Voices From Our Readers
Gas Indexing Explained
My constituents' mail, e-mail and phone contacts have made it unmistakably clear that they do not know or understand the consequences Governor O'Malley's proposed indexing of the state gas tax will bring down upon them. I am adamantly opposed to indexing and I would like an opportunity to explain my concerns.
I have publicly declared my opposition to gas tax increases of any sort. However, indexing the gas tax is an evil of a different and dire sort. Indexing smoothly paves the road to automatic tax increases through by-passing the otherwise necessary approval of our law-making body, the Maryland General Assembly. The Governor's proposal ties gas tax increases to an inflationary factor, the rising cost of construction.
It should be emphasized that the gas tax is tied only to construction cost increases, not possible future construction decreases. In short, the gas tax will never go down because of cost decreases. It will only go up and up and up. Let's face it, it is downright cruel to working families to propose gas tax increases based on any inflationary factor, especially at this time, when the per barrel price of oil has soared to more than $90, and the per gallon price of gas at the pump is expected to reach $3.50 within six months. Indeed, these are the same working families for whom the Governor consistently declares his concern.
Making tax increases automatic is a slap in the face to the democratic process. Under O'Malley's indexing proposal, gas taxes will increase automatically without the taxpayers' elected representatives casting a vote for or against those increases. Lawmakers in Annapolis should be accountable for their votes. Indexing the gas tax gives the tax and spend crowd a free pass every year. This is unacceptably bad public policy.
As I witness the hearings on the legislation that will enable an automatic tax increase every year, I am convinced that this proposal has not been properly explained to Maryland taxpayers. I'm just old-fashioned enough to believe that if the process or the consequences of gas tax indexing had been made clear to Marylanders, they would be rallying in angry and sustained protest. Without such public protest and calls to the members of the General Assembly, gas tax indexing could become a fact of Maryland life. Please consider joining me in the fight to keep gas tax indexing from becoming law.
Senator E. J. Pipkin
Decision On Trees Up To Landowners
Trees should be a decision of every property owner. Since I have problems with allergies and sinus troubles, trees are not on my property. I don't even have beautiful flowers on my property and I love flowers. I love my landscape without trees and I am very happy. My property value increased without trees, even though it was stated that trees can increase your real estate value.
Before introducing a tree ordinance, why not inspect the trees that exist now throughout Berlin and get them in shape. Even the ones that are part of a landscape. Part of my property in the back of my house was set aside for a forest. I'm not allowed to disturb the trees at all. I must pay city and county taxes on the property. Would you please have someone come spray that forest at least once a year for insects? Right now, it is not a beautiful sight and it is a good hiding place for intruders.
It is not fair to introduce a tree ordinance that every property owner must have trees. We should have some rights about our property and how we want it to look as long as it is neat and clean.
What's going to be next? We must have a cat and dog?
New Leadership Sought
In my view, the longer a politician stays in office the more they lose touch with real world situations.
Ocean City Mayor Rick Meehan, who has held elected office in Ocean City for over 20 years, may be one of those politicians. A recent Ocean City conference of tourism discussed why fewer people now visit Ocean City and why those people who do visit stay for fewer days and complain that they no longer see value for the money they spend because many Ocean City activities are over priced.
On the very day the conference took place, Mayor Meehan announced at a council meeting that Ocean City opposes slots because slots will disrupt Ocean City's 'formula for success'. It is clear to me that the 'formula for success' that the mayor is working from needs to be radically changed since Ocean City, as the tourism conference found, is losing many visitors to other tourism locations. New political leadership is needed in Ocean City and one of these changes needs to be made in the Ocean City mayor's office.
Veronica M. Potter
Ice Plant Causing Trouble In Berlin
You have got to be kidding me? The owner of the Kool Ice Plant is saying maybe residents near his business need to do something? Do what? That the decision to build next to a 75-year-old establishment is 'our' problem and not his? I personally have battled this business entrepreneur with little success, relief or understanding from him or the town. The only folks who have ever helped have been the Berlin police officers themselves and we applaud their efforts. Unfortunately, the same does not apply to Chief Arnold Downing or the Honorable Tom Cardinale.
Here are a few things we know about the Ice Plant.
1. When the infestation of mosquitoes raged in and around Berlin (a season in which we had little rain), one wondered where they came from? Believe it or not, I asked my father to check around our neighborhood. You see, he retired from the New Jersey Mosquito Commission as a Senior Inspector and has a vast array of experience in this area. Low and behold without much effort, he found one source. Believe it or not there is a constant water drain coming directly from the back of the ice factory. All day long a flow of water (not a trickle) deposits itself out the back of the building directly into a drainage ditch where vegetation growth and blockage along the train tracks permits water to back up and creates the perfect nesting bed for swarms of mosquitoes. I often wondered how during a dry summer why that ditch maintained water. How's that for contributing to our health and well-being? Isn't there some kind of law about discharge from a commercial industry? Maybe the water is drinkable? 'We certainly conform to all zoning laws,' Mr. Kool said.
2. Each night in the summer, trucks park (where? East? West?) and because of the need to get a morning start leave truck compressors running to preserve their loaded inventory. Seems like a good idea unless of course the constant hum is in your back yard. Every time I think of this best business practice, I think of the time I 'tried' to celebrate my daughter's 16th birthday with a outdoor picnic. Excuse me did I say running at night? Or during the day? The noise was so bad, I called the mayor and pleaded for his help. It angered me so much I thought about leaving my truck parked and running outside the mayor's house. I thought better knowing the truck probably would have been towed and I would have received a 'noise' violation. 'We've got to accommodate the business community but we've also got to think of the comfort of our citizens,' said Mayor Tom Cardinale
3. Music, music everywhere, everyday, and at all hours. You guessed it coming from booming music boxes from workers at the plant. Throw in some drag racing and you have yourself one good time. 'We certainly conform to all zoning laws,' Mr. Kool said.
4. The end of the year when ice boxes are removed from sites, they find themselves lined around the ice plant open and exposed to the general (kids) public. The streets in Berlin were not and have not been designed to be adorned with ice boxes. Or perhaps the rules don't apply or perhaps that law went into effect 75 years ago? Hey, you kids, stay away from those boxes, don't get inside them; hey buddy, mind your own business we're playing hide and seek and what a great place to hide. 'We certainly conform to all zoning laws,' Mr. Kool said
5. How about the electrical cords running across a town street? To do what? Keep a compressor running? How's that for safety? 'We certainly conform to all zoning laws,' Mr. Kool said
6. What about the fire a couple of years ago? What about that mushroom cloud of what type of chemical that spewed over Berlin? What made our eyes, nose and throat burn a little as the dark cloud crawled across the skies of Berlin? Doesn't Maryland law require that something be filed with DEQ? Back to that 75-year-old law. 'We certainly conform to all zoning laws,' Mr. Kool said
7. How about the phone that rings outside over and over and over and over and over again? Please somebody answer it or at least get an answering machine.
I believe Mr. Kool has made his fair share of money as if purchasing the ece plant was such a bad deal, he would have sold the business a long time ago. But as the island continues to grow and the need for his ice remain constant, one thing is for sure, he won't be closing it anytime soon. It's sad when a business owner invents ways to cover up his failures as a way to make peace with his neighbors. It's sad when because of 'loop-holes' laws and ordinances cannot protect the health and well-being of its citizens.
Justice Not Served In 1990 Incident
On the morning of Sept. 14, 1990, a naked male intruder with a knife awakened a woman in her Ocean City bedroom. He tied her hands to the bed with shoestrings taken from her own shoes. For some unknown reason the man fled. The very next morning a woman residing just one block away was awakened to an almost identical experience of a knife-bearing nude male intruder in her bedroom. Again, the woman's hands were tied to the bed with shoestrings taken from her own shoes. This time, the victim was raped and injured.
Michael Austin, who had a history of breaking and entry and assault with a knife, was a resident of the same building where the first incident occurred and was seen in the vicinity shortly after the second crime. The rape victim identified Austin as her attacker. Three failed lie detector tests and a multitude of other evidence also pointed to Austin as the assailant. Inexplicably, after being held for 67 days charges against Austin were dropped.
Three years later, in response to considerable public pressure but with no probable cause or evidence except that he was in Ocean City at the time of the crimes and that he was convicted of burglary in Florida, Brian R. Keirsey was charged and booked. This occurred even though he had the perfect alibi for the initial crime; he was in jail. If, as the evidence clearly indicates, the same individual committed the two crimes, Brian could not be the perpetrator. The fingerprints at neither scene matched Brian's. Also the victim's descriptions of the perpetrator were not remotely similar to Brian.
Lacking evidence, other than a purported DNA match, the State offered Brian a plea bargain. In exchange for a plea of guilty to burglary, the state would drop all other charges including first-degree rape. Unwilling to plead guilty to a crime he didn't commit, Brian refused. The jury trial began on May 9, 1994 with Judge Theodore R. Eschenburg presiding. Throughout the trial the judge's demeanor, which apparently derived from Brian's refusal of the plea offer, was clearly prejudicial in favor of the prosecution. Brian was defended by public defender, Walter Burton Anderson. The defense was incredibly poor. Critical witnesses were not called. Even though visible DNA autorads claimed to implicate Brian were not available and the DNA results were suspect because of inconsistency with standards, sampling and experimental errors, a hand drawn depiction 'cartoon' of the autorads was used as decisive evidence to convict Brian to an illegal sentence of two consecutive life terms without the possibility of parole in the first DNA-based trial in Worcester County. There are indications the judge may have influenced the jury's rapid conclusion at a luncheon he sponsored prior to the verdict.
The recorder found the transcript of the trial to contain 38 pages of errors totaling over 1,000 lines of incorrect testimony much of which he stated: 'may be crucial for the reviewing authority of the record.' Two appellate courts reviewed Brian's case; however, they were given access to only the flawed records, therefore, not surprisingly, upheld the earlier trial. Improperly stored DNA samples, critically needed to establish Brian's innocence, are now contaminated and useless. On May 29, 2007 an appeal to the Court of Special Appeals was denied without explanation. Brian has filed a 'Motion for reconsideration' and is pursuing remedies in federal court with a Writ of Habeas Corpus that details numerous violations of his constitutional rights.
Brian has now been in prison for more than 14 years with a life sentence for a crime I am convinced he did not commit. Our judicial system is not always perfect and sometimes it is even corrupt as appears the case in Snow Hill court. Somehow this dreadful miscarriage of justice must be corrected. The remainder of Brian's life must be saved as quickly as possible.