Field Should Be Preserved
The Charles County Board of Commissioners has gone on record as approving the destruction of the last green space in downtown La Plata and making the county seat's already horrific traffic problem seem trifling. They have accepted the recommendation to build a new county office building on the site of the Charles Street soccer field. It is difficult to imagine a worse decision.
First, let's set the record straight. This was an athletic site long before it became La Plata High School's first football field in 1954. There was, I believe, a soccer league there, and the field was also used for the junior and senior high schools' physical education programs.
Second, let's recognize the fact that county government will grow. How long before the [proposed] "Greek-Revival-style building with . . . two levels of underground parking" becomes inadequate? Considering the continued growth in this area, this is a situation that is sure to be repeated, a problem that will recur in another 20 years.
Third, it would be interesting to hear an explanation of how and where vehicles would enter and exit the underground parking space. Traffic in present-day La Plata approaches gridlock several times every business day. Additional stoplights on Route 301 and relocation of shopping centers have created traffic backups on Washington Avenue from Charles Street to Hawthorne Drive. The addition to Civista Medical Center will add to the congestion. If we want La Plata to be more than a government center, thought must be given to traffic problems.
Finally, this is 2005, and telecommuting is alive and well. People can work from home, and technology can bring together leaders across vast distances without requiring them to leave their business sites. If e-mail and faxes and even the telephone did not exist, it might justify keeping county offices nearby. But the idea that it is "appealing" to remain in the heart of La Plata in no way balances the enormous physical and aesthetic problems this building would create.
Leonardtown has preserved its charming town square, and Indian Head its spacious and much-used village green. Let us urge our elected officials to show equal care for the preservation of this small, open and unpaved green space in La Plata.
Yesterday's Benefits Today
Recent news regarding General Motors' cutbacks in benefits, as well as cutbacks at United Airlines, where my brother worked for 20 years, point to the reality of problems in retirement programs. A study reveals that the best place to work for good benefits and an excellent retirement is with government at all levels, including the county sector.
This is why Charles County taxpayers should be concerned about the current attempt to pile on $6,000 or more in additional annual retirement income for county employees. The days of high retirement benefits in the private sector are over, unless you are a Microsoft employee, for example, who bought stock in your company.
I have three brothers-in-law who all retired with hefty retirement packages because they worked at GM and General Electric. But that was 10 or 15 years ago. Those companies have cut back since then. As one retired carpenter union friend said, "Those days are gone."
The reality is that government employees today do receive comparable salaries and better benefits than most people. For the record, then, the county should not be crediting military time toward its retirement benefit.
Harlan F. Lang