Public Officials and Trust

The article "Ehrlich Vetoes Bill Sought by Sheriff," [Southern Md. Extra, May 30] was very enlightening about the character of some of our elected officials.

St. Mary's County Sheriff David D. Zylak sought legislation to expand the senior management structure of his department. Why? Because he is saddled with the former sheriff's cronies serving in the department's lieutenant billets. So, he wants to create and appoint captains and majors to outrank and circumvent them. Is this a good reason to restructure the department? Is this a good reason to spend more taxpayers' money? It seems to be an admission that he is unable to command his senior personnel.

Since this personnel expansion requires budgetary approval and funding from the St. Mary's Board of County Commissioners, the legislation was first presented to it. The county commissioners approved Zylak's proposal. Why did they approve a costly, ill-conceived and unjustified legislative proposal that clearly did not serve the interests of the citizens of the county? Was it because they felt sorry for the sheriff?

Next, the proposed legislation was submitted to the Maryland General Assembly's St. Mary's County delegation, comprised of Sen. Roy P. Dyson, Del. John F. Wood Jr., Del. Tony O'Donnell and Del. John L. Bohanan Jr. They, too, approved this proposal and introduced it. Why? Was it because three of the four are Democrats and the sheriff is a fellow Democrat?

However, before it was introduced Zylak asked Bohanan to make a change in the wording of the legislation to give him co-authority with the county commissioners in this matter, and Bohanan did so. Notably, they did not tell the county commissioners of this change; it was kept a secret. It was not until the bill was passed by the General Assembly that the county commissioners learned of this subterfuge. By their actions Zylak and especially Bohanan subverted the long-standing legislative proposal process, which includes public participation, knowledge and input. I wonder what else John Bohanan keeps a secret from the citizens of the county? Can he really be trusted to faithfully represent the people?

Ultimately, the county commissioners requested and the governor agreed to veto this legislation.

Elected officials have only themselves to blame for the fact that they are not trusted and are considered disreputable by the people.

Vernon Gray


Buckle Up to Live

In Charles County, there was one traffic-related fatality every 14 days in 2002. Motor vehicle fatalities and injuries are the largest public health problem facing our citizens today. Nearly 42,000 people a year are killed in motor vehicle crashes; that number of people is equal to filling the MCI Center with people -- twice.

Many people -- especially teenagers and young adults -- still don't take one of the simplest and most effective steps to stay safe: buckling up. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA), 59 percent of the passenger vehicle occupants killed in crashes in 2002 -- 32,598 men, women and children -- weren't wearing seat belts.

Teenagers and young adults are particularly at risk. Motor vehicle crashes are the leading cause of death for teens and young adults from age 16 through 34, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Yet 64 percent of the 16- to 20-year-old passenger vehicle occupants killed or seriously injured in crashes in 2002 were not wearing a seat belt, according to NHTSA.

Sometimes the fear of getting a traffic ticket is the only reason that someone will wear a seat belt. That's why state and local law enforcement officers across the state are joining the national Click It or Ticket/Operation ABC (America Buckles Up Children) May Mobilization, which started May 24 and runs through today. Officers have aggressively ticketed unbelted drivers and passengers. High-visibility enforcement has proven effective in increasing seat belt use.

In June of 2003 the seat belt use rate for Charles County was 90 percent for passenger cars. (Pickup truck seat belt use rates are significantly lower in Charles County and throughout the state). Unfortunately, 90 percent is just not good enough. The combination of law enforcement, high-profile publicity and the advocacy and promotion by public and private groups continues to be an extremely effective means for increasing seat belt use and saving lives.

The bottom line is law enforcement officers would rather write someone a ticket than find someone dead or critically injured because he or she was not wearing a seat belt.

Wear your seat belt every trip, every time, and make sure everyone with you is properly restrained or risk getting a ticket -- during Click It or Ticket and any other time of the year in Charles County.

Frederick E. Davis

sheriff, Charles County

Prosperity at What Price?

Dominion Inc. is submitting an application to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission to be approved for an easement to construct a second natural gas pipeline near the first one that was originally owned by Columbia Gas Co. in our county.

Those of us who own property on or near the present pipeline and the proposed easement for the second, sincerely appreciate the expert coverage of the many problems involved with the pipelines and the gas facility in "Projections Not Promises -- An Analysis" by Sandra Martin. The thorough research that has been done is evident in her bringing into focus problems with past pipelines and those that need to be considered before the second pipeline is approved.

The projections made in the Dominion Inc.-sponsored study concerning many job opportunities and lots of money for the Calvert County government are indeed only projections. What will happen when other fuels or energy sources become cheaper than natural gas? Will Dominion also abandon the facility and the pipelines? Will the Calvert County government or FERC be responsible for maintaining all the structures and the easements that grow mainly weeds and cannot be used for building or regular use with vehicles? Or will the property owners again be expected to maintain the easements and continue to pay the taxes?

The additional cluttering of areas involved with the larger holding tanks, more facility structures, the tons of pollution to be released into our air, the threat of accidents with many fatalities from two pipelines like the ones listed on 11 pages of the National Transportation Safety Board, the terrorist threats, the increase in danger from the 150 or so 800- to 900-foot tankers coming into Cove Point, which is close to the Calvert Cliffs Nuclear Power Plant and many containers of spent fuel, are problems that need to be considered before the great joy over sudden prosperity is expressed by our county government. If Dominion's application is approved, Calvert County will have the dubious honor of having the largest facility (of the four in the U.S.) with two pipelines that can serve the Eastern Seaboard but not Calvert County.

Phyllis S. Johnson

Port Republic