Fund Our Schools

Our schools are showing the strain of financial neglect, and Huntingtown Elementary School is a case in point. Huntingtown represents a deteriorating school system. While the commissioners plan on spending $150 million for agricultural preservation, the health, safety and education of our children is being seriously compromised and few are willing to admit it. Complacency breeds mediocrity.

Huntingtown's roof is crumbling. The school doesn't have walls inside. Children who sit in the back of classrooms are often closer to two other teachers in adjacent spaces than they are to their own teachers. Imagine the noise level. We don't have a bus lane. It's an accident waiting to happen. There's an inadequate sprinkler system. There are 10 special education students forced into a classroom with less that 200 square feet of floor space. Students who are not quite toilet trained are thrown in with post-pubescent girls. There's not enough parking. We often have to walk on busy Huntingtown Road, which has no shoulders, for a quarter mile or more at night for special events. Like most other facilities in the county, Huntingtown is over capacity. My children's education is being compromised. We need trailers for band and our fifth-grade classes to make room for everyone else. The cafeteria/auditorium is too small for the school's crowded conditions. There's no built-in stage for theatrical and musical presentations. The fields are poorly maintained and have as much sand and gravel as grass. Several T-ball and baseball teams are forced to share the same field for practice. Teachers rarely have adequate supplies.

School administrators are aware and sympathetic but we need more than sympathy. We need money. It's hard not to be sarcastic about things. What is the vision of our commissioners? The don't want to create a tax base. They don't want to raise taxes. They don't want to build a desperately needed fourth high school. They don't want to build a career center. What's the plan? School vouchers? Does Commissioner [Linda] Kelley figure we don't need a career center because Applebee's trains their employees anyway?

We can't blame all the commissioners. Although Commissioner [Patrick] Buehler sided with the majority in the recent 4 to 1 vote not to fund the career center and the new high school, his logic is sound. We don't want to put the county into a deficit spending mode as Commissioner [Barbara] Stinnett would have it. Unlike Ms. Stinnett, Mr. Buehler is a responsible Democrat who argues that the county is spending too much too quickly on agricultural preservation while we remain last in the state in terms of our commercial tax base.

Our county is heading in the wrong direction because a group of uneducated, short-sighted reactionaries have taken charge while the citizenry remains largely disengaged.

Call the commissioners and urge them to fund our schools.

PAT ELDER

Huntingtown

Millennium on Target

While James Beaver ["A Millennium Mix-Up," Letters, Dec. 12] is correct that the millennium celebration would be a year early if we counted from 1 AD, I believe the celebration is right on target when one considers that Jesus was alive in Mary's womb after the Immaculate Conception and before His birth. That time can, and should, be considered as "0 AD." End of problem and end of controversy.

BRUCE KIRK

La Plata

Millennium Mix-Up Redux

In reference to the Letter to the Editor from James Beaver, "A Millennium Mix-Up," Southern Maryland Extra, Dec. 12:

It seems Mr. Beaver's letter did not make a connection since the article he challenges is printed again, two columns away from his letter and without comment from you. Your comments seem appropriate since you appear to have taken a stand on the subject.

I agree with Mr. Beaver that 1999 is not the last year of the 20th century. To expand on his theme, I've enclosed a writing that supports the year 2000 as being the end of the 20th century. It is based on simple mathematics.

I believe that your goal and the goal of all reputable newspapers is to print articles that are accurate. Therefore, I respectfully request that you adjust your position on when the new century starts.

Also, those that think 1999 is the end of the 20th century should be required to submit their rationale to support their conclusion. Hopefully, it will be more than, "Well, a lot of people think so," or we can just start counting from zero. . . . Their rationale would be interesting to read.

If 1999 is to be the end of the 20th century and the year 2000 the start of the 21st century, we will have a real mess put on our social system, school system textbooks and mathematics in general.

We were taught to count to 10 in grammar school. We begin with 1, 2, 3--all the way to 10. Teacher further taught that we use a math system based on 10. Such as a decade equals 10 years, a century equals 100 years, etc.

In order for 1999 to be the last year of the 20th century and 2000 to be the start of the 21st century, we no longer can count to 10. We have to count to 9, beginning with 0: 0, 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, 6, 7, 8, 9. This will maintain a math system based on 10 and a century having 100 years. By starting with 0, the year 1999 will be the 100th year of the 20th century instead of the 99th, which it is.

It 2000 is the start of the 21st century, the first decade will end in the year 2009; school math books will have to be rewritten with 0 being the first number instead of 1. A 0-dollar bill will have to be introduced to maintain continuity with the new counting method. We will have to give the 0-dollar bill the value of 1 because you cannot buy anything with zero dollars; but there already is a one. Hopefully, the 1999 advocates can come up with a fix for this.

The 10-dollar bill would become a 9-dollar bill, a 20 becomes a 19, a 50 becomes a 49, etc., all in keeping with a base-10 math system; that is unless the 1999 advocates propose to change it too.

Our first birthday will be at age 0 instead of age 1. Those of us who celebrate having lived for half a century will do so at age 49, since 49 is the 50th number. We will celebrate having lived for a century (100 years) at age 99, since 99 is the last year of a century.

Those of us who correctly identify the year 2000 as the last year of the 20th century are called "purists." In keeping with the idea that everything has to be labeled: Those who incorrectly identify the year 2000 as the start of the 21st century are "impatients." Mathematically ignorant would also apply.

GARY GENTILE

Waldorf

Editor's note: A recent article in The Washington Post ["Who's Counting? As New Year's Approaches, Debate Over Date Rages On," Nov. 27] made clear that the debate over when one century gives way to the next has raged for hundreds of years. However, scientists and mathematicians seem to agree with the writer that neither the new century nor the new millennium can begin until Jan. 1, 2001. The Naval Observatory, which keeps the nation's Master Clock, plans two celebrations. Currently, it displays a clock ticking down the time with a sign reading "countdown to 2000." On Jan. 1, the sign will be changed to read "countdown to the millennium."

Trash Disposal Concerns All

This is in response to Commissioner Parran's letter published in the Southern Maryland Extra on Dec. 5, under the heading "Defending Trash Station." The commissioner writes about trash and local government. Contrary to popular opinion, they don't belong in the same repository. For sure, many St. Mary's County folks are scratching their heads about the current solid waste management predicament. You would think with a booming economy and tax base (until recently the St. Mary's piggyback tax was 60 percent), there would be the financial means to fix the county trash problem without prostituting Charlotte Hall. So not only do we envy Calvert's trash acumen, but also their lower taxes and apparent ability to do more with less.

Before the commissioner develops a case of bursitis through backslapping for a job well done, please remember the pending decision on the proposed trash facility in Charlotte Hall will have rippling impact on our Calvert and Charles county neighbors. As proposed, all those Waste Management vehicles will be trucking north through the narrow Hughesville corridor, Monday through Saturday. Just imagine, it could be Commissioner Parran stuck behind a smelly load in bumper-to-bumper traffic trying to get across the Benedict Bridge on a summer afternoon.

Worse yet, the next "death wreath" placed at the area's intersections could be for someone from Charles or Calvert County with the misfortune of being caught up in an "accordion pile-up" that so frequently results from tractor-trailer traffic. But don't despair. Charlotte Hall will soon have a new funeral home for shared use! In any event, while St. Mary's is now on the horns of a dilemma, trash is a Southern Maryland problem and there are other alternatives to the one on the table involving Charlotte Hall. The local governments for Charles, Calvert and St. Mary's should work collectively in studying all options that balance waste disposal needs with the responsibility for protecting the public safety and welfare. Unless that is done, you never know who is going to end up losing in the long run.

TED MUELLER

Mechanicsville

Opposes Ballfield Plan

We want to register our opposition to the [Calvert] commissioners' plan [for reconfiguration of the Kellam's Field Recreational Complex in Chesapeake Beach]. . . .

The plan, as we interpret it, would exacerbate the already complex parking situation by an arrangement of facilities that does not lend itself to parking separation, and parking separation between cars and trailers is the major current operational problem. In particular, the conflict over the use of trailer space by football supporters, the most difficult problem we currently have, would be much worse. . . . Virtually no additional car parking is provided in close proximity to the proposed football field.

Very little additional parking appears to be provided in proximity to the Community Center or the Water Park when compared to the original [Chesapeake Beach] town plan.

There is no apparent proposal for trailer space for oversized rigs--a growing problem.

Proposed parking for trailers that is beyond reasonable walking distance for [boat] ramp patrons is absurd. Some of what is shown is over 300 yards (three football fields) from the nearest ramp. . . .

No consultation by those putting this plan forth has taken place with us, and we are most familiar with and most affected by the problems encountered on the complex as it exists. Apparently no thought or recognition was given to the agreements between the state, the town and our corporation as concessionaire. . . .

We also want a "win-win-win-win" (county-town-Bucs-fishermen) agreement. We are willing and able to participate in the deliberations as we did during the formation of the Town Plan. We urge the rejection of the plan as presented until the needs of all users, including the only one that pays taxes for the land and the value of its income from the concession agreement, can be adequately addressed.

PAMELA J. SISSON

DAVID H. SISSON

Fishing Creek Landings Marina

Chesapeake Beach

Mammograms a Must

I remember the call from my mother that forever changed my life. "Dee, I have been diagnosed with breast cancer. I had a mastectomy yesterday afternoon. I didn't tell you because you are 500 miles away and I knew how upset you would be." The next five years were a blur of chemotherapy, radiation, trips to and from Georgia and thankfully, remission. Just when we thought we had passed the five-year mark, she called again. "Yesterday, they found a spot on my liver." She passed away less than four months later.

At her funeral, I spoke with her surgeon, a family friend, and asked what I could do to ensure my own good health. His answer was simple. "Check your breasts every month. Your mother knew she was at risk but did not. By the time she came to me for an examination, she had a lump the size of the end of my thumb. Examine your breasts every month, and get a professional exam with a mammogram every year to find breast cancer when it is small. Early treatment can save your life."

Now, years later, I provide care to Calvert County women and ensure that every patient gets a thorough clinical exam and yearly mammogram. Grant funding pays for those who qualify. So often a patient will tell me, "Breast cancer doesn't run in my family so I am not at risk" or "I really don't have time to check myself every month and I don't believe it's that important." But the best way we can be there to care for those we love is to take good care of ourselves.

As we once again approach the hustle and bustle of the holiday season, we need to remember the importance of good preventive care. With so many fine providers in Calvert County, I ask that women give the gift of good health this year to themselves or a loved one. We spend so much time caring for others that we often forget to care for ourselves. Schedule your "Millennium Mammogram" before the clock strikes 12 and remind your mother, sister, wife or daughter to call for an appointment. With early detection, we increase our chances of enjoying a healthy Christmas for years to come.

DIXIE H. POE

Prince Frederick

Editor's note: The writer is a certified family nurse practitioner at Calvert Memorial Hospital.

Disclose Use of Sludge

I am making this request for legislative action, which I will detail later, regarding sludge-bearing properties. I will not, at this time, speak extensively to the public health and safety issues surrounding sludge applications since volumes have been written on the dangers . . . of sludge used in agriculture . . .. Enough can be said with a few examples: First, an article years ago in Progressive Farmer journal alerted readers to resultant inability of cows to bring young to term after being fed grain raised on sludge-laden fields. Although the sludge spread today is cleaner than in years past, it still contains the same elements or toxins associated with bovine miscarriages. And little is known about the effects of these toxins in combination with other elements within or aside from the applied sludge. Second, and although not resultant from sludge, I mention the recent speculation that "Gulf War Syndrome" may be the result of several different elements combining in veterans' bodies to produce adverse effects. The EPA, FDA and other agencies have never studied the effects, or "human tolerance" as they refer to it, of elements, known toxins or not, of sludge in combination with other pesticides and fertilizers on sludge-grown crops and livestock and the effects those combinations may offer. Instead most studies isolate one element and study it in a vacuum.

Most importantly, I address the public's desire for notice and adequate labeling of agricultural lands and products generated through the use of sludge.

The agricultural industry is a food industry. Recently we have made enormous headway in determining criteria for labeling food products as "Certified Organic." The Rodale Institute, the only private-public institution I know of that garners the trust of the public when determining organic farming practices, has stated repeatedly throughout the last three decades that sludge should not be used as a soil supplement on organic fields due to the albeit small amount of inorganic elements within the largely organic material comprising sludge. Their statement as recently as March 1998: "The intensely toxic nature of the inorganics as well as the toxicity of some organic elements within sludge, although seemingly minute in quantity, precludes its consideration as an acceptable soil additive."

Further mention should be made of children's unacceptable reactions to these same contaminants in play areas, most notably in day-care centers, where Milorganite, a packaged sludge product, was used as a turf fertilizer. Obvious reactions noted included skin rashes, lesions and burning sensations. Some doctors suggest that the damage to these children may be more than skin deep, noting increased nervous system problems as well as depressed immune system response.

And so I ask . . . [for] two-part legislation that would record and disclose the use or application of sludge to land.

(1) That all applications, past and future, be recorded in deeds housed in county land records. Further recording at the county and state levels within appropriate departments, such as agriculture departments, in which details of the amounts, components, and methods be kept and made available to the public.

(2) That on the transfer of title of any land that bore sludge applications, disclosure of said applications be required without exception.

These first steps are little to ask when the risks to public health and safety are present. I hope an example of concern can be shown at the state level with this simple legislation that can lead to appropriate use of sludge only on nonorganic agricultural land. When I buy a product labeled "organically grown" I want to be assured that sludge has not been utilized in its manufacture. I have presented this proposal to the Potomac River Association, Friends of St. Mary's River and two members of the County Commission on the Environment, and without exception, I have garnered complete support.

ROBERT LEWIS

Lexington Park

Editor's note: The writer presented a request for legislation at a county forum on the 2000 Maryland General Assembly session last week.

Against Roe v. Wade

I think it especially appropriate to address the subject of abortion, this at a time when we prepare to celebrate the birth of our Savior, Jesus Christ.

The Supreme Court stated in the Roe v. Wade decision that, "The disciplines of medicine, philosophy and theology are unable to arrive at a consensus as to the precise point when life begins." I would ask what the disciplines of philosophy and theology have to do with the beginning of life? And since abortion concerns death of the unborn, I would broaden my question to ask what the disciplines of philosophy and theology have to do with the making of decisions concerning life and death matters? Indeed, I personally faced a life and death situation in a bout with cancer and never once thought about consulting a philosopher or theologian. Like most of your readers, I put my trust in medical doctors. They are the experts on the beginning of human life, and their observations are based on scientific fact, not philosophy or theology. Pertinent sources include:

1. In the California Medical Association Journal, California Medicine, a 1970 editorial is quoted as follows: "Since the old ethic has not yet been fully displaced, it has been necessary to separate the idea of abortion from the idea of killing, which continues to be abhorrent. The result has been a curious avoidance of the scientific fact which everyone knows, that human life begins at conception and is continuous whether intro- or extra-uterine until death."

2. The World Medical Association adopted in September 1948 the Declaration of Geneva: "I will maintain the utmost respect for human life from the time of conception; even under threat I will not use my medical knowledge contrary to the laws of humanity."

3. In October 1969 the International Code of Medical Ethics stated: "A doctor must always bear in mind that importance of preserving human life from time of conception until death."

4. Again, in 1970, the World Medical Association reaffirmed its 1948 position by way of the Declaration of Oslo: "The first moral imposed upon the doctor is respect for human life as expressed in the Declaration of Geneva . . . "

What then to think of the ethics and morality of abortion doctors? . . . Where is it written or suggested in our Constitution that the justices of the Supreme Court have the authority to give mothers or their doctors the "right" to kill innocent, unborn babies? Could it be that they arrogantly assumed the authority with no valid reference upon which to base their decision? If so, I suggest the justices who participated in the decision or upheld that decision in later deliberations consider resigning from the court.

One more question, this concerning Christmas: What if Mother Mary had chosen to terminate the life of Jesus while He was in her womb? According to our misguided Supreme Court, she had the "right" to.

I would appreciate it if the abortionists among your readers, especially abortion doctors, would provide answers to my questions.

VALARIUS E. KUGLER

Mount Victoria