A Millennium Mix-Up

In your "Looking Back And Ahead" article in the Southern Maryland Extra of Dec. 5, you state, "The close of the 20th century and approach of a new millennium are prompting people everywhere to reflect on the history they have witnessed and to consider changes likely to occur in coming decades and beyond." Near the end of the article you state, "As this year ends and the new century begins, we will publish your reflections and predictions on Sundays in our Letters to the Editor."

This is a worthwhile effort, but it comes a year early. Anyone who can count from 1 to 100 or 1 to 1000 knows that the first year of the 21st century and the new millennium is 2001. While the year 2000 is magical in its appearance, it does not change the mathematics.

JAMES BEAVER

La Plata

Sharing the Victory

I would like to publicly thank members of the St. Mary's Democratic Central Committee and Gov. Parris Glendening for selecting me to fill the vacancy left in the General Assembly by Judge John Slade. The opportunity to serve out his remaining term in Annapolis is an honor and a privilege.

The Speaker of the Maryland House of Delegates, Casper Taylor, has scheduled a swearing-in ceremony for me on Thursday, Dec. 16, at 10 a.m. in the State House in Annapolis. Due to the short notice, I will not be sending out personal invitations, but would like to invite anyone interested in joining my family and me for this very special event. The ceremony will be held in the House Chambers, which can accommodate a large number of people. For those of you unable to join us in Annapolis, we are planning a reception after the holidays in St. Mary's to which all will be invited.

I am anxious to begin the 90-day session in January and begin representing District 29-B. I have been assigned to the Ways and Means Committee, which has responsibilities for education financing and primary and secondary education issues, which I plan to make a top priority. As I prepare for the upcoming session in the General Assembly, I welcome your thoughts and opinions and hope to hear from you. My sincere thanks to the many well-wishers who have offered congratulations and support. Wishing you and yours a happy and safe holiday season.

JOHN L. BOHANAN JR.

California

Signs Too Small to See

The Calvert County Chamber of Commerce is concerned about a text amendment request submitted to the Department of Planning and Zoning by the Prince Frederick Architectural Review Committee (Amendment No. 99-10). The proposed amendment reduces signs in Prince Frederick from 18 feet to 10 feet; this size reduction is of serious concern to the Chamber.

From a safety standpoint, it is difficult for travelers to read smaller signs at high rates of speed. From a business standpoint, it is difficult to attract customers without adequate signage.

The representatives from both the Calvert County Chamber of Commerce (CCCC) and the county's Economic Development Committee (EDC) acknowledge that aesthetic and design elements are a useful component to help maintain the beauty and character of the county and our town centers; however, it is unclear to me why the Prince Frederick Architectural Review Committee wishes to make the Prince Frederick Sign Ordinance more restrictive when it is already one of the most restrictive ordinances in the state of Maryland.

Only after writing a letter to the Board of County Commissioners expressing the Chamber's concerns on behalf of businesses were representatives from both the CCCC and EDC invited to meet with the Prince Frederick Architectural Review Committee to voice our concerns.

At the meetings, both CCCC and EDC representatives strongly encouraged the Architectural Review Committee to consider the adverse impact of this proposed change. We, as businesspeople (who also live, work, provide jobs and pay taxes to the county), are very concerned about the character of our communities. We are also concerned, however, that businesses are being sacrificed on the altar of aesthetics.

When it became apparent that the Architectural Review Committee could not or would not see that this punitive reduction could severely impact a business to identify itself effectively, we offered a compromise. We suggested cutting the allowable height [from] 18 feet to 14 feet and allowing variances if the topography created a hardship.

I am sad to say that, although we share a desire for a sustainable community, a willingness to find an equitable solution and a concern for business do not seem to be on the Architectural Review Committee's agenda. This is very unfortunate. This unwillingness and lack of concern by the Architectural Review Committee have long-range adverse consequences for the county's economic future.

We support the current comprehensive plan that calls for commercial development in town centers while preserving the rural character of the remainder of the county. We, as business people, understand this concept and support it. What we cannot understand is the unwillingness on the part of the members of the Prince Frederick Architectural Review Committee to consider a compromise that would allow businesspeople to viably exist in these designated areas.

Regulatory hurdles limiting adequate signage in the CCCC's recent survey were one of the most important issues of concern among our members. Businesses need to be seen and to be easily identified. Without proper signage, businesses cannot survive!

Survival of businesses is an important component in the health of our community. To ignore the input of businesses in the process of making signage regulations even more restrictive is unjust and unproductive.

RICHARD FISCHER

President, Calvert County

Chamber of Commerce

Prince Frederick

Trash Calls for Cooperation

Calvert County Commissioner John Douglas Parran is quite correct in stating ["Defending Trash Station," Letters, Dec. 5] that the previous St. Mary's Board of County Commissioners was offered but declined to be a partner with Calvert County in operating a solid waste transfer station. Foresight was not one of their attributes. More so, the offer was declined because it threatened the bureaucratic self-interests of the St. Mary's County Department of Public Works.

Commissioner Parran suggested that the present St. Mary's board should not rely too heavily on Calvert County's facility to serve our county's future solid waste disposal needs. If they act upon his advice, then they will surely disapprove Waste Management's proposed Charlotte Hall transfer station, because this proposal includes continued dependence upon Calvert County's facility to service the lower two-thirds of St. Mary's County.

Perhaps it is time to revisit the issue of creating a cooperative, formal working relationship on solid waste issues between St. Mary's and Calvert counties to address mutual future needs. The foresight of the new St. Mary's Board of County Commissioners should likewise be put to the test.

Regarding the challenges of fiscal matters faced by the St. Mary's County commissioners and my criticism of them, Commissioner Parran stated that maybe someday I will "get an opportunity to know what it's like to be in their shoes." Such will not be the case, as I have totally forsaken any future political ambitions. But had I been elected, my empathy would have been with overburdened taxpayers--not with tax spenders!

Elected officials would be wise to remember what it's like to be in taxpayers' shoes. Moreover, the St. Mary's County commissioners would be well-advised to learn how to function within the financial means of the county's citizens, not at their expense and to their detriment.

I thank the gentleman from Calvert County for his comments in response to my letter to the editor of Nov. 21.

VERNON GRAY

California

Teachers Do Have Leaders

It seems as though one of the editorialists from last Sunday's paper is operating under the false assumption that Calvert County is without a teachers association.

Allow me to assure all of my colleagues in Calvert County that the association that negotiates their contract is not a figment of their collective imaginations. I have had the the distinct pleasure of working with several members of that association and am of the opinion that the success Calvert County teachers have enjoyed in contract negotiations is due in large part to that organization.

Their success can also be attributed to the courage of local elected officials who have recognized the looming teacher shortage and are taking action to do something about it.

This is the type of vision all elected officials need. I would urge my local elected officials in Charles County to follow that example and ignore the rantings of right-wing alarmists whose agenda is so blatant.

I would also like to thank those who have shown political backbone by supporting public education and teachers specifically. Namely, Mary Haff, who I neglected to mention in a previous editorial on the fair share fee. Mrs. Haff did indeed vote in favor of the right of the Education Association of Charles County to negotiate a fair share fee. She deserves as much credit for her support of that proposal as the other leaders that were mentioned. She has been an ardent supporter of teachers and public education in Charles County.

EVAN E. WEST

Indian Head

There's Life, and L.I.F.E.

For reasons known only to them, the St. Mary's County Developmental Center has recently changed its name to the Center for Life Enrichment. This was indeed an unfortunate choice of name, as it has led to some confusion with our organization, the Southern Maryland Center for L.I.F.E. (Living Independently For Everyone).

The Center for Life Enrichment is a quasi-governmental agency that provides rehabilitation services to developmentally disabled adults in St. Mary's County. The developmentally disabled individuals who are their clients are referred to them through the St. Mary's County Health Department.

The Southern Maryland Center for L.I.F.E. is a nonprofit community-based organization which provides services to disabled people who live or work in Calvert, Charles or St. Mary's county. Unlike the Center for Life Enrichment, the Center for L.I.F.E. provides services to disabled people of all ages without regard to the nature of their disability.

As an independent living center, the Center for L.I.F.E. is both directed and staffed by people with disabilities. Our mission is to empower people with disabilities to lead self-directed, independent and productive lives in their community.

The Center for L.I.F.E. is dedicated to breaking down both architectural and attitudinal barriers. In this respect, the center acts as an advocate on behalf of people with disabilities. Among the concerns addressed by the center are the availability of accessible housing, transportation issues and employment accommodation, as well as access to public facilities and programs.

In addition, the center provides technical support to disabled individuals when dealing with government agencies or the public schools.

The Center for L.I.F.E. functions as a clearinghouse for information and resources which are not otherwise available to disabled people. Staff members at the center, along with specially trained volunteers, teach independent living skills to people with disabilities. The center also facilitates a network of peer counseling which encourages disabled people to help each other.

Now that it's clear who we are, please feel free to contact us at: Southern Maryland Center for L.I.F.E., 30265 Oaks Rd., Suite 3, P.O. Box 657, Charlotte Hall, Md. 20622; phone 301-884-4498, fax 301-884-6099, TTY 711, e-mail CFLIFE@us.hsanet.net. Whether you are disabled or not, there is a place for you at the Center for L.I.F.E.

ROBERT A. KERR

President, Board of Directors

Southern Maryland

Center for L.I.F.E.

Charlotte Hall

Police Look Beyond Defeat

To the citizens of Charles County, I would like to take this opportunity to thank all those who supported our effort to obtain collective bargaining for the county police officers in Charles County. . . . Our efforts were defeated by the lack of a majority vote of the county commissioners.

I would like to assure the citizens of Charles County that even though our proposal was defeated, this will in no way affect the professional and dedicated services provided by your police officers. Each commissioner had his own reasons for casting his vote. Even though our proposal was defeated, we respect their decision.

We will continue to work with the sheriff and county commissioners to ensure the citizens of Charles County continue to receive the finest law enforcement services possible. Have a happy and safe holiday season.

BUDDY GIBSON

President, Lodge No. 24

Fraternal Order of Police

La Plata

At Civista, a Blame Game

There has been quite a bit written the last few weeks about the need for full disclosure and accountability by Civista Medical Center.

I believe, however, that we need to hear more about "responsibility." Unfairly, the current chief executive officer is taking the heat for problems that she had no role in causing.

Who is responsible for the circumstances currently facing Civista? In order to answer this question, one must consider who was the cause and who allowed the cause to proceed unchecked.

The former CEO was the cause. Upon her arrival at Civista, she immediately dismantled the then-board of directors, keeping her supporters, eliminating her detractors, with others resigning out of frustration. Additional boards were formed to further dilute board power. All of this was permitted by the various remaining Civista board members. Also, during this entire time, a county commissioner has served on one or both Civista boards.

Even more disturbing is that, during this period, former board members and prominent, credible citizens repeatedly and frequently made their concerns known to all of the county commissioners. The commissioners are quick to point out that the county will have to "bail" out Civista, which means using our tax dollars. Perhaps the commissioners should be quick to acknowledge their responsibility in ignoring warnings and, thus, allowing this debacle to occur in the first place.

And where are the board members who allowed this to happen? Shame on them. They, too, were frequently implored to take action to curb the previous CEO. . . .

The former CEO's leadership and management style were well-known to those associated with the hospital. When she moved her office from the La Plata campus, away from the hospital, to lavish offices in Waldorf and continued to acquire and access satellite campuses too rapidly to ensure fiscal stability; when she spent significant hospital funds for a name and logo change that offended so many of the loyal supporters who had built and nurtured the hospital; when she added boards, confused and confounded board members, withheld information from board members and terminated a comptroller for providing important information to board members: Then and there, the board of directors and the county commissioners had a responsibility to take action. Sadly, they did not.

For the county commissioners to call for full disclosure and accountability would be laughable were it not so disturbingly irresponsible. With one or more commissioners consistently on the Civista boards, one would hope that the commissioners were well aware of all that was going on at Civista. At the very least, the commissioners should have been making lots of noise demanding disclosure at least a year or two ago. Or could this be yet another example of a major screw-up in this county taking place right under their noses?

MURIEL M. SELPH

Mount Victoria

Editor's note: The writer was a member of the Physicians Memorial Hospital board of directors from 1981 to 1994.

New Help for Blind Voters

The Maryland State Board of Elections has a new program designed to help visually impaired voters to cast their year 2000 presidential election vote.

Our tricounty area currently uses the optical scan paper ballot voting system. Visually impaired impaired voters will be provided with a tactile overlay into which a ballot is inserted.

The overlay is designed with raised markings, and the voters will be guided through the process of marking the ballot by use of an audio script or by an assistant. The program is a result of the committee to study access to voting systems for visually impaired voters. This system is a plus for our blind voters.

WILLIAM R. DEXTER JR.

California

Rights, Wrongs and Arms

Perhaps no provision in the Constitution causes one to stumble quite so much on a first reading, or second or third reading, as the short provision in the Second Amendment of the Bill of Rights. No doubt this stumbling occurs because, despite its brevity, as one reads there is an apparent non sequitur--or disconnect of a sort--in mid-sentence. The amendment opens with a recitation about the need for a "well regulated Militia." But having stipulated to that, the amendment then declares that the right secured by the amendment, the described right that is to be free of "infringement," is not the right of a state to provide a "well regulated Militia." Rather, it is "the right of the people to keep and bear arms."

"A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed."

And nobody has ever stumbled quite so bad as Dean Schleicher when he wrote in "True Intent of Gun Rights" [Dec. 5] that he and the opportunist Garry Wills interpret our founders' words to mean that "the right of the people" is not the right of the people.

If not for the first 13 words of the amendment, it would be obvious that the right that shall not be infringed or violated here is similar to all the other neighboring personal rights clauses in the Bill of Rights. To argue that this clause provides no constitutional right to private gun ownership and a right for the state to maintain a militia, the amendment would have to be interpreted to read:

Congress may, if it thinks proper, forbid the people to keep and bear arms if, notwithstanding that these restrictions it may thus enact are inconsistent with the right of the people to keep and bear arms, they are not inconsistent with the right of each state to maintain some kind of militia as it may deem necessary to its security as a free state.

Compare the incompatible language and thought with the actual provision of the amendment. The historical record does show that at the time the Bill of Rights was drafted, debated and ratified, there were no armed police departments.

It was the people in the form of a militia who maintained the security of the free state. It was the people who were given the individual right to private gun possession, and according to the founders during debate, it was the duty and obligation of the people to protect themselves and the state from tyrannical government. Read a couple of history books (including those of Nazi Germany), Mr. Schleicher, and tell us, how can this possibly be done without private gun ownership?

RANDALL GEIS

Lexington Park

In Defense of Gun Rights

James P. Thomas's letter in the Nov. 28 issue, "Do Not Deny Gun Rights," has prompted these additional comments.

It is astonishing to me that an attorney general of any state would propose such an invidious and unlawful act. The Second Amendment could not be more clear: "A well regulated Militia, being necessary to the security of a free State, the right of the people to keep and bear arms, shall not be infringed." I would hope that we are not getting into another parsing of "that depends upon what the meaning of 'is' is." The definition of infringed is quite clear: to break off, break, impair, violate, to break (a law or agreement); fail to observe the terms of; violate.

It is quite clear to me that our Founding Fathers added the first 10 amendments because they were concerned about protecting the rights of the individual from the all-powerful state. It is for that reason that I look upon the first 10 amendments as a chain that holds together this precious thing we call freedom. You break one link in that chain, and no one can foretell what the long-term effects will be. We could end up losing it all!

There is an old saying that "the road to hell is paved with good intentions," and that seems to be the hallmark of a do-gooder. Will Rogers, a well-known humorist of yesteryear, was quoted to the effect: "If someone comes up to me and says that he is going to do me some good, I am going to run for my life!" Does [Attorney General] Curran really think that criminals are going to obey the law? So who gets disarmed--the honest people!

The issue of gun violence is clouded because the media, by and large, do not report cases of someone defending him/herself with a weapon. They only seize upon the lurid to report. As a consequence, the average citizen does not get a balanced picture of what is going on. According to FBI statistics, of all the millions of guns in this country, only two-tenths of 1 percent are used in the commission of a crime. We are suckers if we fall for the line of Sarah Brady or Mr. Curran, et al.

COLIN F. BURCH JR.

River View Farm

Avenue

Looking Back And Ahead

The close of the 20th century and the approach of a new millennium are prompting people everywhere to reflect on the history they have witnessed and to consider changes likely to occur in coming decades and beyond.

Southern Maryland Extra invites you to share your musings and memories of this century in our region, as well as your hopes for what the future holds for Southern Maryland.

Send them to us by e-mail at smextra@washpost.com or to The Washington Post, 100 N. Oak Ave., La Plata, Md. 20646.

As this year ends and the new century begins, we will publish your reflections and predictions on Sundays in our Letters to the Editor.

YOUR VIEWS ARE WELCOME

Southern Maryland Extra welcomes your opinions. Letters to the editor should include your name and address, as well as day and evening phone numbers so we can verify authorship.

Send letters to:

Letters to the Editor

Southern Maryland Extra

100 N. Oak Ave.

La Plata, Md. 20646

Fax: 301-934-1088

E-mail: lanswortht@washpost.com