprofit Abell Foundation. In addition, most of the research analysis cited in the article came from our own data. The challenges and opportunities associated with Smart Growth are larger than the 1997 law alone; it is just one of several Smart Growth programs.

Under Gov. Martin O'Malley, we've reinvigorated programs aimed at improving land preservation, community development and development oriented to mass transit. In addition we're also working on developing a state growth plan to better align governmental policies and plans toward the objective of sustainable development. Maryland's commitment and innovation toward the goal of Smart Growth remains strong.

Richard Eberhart Hall, BaltimoreThe writer is Maryland's secretary of planning.

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