Voting for SMECO's Board

On May 19, I accepted the nomination to represent St. Mary's County once again on the Southern Maryland Electric Cooperative Board of Directors.

I was first elected to the board in 1996 and received the designation of Certified Credentialed Cooperative Director in 1999. I have served as the chairman of the Bay Country Cooperative Association and in September 2004 was elected vice chairman of the SMECO Board.

Since I have served on the board, customer choice has become a reality in our utility business. I am proud to say our current board chose to make SMECO even more attractive to its members. In 2004, my fellow directors honored me by appointing me chairman of the Board Risk Oversight Committee. This committee is charged with ensuring that SMECO's management of the highly complex and sophisticated power marketing program is conducted efficiently, with appropriate controls and highest professional standards. Their efforts have resulted in rates that are lower than the market average.

Many of our members may not realize that SMECO is currently the eighth-largest electric cooperative in the United States. Our growth since I became a board member has been phenomenal. This growth has come with many challenges. . . . I am committed to dedicating my time, expertise and skills to make sure SMECO remains a low-cost provider while maintaining its tradition of excellent service. During the past nine years, I have had the pleasure of working with another highly competent director, Purnell Frederick. I respectfully ask the members of Charles, Calvert, Prince George's and St. Mary's counties to vote for Purnell and me, either by absentee ballot or at the Aug. 31 annual meeting at the SMECO headquarters in Hughesville.

Joseph V. Stone


Fresh Ideas for SMECO

Fellow SMECO members, this Wednesday, SMECO members will have the opportunity to vote in the annual board election. I am a candidate for the board. Over several years, and especially this past year, I have strongly advocated opening the vote to all SMECO members, not just the 1 percent able to attend the meeting. We did get the voting process partially changed to allow absentee voting. I am convinced that this has to be expanded to give all 130,000 members a reasonable opportunity to vote. New voters mean new ideas.

I will focus on SMECO's main mission, providing efficient and reliable service. I have a technical degree and long-term practical utility experience. I understand customers' concerns with monthly bills and the need for prompt installations and repairs. I understand power generation and distribution. The board needs a member with my background and interest.

Any board needs new members and fresh perspectives.

As a member/owner of SMECO, come to the meeting in Hughesville on Wednesday and vote.

Mike Thompson


Saving Peninsula

In response to the letter "Property Owners' Rights" [Extra, Aug. 14], I must disagree with the author. The creation of open spaces to be "preserved and maintained in perpetuity" is long overdue in our county, state and country. Urban sprawl is a problem everywhere, and without some foresight it could ruin what is special about parts of Charles County. I applaud the Maryland Department of Natural Resources and the federal Bureau of Land Management, which have a vision for the Nanjemoy Peninsula to remain largely undeveloped. I admire this plan, and I am in favor of rural cluster development.

It is too bad that so many people see value in land only when they can exploit it by altering it to suit their financial needs. There are people who would cherish living in an area where the cry of a screech owl and the call of a bobwhite early in the morning is something that brings great pleasure. Maybe it is time for some landowners in the western part of Charles County to see that their cup is half-full and not half-empty.

As our natural resources decline at a rapid rate and a society in need of Wal-Marts and Super Giants grows, undeveloped property will only increase in value. Believe it or not, there are people who will pay for property that they know is safe from sprawl. Do not think there is increased value in your property only when it has been ruined by subdivision ad nauseam.

Claudia Angle


A Bad Zoning Proposal

We are opposed to the zoning proposal to implement mandatory rural cluster developments, and we urge the county commissioners to vote against it. This proposal would require that all rural lots be a minimum of 25 acres or, alternatively, that 65 percent of land to be subdivided remain as open space and an easement to that effect granted to the county.

This proposal is simply a revamping of the 20-acre down-zoning that was voted down a little more than a year ago in response to an overwhelming public outcry against it. We collected in excess of 1,000 signatures on petitions opposing that proposal, and we question why this issue is being raised again.

We have many families in western Charles County who are living in substandard housing and believe that the county government should implement less, not more, restrictive zoning in our rural areas. What we need are rural land initiatives aimed at affordable housing. The Charles County Housing Commission has recommended that the county strive to fulfill the housing needs of special populations, including low- and very-low-income residents, senior citizens, the homeless and disabled. We agree.

Because of the lack of affordable housing, laws need to be changed or at least a special exception made to allow anyone who is trying to improve a neighborhood to do so. For example, the existing requirements for accessory dwellings are so stringent as to prohibit people from obtaining affordable housing for their own families on their own land. I am again asking that this be changed! We have many families living in mobile homes without even the most basic of services, such as running water and electricity. They can't get permits to upgrade their housing because the mobile homes in which they live don't comply with existing land-use policies. These are the kind of zoning changes the county should be looking at. We don't need another zoning proposal designed to protect scenic views at the expense of those who are least able to afford it.

Please contact your county commissioners and ask them to vote against this latest zoning proposal. Now that their trip to visit a baseball stadium in Pennsylvania has taken place, ask them whether it would be possible for them to read the article we delivered to them concerning a small community called Bayview on Virginia's Eastern Shore that is garnering national attention for its innovative approach to community revitalization. Perhaps they may want to see for themselves the positive changes that are going on there, so that the Planning Commission can do some real planning for those who are living in deplorable conditions. Perhaps while they are planning, the commissioners we put into office to be concerned about the lives of all citizens can follow the lead of Salisbury officials who went to Bayview to gain inspiration from accomplishments there. That would be a trip well worth taking. Tell them that if they aren't going to help us, they could at least stop hurting our families!

Terawana Keys-Bowman

Western Charles County Community Association


Buckle Up, Drive Wisely

One of the most significant public safety concerns this year has been traffic fatalities -- we are experiencing our highest fatality rate since 1995. . . .

There is no rhyme or reason to these crashes, no one issue for which we can place blame. One factor, however, is consistent: The driver of the vehicle is almost always at fault. In fact, driver error contributed to 75 percent of this year's crashes, so the only way to put an end to the severe increase in fatalities on our roads is to change dangerous driving behaviors.

For starters, wear your seatbelt and make sure everyone in your vehicle is properly restrained, every trip, every time. Always obey the posted speed limits -- they are laws, not suggestions. Concentrate on driving, not the cell phone, music, passengers or any other distractions. Drive sober; never drive under the influence of alcohol or drugs, including over-the-counter medications. Warning labels are placed on medications for a reason. Maintain an adequate distance from the vehicle in front of you so you will always have time to stop. Don't proceed through an intersection unless you are absolutely sure it is safe. Finally, always extend common courtesy to other drivers -- you are not the only person stuck in traffic and driving angrily isn't going to make traffic disappear.

Following these guidelines, we will all be safer.

Frederick E. Davis

Charles County Sheriff

La Plata