'Town Crank' Replies

It is my pleasure to respond to Shannon Tierney's June 27 letter, "Gray Off Base on Hoyer."

I would like to compliment Shannon on her originality. In my 16 years of political activism I have not before been called a "town crank." I shall proudly add it to the many other accolades I have received from disgruntled Democrats.

Shannon accuses me of complaining and "without offering any solutions or anything constructive." To the contrary, I have repeatedly offered the constructive solution that the people of the 5th Congressional District would be much better served by replacing Rep. Steny H. Hoyer with someone who truly represents their mainstream values and principles, rather than representing the political agenda of the far-left wing of the Democratic Party.

Anyone with an open mind need only refer to www.vote-smart.org, a nonpartisan voter information source, to become aware of the true political nature of Hoyer's voting record. In particular, I believe that senior citizens will find his voting record on Social Security, Medicare, prescription drug benefits, health care reform and estate (death) taxes very enlightening. For example, in 1993 Hoyer voted to increase the taxable portion of Social Security benefits from 50 to 85 percent, and in 1995 and 2000 voted against repealing this tax hike on seniors.

Shannon asked of me the question, "What do 70 percent of the voters in the 5th District, both Democrat and Republican, see in Steny Hoyer that you don't or won't?" So as to not overstate Hoyer's popularity, it is noted that as few as 58 percent of the voters have re-elected him in some previous elections. What do they see in him? They see the Steny Hoyer who is craftily portrayed in his publicity. For example, Hoyer leads people to believe he is primarily responsible for the Joint Strike Fighter coming to Pax River [Naval Air Station] for testing, when, in fact, his role in this decision-making process was negligible. Or, consider his rhetoric intended to make people believe his reelection is essential to protecting the district's military facilities from [Defense Department closure], when in fact his influence in the process is minimal. What they see is what he wants them to see for his own self-serving purposes.

What they do not see, unless they go looking, is the Steny Hoyer who hides behind a political smokescreen. For example, they do not see the Steny Hoyer who has received a 100 percent approval rating from the National Abortion Rights Action League (NARAL), Planned Parenthood, Americans United for the Separation of Church and State, National Education Association (NEA) and the Sierra Club; a 90 percent rating from Americans for Democratic Action and a 87 percent rating from the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU); or a dismal 46 percent rating from the National Retail Association, 40 percent from the U.S. Chamber of Commerce, 22 percent from the National Taxpayer's Union, 12 percent from the Council for Citizens Against Government Waste (CCAGW) and a 0 percent rating from the National Federation of Independent Businesses, the Associated Builders & Contractors and the Federation for American Immigration Reform.

Sometimes it takes a "town crank" to help people see the truth.

Vernon Gray

California

Time for Slots

The legalized slot machine gambling duo of New Jersey and West Virginia is about to add the top point of a triangle in Pennsylvania. The newly formed shape will have one defect however: its base (in another term, Maryland).

Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell (D) and the state legislature are on the brink of granting gambling licenses to casinos and racetracks. Considering the enormity of the proposal (allocating 36,000 slots to 12 sites) and the great size of the legislature (253 members), the idea will be a remarkable boon to the economy if approved.

Contrast the Keystone State's plan to that of Maryland. Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. supports placing 10,000 to 15,000 slots at four to eight locations. Couple the relative smallness of this proposal with the lower number of 188 members in the legislature, and you may be led to believe Maryland should have a less strenuous time dealing with slots than its northern neighbor.

Not so. The pending passage of a Pennsylvania gambling bill reflects bipartisan cooperation and a willingness to compromise within the legislature.

For Maryland, fractured by House Speaker Michael E. Busch's stymieing tactics, a formidable pro-slots coalition has yet to take root during the two years of budget negotiations. A Democratic opposition to Republican Ehrlich's initiative has precluded a reasonable solution to the state's fiscal woes.

More frustratingly, several public opinion polls have shown that a majority of Marylanders want slots. I would venture to say these same residents choose gambling over any $1 billion tax package introduced by Busch.

A 1 cent increase in the sales tax and a rise in income taxes aside, does education funding really draw the ire of anti-slots advocates? The Thornton Plan, a mammoth priority, requires heavy sums to maintain the K-12 public school system until 2009. Slots revenues are estimated at nearly $800 million annually, or enough to offset the spending crunch imposed by Thornton.

We in Maryland are some of the wealthiest and most literate people in America. To sustain our high regard, we must reach the core of prosperity, that being education. Taxes would only inflate our cost-of-living, leaving us in an unhappy state of mind.

Ehrlich can reap no political gain from gambling. His sensible, innovative approach to balancing the budget will not improve his lot, but ours. It is up to the stalwart opponents under the direction of Busch to allow for the next generation's sophisticated citizenry.

Ricky Grow

Waldorf

Expanding Cove Point

This letter is in response to Dominion's ongoing expansion of storage tanks at Cove Point to 14 billion cubic feet of capacity and construction of 47 miles of a second 36-inch natural gas pipeline through Calvert, Charles and Prince George's counties to transmit 1.8 billion cubic feet of gas per day.

Some of Phyllis Johnson's (of Port Republic) concerns that were mentioned in her letter to the editor (Southern Maryland Extra, June 6, 2004) need to be addressed -- "before the great joy over sudden prosperity is expressed by our county government," she said.

Also, a study done by Towson University, released in May, estimated the Cove Point upgrades could create 400 new jobs and pump $17 million in new tax revenue into the Southern Maryland economy.

We wonder how many hours it took Towson University to do this upbeat study? It only took five minutes on the Web site to see that the staggering effects of the "accidental" Valdez oil spill (March 24, 1989) and the "accidental" Chernobyl nuclear disaster (April 26, 1986) linger on. A storage tank facility explosion, or a gas pipeline explosion, could be on a magnitude of a Valdez or Chernobyl in terms of cost.

Just think if there were a terrorist attack or an accident? That would create thousands of new jobs in cleanup, and hundreds of millions, maybe even billions of our tax dollars being spent on the mess, let alone all the misery caused to our lives through death, health problems and loss of standard of living.

Do Southern Marylanders really like living on the edge or do we just like being played for fools? And for those who think an attack or an accident could never happen here, just remember Three Mile Island.

Is Cove Point a real panacea or a clear and present danger? Could this be 47 miles of opportunity for terrorists or accidents to happen? Is this the beginning of a new set of problems?

Tim and Brenda Beard

White Plains