Readers Respond

February 02, 2010

Developers doing a hit job on the environment

I am disgusted by the hit job on the environment currently being orchestrated by the Maryland home builders ("Storm water regulations would cost jobs," Readers respond, Jan. 26). The poll they just released suggests that anything we do to improve the Chesapeake Bay will drive the economy further into recession. Their public statements have made practical environmental safeguards look heavy-handed and senseless.

They are doing this to fight against new rules that would reduce urban and suburban runoff pollution that goes into the bay. Rather than requiring expensive underground pipes that divert rainwater directly to rivers, the rules require developers to use simple design techniques like putting deep plant beds next to parking lots to absorb dirty runoff. This will create jobs for civil engineers and landscaping companies.

It is time to stop pitting the environment against the economy. Developers can make plenty of money building smart growth neighborhoods.

Brad Heavner, BaltimoreThe writer is state director of Environment Maryland.

Preservationists should back WTMD for Senator Theatre

I live very close to the Senator Theatre. I am a volunteer there and a leader in the Friends of the Senator organization.

I must respond to your recent article "WTMD bid to take over Senator draws concerns" (Jan. 29). Among those of us actively engaged in trying to ensure the Senator's preservation for future generations, it is the proposal from the operator of the Charles Theatre, Buzz Cusack, that is drawing concerns.

As the architectural drawings he presented at a public meeting show, Mr. Cusack's proposal would needlessly knock two holes in the walls of the outer lobby, and it would turn the ladies' lounge and restroom into a restaurant. These are unnecessary changes to a significant historic building on the National Register of Historic Places. Worst of all, they cannot be reversed once it becomes clear that Mr. Cusack's proposal will not work.

A single-screen theater showing first-run films is simply a business model that does not work. Thousands of them have gone out of business all over the country. The Senator has survived, thanks to the Kiefaber family's hard work, investment of personal funds and good stewardship. It will likely not survive another for-profit owner.

Historic theaters are expensive buildings to maintain and restore. All over the country, most of the ones that are surviving in good condition have been taken over by nonprofits, which can raise money through capital campaigns to maintain and restore the buildings. A for-profit owner is simply not going to put in the millions of dollars that it will take for the Senator to survive for another 70 years.

WTMD would put the Senator in the hands of a nonprofit. WTMD's proposal is vastly superior to the alternative.

Laura Perkins, Baltimore

Belvedere Square residents should be wary of WTMD

Neighbors of the Senator Theatre are wise to question the wisdom of having that building sold to Towson University ("WTMD bid to take over Senator draws concerns" Jan. 29).

They would be well-advised to meet with other communities that have dealt with the university over various issues. It would be far better to mount opposition now and keep Towson out of their community. Despite the statements of Towson external relations head Marina Cooper, the usual response of the university has been that is has no control/responsibility for students when they are off campus.

Additionally, the city has invested tax dollars to revitalize the Belvedere Square area. It would be a shame to allow this effort to be undermined by a bad decision about the Senator's future. Look to the history of TU in the surrounding Towson area with regard to off-campus student behavior.

Diane Kelly, Towson

Worried about deficits? Cut public employee pensions

Your editorial on Jan. 27, "Cut where the money is," focused on health care reform as the place to start for reducing the deficit. It was a place to start, but now reform seems at best temporarily impossible. Taxpayers might have more confidence in our elected officials at all levels of government if they sincerely demonstrate a little "belt tightening" along with the rest of America.

Whether elected or hired into service, all levels of our government work force generally have pension systems that do not align well with retirement plans commonly provided for private sector workers. In the past, government wages and salaries were pitifully low, and a promise for a modest stipend in later years was perceived as an affordable expense. But that's not true anymore.

Recent examples of these "defined benefit pension plan" disproportionate payouts created outrage over Mayor Sheila Dixon's $83,000 annual pension for life, and toward Baltimore County Councilman Vincent J. Gardina, age 53 and soon eligible for his full $54,000 salary for life.

The money is everywhere, not only within our broken health care system. Faith in our elected officials would be improved if they initiated and applied cost control within their own ranks. Or maybe they would prefer early retirement?

Larry Woody, Odenton

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