{grv}Restrict Fee to Speeders

Please let the governor have his slots. I can't afford the increased taxes and hardship that he will continue to impose on the people of Maryland if he doesn't get them. He has to repay his debt to the gaming commission, which backed him for governor.

He is imposing a tax -- yes, it is a tax -- on car tags at $180 for a sticky square that is only 11/4-by-11/2 inch. This is not much larger than a postage stamp. For that we should get steel or at least aluminum tags every two years.

Governor, if you want to make money for the state and do a good deed, put a task force of four patrol cars on State Route 235 North and South, Monday through Friday, and write citations for all the people who go over the speed limit. You should get at least 75 to 100 cars a day. When the citations are written, enter their tag number into a database and charge them the $180 for every renewal. This would penalize the scofflaws and reward the ones who obey the law by not making them pay the tax. This would cover all vehicles registered in Maryland, and drivers with out-of-state tags should have to pay a double fine.

Governor, you are rich and can afford the taxes. I can't because I am 70 years old and my monthly income is only $2,010. When was the last time that you went on a vacation? I haven't been on a vacation in five years. Every time I manage to save a few bucks, my truck insurance comes due, or my property tax has increased and comes due. Taxes here, taxes there, taxes everywhere. County tax, state tax and federal tax. This is not mentioning birthdays and Christmas presents.

Oh, yes, your boys at the State House were going to pass a bill that would cap senior citizens' property tax, but you were going to slap us in the face by adding a rider to the bill restricting the cap to those who have lived in their home for at least 20 years. I moved out of Lexington Park because of overcrowding and automobile congestion, and I have lived in my house for 14 years. I am 70, a senior citizen, and I would not qualify for the cap.

Let the governor have his slot machines. We can vote him out of office and get rid of the machines later, like what happened in the past.

James P. Thomas


Editor's Note: Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) proposed the increase in motor vehicle registration fees last spring to raise money for highway and mass transportation projects. The General Assembly approved the increases, and they took effect July 1. The owners of SUVs and trucks now must pay $180 every two years, up from $108, and drivers registering cars pay $128 every two years, up from $81.

A Vision for Calvert

An open letter to the Calvert County Board of Commissioners:

First and foremost, I apologize for being unable to attend the July 13 hearing in person, but ask that you consider my comments on "big-box" retail stores.

From my perspective as a commercial real estate professional with many years of experience in developing and redeveloping retail properties, and as a 23-year resident of the county, please consider the following:

* Negative planning and restrictive regulations are counterproductive to a solid growth policy. Planning for what you don't want isn't as effective as planning for what you do want. Setting limits on the size of buildings does not support or encourage a sound growth policy; it simply eliminates certain potential established businesses from even considering entering Calvert County. Retailers traditionally build a wall around the products they propose to offer, and the amount of square footage is the product of the offering. By way of example, when I went to work in the 1950s for Safeway, a 5,000-square-foot store was a big store, but there was only one 12-foot case of frozen food. TV dinners hadn't been invented. Now, 65,000 square feet is not uncommon. The better way to deal with the concerns expressed by those who "speak the rhetoric of fear and doom" in opposition to examples of poor planning elsewhere (Waldorf, for example) is to plan well for what you do want -- buffering, internal and perimeter landscaping, traffic control and off-site roadway improvements. I can take you to well-planned, attractive and effectively controlled examples of "big box" development and show you how it is effectively done on a very large scale, or go to Parole to see the compromise worked out between residents and the Rose organization in retaining natural buffers around residential as well as commercial development. It may not be perfect, but it is certainly a step in the right direction without prohibiting vital goods and services.

* Calvert County needs jobs here, not elsewhere. Planning policy that discourages responsible development of jobs of whatever type is not in the best interest of a healthy county economy. Continued arguments that we don't need to encourage our residents to work and shop here simply adds to our major problem -- traffic, especially commuter traffic. Every time we build another Park and Ride and chase away a business, we demonstrate that our priorities are badly mixed up. We need the jobs, the shopping dollars and the additional jobs and taxes they create in the county -- not out of it. Traffic to and from Waldorf, Annapolis and Lexington Park for goods and services is not doing this county any good; it is crippling our economy, adding to our pollution, congesting our roads and preventing a healthy mix of goods and service within easy travel of our residents' homes.

* Check out the facts and quit the scare rhetoric. I was recently appalled to hear one of the leading individuals in our county planning community quoted as saying that a "big box store can generate over 1,000 trips an hour" to a specific location. Okay, let's do the math. Even if we reduce that to 500, allowing for coming and going traffic during the same hour, and figure 20 check stands fully manned, it would only allow 2.5 minutes per customer transaction (a goal few retailers can meet on even their best days, especially a mass merchandiser). Actual numbers from the retail industry (and there are good statistics available) just don't support the big scare rhetoric that is being thrown around with little regard for veracity.

* Just because we haven't done a good job of planning doesn't mean we can't. Let's admit that the county made mistakes in the past and failed to plan for the rapid residential growth, to develop the infrastructure -- roads, telecommunication capacity, sewer and water, employment base -- needed, and to encourage people to move here to live and work, not just to live.

Good direction from the Board of Commissioners to its staff is needed, and the staff needs to feel the freedom to do its job without fear of undue criticism from board members. It comes down to leadership from the top and, frankly, that may cost some of the easy votes in the next election. There is an old quotation from scripture: "Where there is no clear vision, the people perish." Vision is what leadership is all about -- vision that inspires; vision that is clear; vision that is measurable and frequently measured. It is time to make vital changes in the way we do business and create a vision of what we want (rather than what we don't want) that is clear, measurable and sustainable, and put the things in place that make it happen.

David H. Sisson

Chesapeake Beach

Stand Up to Big Tobacco

I make an appeal to the restaurant and bar owners of Charles County. Why do you let America's deadliest industry pick on you?

Follow the money. The U.S. tobacco industry made billions last year while killing 440,000 smokers and 53,000 non-smokers. To keep smoking socially acceptable, Big Tobacco knows it must hijack the last business sector where smoking is allowed: restaurants and bars like yours.

How does Big Tobacco manipulate you, the hospitality industry of Charles County, into protecting its profits? By falsely claiming smoke-free measures will ruin restaurants and bars, luring owners into buying expensive "accommodation" ventilation systems, and using groups and owners as fronts to block cost-free smoke-free measures.

No question about it, Big Tobacco is making a huge killing. Are you?

Big Tobacco lies. And it's still lying to us today. The tobacco industry cooks the books behind the scenes.

It's bad enough that Big Tobacco tries to panic restaurant and bar owners into opposing smoke-free measures. It also tries to sell you on costly, ineffective ventilation systems. You've seen the ads in restaurant magazines.

No feasible ventilation system can reduce secondhand smoke exposure to safe levels. Big Tobacco even admits as much in fine print that says it makes no "health claims" for ventilation -- leaving you with the liability. Do you ever wonder when you might get sued by an employee because your work environment caused him or her to develop asthma, heart disease or, worse, cancer?

According to the Centers for Disease Control, as little as 30 minutes in a smoky environment can rapidly increase the formation of blood clots and restrict flow to the heart, causing a heart attack. Exposure to secondhand smoke increases the risk of coronary heart disease in non-smokers by about 30 percent. Doctors nationwide are warning patients to avoid indoor places that permit smoking, especially for those most at risk -- people with diabetes, prior heart ailments, or high cholesterol and blood pressure.

Business owners, stop hypothesizing that your establishment will fall to ruin. Do your own research and see for yourself. Begin to estimate the genuine costs of smoking on your business -- insurance, labor, maintenance, employee turnover and more. Calculate the estimated profit from the segments of the general population that do not patronize your establishment simply because they cannot breathe or enjoy their meal. Going smoke-free is the perfect solution; it doesn't cost anything.

Finally, ask our county commissioners for legislation that will protect your employees and your patrons. Many of you want this passed. Tell our legislators this is good for business and good for the health of our wonderful Charles County.

Leslie Hoglund

White Plains

A Politician Who Served

I was very pleased for the first time to read a seemingly unbiased news article about Republican congressional candidate Brad Jewitt in the Southern Maryland Extra ("Hoyer Challenger Hoping Opposite Attracts," July 18). Staff writer Jessica Valdez is to be commended.

I thought one statement in the article presented an oversimplification of the substance of Jewitt's campaign. She wrote, "His main selling point: He isn't Steny Hoyer." There is much more to Brad Jewitt's candidacy than simply being anybody but Hoyer. Such as his interest in supporting small businesses, tax cuts, transportation options, and the security and quality of life of our families.

Believe it or not, Jewitt and Hoyer have some things in common. For example, they are both equally committed to protecting the nation's security, the district's military installations and the well-being of its many thousands of military personnel and government employees.

Jewitt, however, has the additional experience and insight that comes from having served for 15 years as a commissioned officer in the Marine Corps, and he has worked as a government employee. Most important, knowing first-hand the burdens and sacrifices demanded of our military personnel, Jewitt would not be as easily persuaded as has Hoyer to support the extensive use of U.S. military forces in operations where vital national interests are not threatened, such as in Bosnia. Nor would Jewitt, unlike Hoyer during the Clinton administration, concurrently agree to the major downsizing of regular U.S. military forces, reducing their readiness and creating a critical dependence upon Reserve and National Guard units.

Hoyer's lack of military expertise is perhaps best evidenced by his statements during a May 25 town hall meeting in Beltsville, as reported by the Laurel Leader newspaper. Hoyer criticized the Bush administration for invading Iraq before the Iraqi army could amass troops along the front, "which means we could neither destroy them nor capture them," he said. Unbelievably, Hoyer has no concern for the significantly greater number of American casualties that would have resulted had the Iraqis foolishly been given the opportunity to solidify their defenses. Jewitt, a trained Marine infantryman, understands the realities of warfare that Hoyer, an embedded armchair strategist, obviously does not.

Are you as tired of out-of-touch politicians as I am? Thank you to The Post for striving for objectivity in introducing Brad Jewitt to Southern Maryland -- a leader who will represent us with integrity and results at a critical time.

Frank McCabe