Reduce Global Warming
In the past five weeks, two severe hurricanes have slammed into the Gulf Coast, uprooting whole cities and scattering their residents across the country. These storms also damaged the biggest concentration of this nation's oil refineries in Texas and Louisiana. Consequently, the price of gasoline shot upward after Katrina and again with Rita.
Even skeptical scientists are now acknowledging the reality of rapid climate change -- global warming -- and the more violent storms it foments. The increased burning of fossil fuels such as oil, coal and gasoline is causing the Earth's atmosphere and oceans to heat up.
Our cars and power plants not only contribute to global warming, but also pollute our air and waters, leading to health problems such as asthma, cancer and brain damage. Citizens of Maryland seem ready to begin to improve the situation.
In Annapolis, the House of Delegates Economic Matters Committee oversees the electric industry in Maryland and will debate the proposed Healthy Air Act in January. Contact your delegates, and ask for their support.
Locally, the Sierra Club and the Southern Maryland Greens recently sponsored an Alternative Energy and Conservation Forum in Charlotte Hall. St. Mary's County Commissioner Larry Jarboe and others talked about practical ways to reduce our dependence on foreign oil and reduce our influence on air pollution and climate change.
Frank L. Fox
Rural Zoning in Charles
In an effort to control population growth and retain open space, Charles County appears to be forcing people to use more land than they need or want. This is being done by proposing a complex, mandatory rural cluster development plan. This plan will allow purchases of at least three acres, of which only one acre could be developed. The owner would be required to pay taxes and allowed to plant on the other two or more acres. Otherwise, a purchaser could buy a minimum of 25 acres but not for subdivision.
The proposed plan is more involved than stated here. It would require spending a lot of time and money on paperwork before a house is started.
A much simpler plan would be to allow people to purchase one acre if that is all they want. The rest of the land could remain in farming, trees or vegetation as it now stands. This plan would be environmentally safe and people friendly. Who could be against a plan like this? If you think this plan will cause an acceleration of new homes, not true, because the county controls and issues the building permits -- therefore, the county controls the growth. If this plan is implemented, then I believe new homebuyers should have priority for building permits so that the builders can't corner the market. This plan will not hurt builders because they will still be in demand.
County officials should consider this idea and these facts before making a decision. Zoning does not have to be complicated to be effective. This idea will save future homeowners money, help landowners and preserve more open space; it will not hurt builders, and the county will still have full control over growth. This plan has no bad side effects.
This would be an opportune time for the commissioners to recognize that everyone likes home rule!
I would highly recommend that citizens go to the Department of Planning and Growth in the Charles County Government Building in La Plata, obtain a copy of the rural cluster development plan and read it. Public comments will be accepted through Friday.
George C. Bowman
McKay Stands Alone
If you're not afraid to face the music, you may someday lead the band. It is evident that our St. Mary's County Board of Commissioners president is not afraid to face the music. Thomas F. McKay (R-At Large) recently cast the lone nay vote at the Maryland Association of Counties (MACo) Legislative Committee meeting on the issue of state funding for school construction. MACo will ask Gov. Robert L. Ehrlich Jr. (R) to fund school construction in the amount of $400 million in this upcoming budget. This amount would be more than any governor has ever provided in the history of the state.
Last year, state Treasurer Nancy K. Kopp led a commission to study school construction needs in our state. This commission reported to the governor and the state legislature that $250 million was needed to adequately fund the state's needs. Recently, Mayor Martin O'Malley (D) of Baltimore, along with county executives Douglas M. Duncan (D) of Montgomery and Jack B. Johnson (D) of Prince George's, came up with the idea to ask Ehrlich for $400 million rather than the $250 million recommended by the Kopp Commission.
As is customary, MACo responded by supporting the request of Maryland's biggest counties. Anyone who has been involved with this association (as I have) knows that while all 23 counties have representation, the big counties have always controlled the policymaking. No one dares to go against the wishes of MACo, or career state politicians and the liberal media will vigorously chastise them.
McKay asked that MACo continue to support school construction as the state's and counties' number one priority, but not to ask for any specific amount until justification and supporting evidence for the request were provided. I see nothing wrong with basing requests upon sound fiscal principles. Maybe McKay has spent too much time running a business and not enough time as a politician spending other people's money.
McKay's decision to challenge the "big boys" sent shock waves throughout the state, and the liberals have vowed revenge. Already the media are painting him as anti-education, in spite of his engineering a first-of-its-kind, five-year funding agreement with the St. Mary's County Board of Education to fully fund operating costs as well as committing more than 60 percent of the county's capital budget to school construction for the past two years, the highest amount in the state. It appears there is a new band in the Old Line State, and we may just have the next bandleader.
Barbara R. Thompson
Cooper's Ethics Complaint
According to one dictionary, leadership is defined as: "The position or office of a leader." In my own words, a leader is someone who takes control of situations as they occur and delegates responsibilities and works harmoniously with others to create a positive outcome. A leader must also create an environment of honesty and trust that allows for the flow of information, both positive and negative, so decisions can be made.
I am referring, of course, to the decision of Charles County commissioners President Wayne Cooper (D-At Large) to file an ethics complaint against County Administrator Eugene T. Lauer and Fiscal Services Director Richard Winkler for serving on a committee to enhance the benefits of veterans working for the Charles County government.
Cooper failed his first big test to earn the trust of others in his role as president. No wonder the recent headlines about our commissioners talk about inaction and the inability to work together. For any leader to be effective, he must first earn the trust and respect of his fellow workers and ask for input to reach effective solutions. In this case, all Cooper needed to do was ask that Lauer and Winkler remove themselves from the commission in question and then replace them. Readers also need to be reminded that it was Cooper who directed Lauer to set up the committee in the first place.
I have heard nothing but praise from people whom I have talked to about the performances of Lauer and Winkler. Lauer's early retirement was no doubt a result of this investigation, and Winkler's reputation has been tarnished. Not only does the county need to dig itself out of losing the expertise of Lauer's opinion, but Cooper must now work to rebuild his reputation as a leader in the county.
Bruce F. Wesbury
The writer is a candidate for county commissioner.
Ending Domestic Violence
For 10 years now, I have worn a purple ribbon on my left lapel. It is a daily reminder for me of survivors of domestic violence and abuse and the work I believe in doing. The purple ribbon gives folks the opportunity to ask what it stands for and to share their feelings about and experiences with domestic violence and abuse.
I first became aware of domestic violence and abuse and the need for community programs back in the early 1980s, when I attended my first Safe Against Violence training at a Community Action Agency were I was working. People didn't talk much about violence and abuse, and most of us at that time truly didn't recognize verbal and emotional behavior to be abusive or that these things could be the beginning steps toward physical violence and domestic abuse.
Things haven't changed much when it comes to people wanting to talk about domestic violence and abuse. These are subjects that most people like to steer clear of, and I often have folks ask how I can work with "that" every day. I hope my work will make a difference for a victim . . . just by listening or being there . . . maybe the difference between life and death for them and/or their children.
When domestic violence strikes a family, it isn't only the victim who suffers, it also affects the victim's children, parents, other relatives and friends. And, if there is no one to offer support and validation to the victim, the abuser will continue to abuse.
So often the victim has been told by the batterer (and even his family): "The abuse is your fault. No one will believe you. You have no money, no skills, no place to go, and no one else would ever want you anyway. Just straighten up, do what you're supposed to do, and everything will be fine." All too often, the abuser also threatens to take children away from the victim. It still amazes me how victims are blamed for being victimized, and the batterer takes no responsibility for his unacceptable behavior of abuse and violence.
In an abusive relationship, a child often becomes the pawn that the abuser uses to try to keep the victim in the relationship. The abuser threatens to file for custody of the child, telling the victim that she is an unfit parent and that the courts will side with him. Most victims do not have enough experience with the court system to know their rights, and they believe such threats. Many victims stay in an abusive relationship to keep from losing their children.
We don't like to think it can happen to our family, close friends or neighbors. But domestic violence can happen to anyone! Every 15 seconds a woman is beaten. It is never easy to leave someone you love. When your self-esteem has been demolished, it can take a long time and lots of emotional support to recover and rebuild your life.
It is often a combination of help from programs such as the Center for Abused Persons and the strength and commitment of family members and advocates that helps a victim through this nightmare.
People ask why the victim doesn't just leave. I ask why the batterer was allowed to batter and abuse, lie and manipulate and get away with it? Batterers must be held accountable for their actions. Victims have rights and can pursue legal, civil and criminal proceedings.
No one deserves to be hit, verbally or physically. There are programs and professionals to help and empower victims. Ending violence of all kinds is what our daily work is all about at the Center for Abused Persons and my commitment to all victims.
If you or someone you care about is being abused, don't stand by. Call the Center for Abused Persons at its hotline number, 301-645-3336.
Rosemary A. Raiman