Faced with hundreds of requests every year for money for various projects, the Maryland Senate Budget and Taxation Committee has learned not to overreact to sob stories. But even the hardened committee veterans sat up and took notice of yesterday's testimony from self-described old-timer Konrad Zoll.
Zoll, of La Plata, sent a letter to the committee in support of a plan to spend $700,000 to provide indoor plumbing for people who don't have it. His letter, read aloud by a friend of Zoll's to the committee, said in part:
"I am sure that all of us are aware that such homes exist . . . . However, it comes as a shock to me that in this, one of the 13 original states, 30,000 -- that's thousand -- homes, over 80,000 human beings, live in houses without indoor plumbing.
"I hope that this is not news to you, that it is still regarded as shameful. It is to me. To put this into perspective, how many times did someone in your house turn on a faucet between the time you got up and the time you left for here? Now think about the trips out to the pump . . . .
"Now then, while I have you thinking, think about last year's tax break for the racing industry -- a money source to improve their facilities, including putting running water in horse stalls . . . . Just think about our priorities . . . . I can't defend it and I don't think the state can."
After the hearing, which drew a number of supporters of more spending for low-income housing but no opponents, Chairman Laurence Levitan (D-Montgomery) thanked the advocates for Zoll's letter, "especially the part about the horse stalls. I hadn't thought of it that way."