The Mail 2/4/15

City Paper

The New Normal

I was glad to see Heather Hooper’s letter (The Mail, Jan. 28) about polluted runoff and her call to fellow citizens to do their part in helping to clean up this source of pollution to their local waters. There’s one fact she shared that I’d like to amend.

While 100 utilities is a pretty solid testament of the importance of stormwater management to municipalities across the country, the actual number is even more astounding: it’s more than 14 times that amount. Yep, more than 1,400 municipalities across the United States have stormwater utilities in place.

So managing polluted runoff is not something that we invented in Maryland; people have been doing it nationwide for quite some time now to protect their water quality, ease flooding, and make their local waters fishable and swimmable.

A number of existing stormwater utilities in Maryland pre-date the 2012 state law creating local, dedicated funds under the Watershed Protection and Restoration Program—which is the real name for what people erroneously call the “rain tax.”

We can be proud that those Maryland counties and municipalities had the wisdom and foresight to put stormwater utilities and dedicated funds in place, and that our state stepped up with a new law to help other Maryland jurisdictions do the same for the benefit of their local waters.

City Paper is absolutely right that these are “pennies from heaven”: They’re some of the hardest-working funds out there, doing the important job of cleaning up pollution in your local water.

Jennifer Herzog

Maryland Grassroots Manager, 

Chesapeake Bay Foundation

Baltimore

I fully agree with Heather Hooper’s letter describing the need to control stormwater runoff to revive our streams, the harbor, and the Chesapeake Bay. What I cannot abide is the total absence of accountability for the $60 Maryland stormwater fee being sucked annually from our Baltimore City metered water bill payments. 

Where is this money being stashed? Who oversees it? What are the salaries of its overseers? Is the money in a “lockbox,” or can it be siphoned off for unrelated uses? How much money is actually being taken in? Are the overseers using some of the money to pay for travel to out-of-state stormwater conferences?

After reading Van Smith’s “Your Rain Tax Dollars At Work” (Mobtown Beat, Jan. 6), I ordered and received a copy of the city’s 73-page stormwater report with the reader friendly title, “Baltimore City MS4 Restoration and TMDL WIP.” (In case you’re stumped by these cyphers, per the publication’s “Acronyms/Glossary” page, they stand for “Municipal Separate Storm Sewer System,” “Total Maximum Daily Load,” and “Watershed Implementation Plan.”) In ordering it, I was hoping to find an accurate audit of the program’s income and expenses, but no such luck. The closest it came was a single sentence on page 56, stating, “It is anticipated that the fees will yield about $24 million in the first year.” But then this sentence is footnoted to a line reading, “This is an unaudited figure and therefore may not necessary [sic] represent the final stormwater fee revenue amount for FY2014.” I rest my case!

Like me, I think most stormwater-fee payers would like to see our streams, harbor, and bay cleaned up. Our big gripe is we see absolutely no accounting for all the money we are being forced to feed in this fiscal black hole. With Baltimore County and other nearby political entities significantly reducing their ‘”rain tax” collections, it is past time for our city council  to demand a top to bottom accounting of what’s happening to our money and to seriously consider reducing Baltimore City’s resident’s $60 annual fee. 

Herman Heyn

Baltimore

Power to the People

A few weeks ago I read a letter by Linda Toast regarding “smart meters” (The Mail, Jan. 14). I would like to weigh in on this discussion.

Do any of you remember the movie “Safe,” the movie where the leading lady becomes allergic to the very environment that she’s supposed to live in? Remember that God-awful group the Doors? Well in a rare moment of clarity Jim Morrison asked, “What have they done to the Earth?” Well, with Senate approval of the Keystone XL pipeline and unabated fracking, one would have to ask that question again. And now we have smart meters! If you haven’t asked the question before, you better start asking now!

The whole pro-smart meters campaign reminds me of the so-called “Atoms for Peace” campaign, where we were told how allegedly “safe” nuclear energy was for us. Or how about the government campaign to tell us fallout from nuclear testing was not dangerous? See, I worry when big business and their allegedly “green” allies tell me not to worry. I reach around my back to see how deep the knife has gone in.

However, things do not have to be like this. There are many groups out there that oppose the Keystone XL pipeline and fracking. People should find them and join them. There are many groups out there that have exposed the harm of the smart meter; read their literature and make a reasoned decision. 

As the song says, “Don’t believe the hype!” Everything I’ve mentioned does not have to be a done solution if you people don’t want it to be. It’s just that simple. The energy companies have the money, but the people have the power!

Alan Barysh

Baltimore

Prosecutorial Polemic

The recent ruling in the “bogus” dog-certificate case before U.S. District Judge James Bredar (The News Hole, “Faked drug-dog certification case ends without a ruling on alleged prosecutorial misconduct,” Jan. 29) was a travesty of justice seen all too often in our Maryland federal court. 

Bredar relegated attorney C. Justin Brown’s provable complaints and in-depth attacks upon the Maryland U.S. Attorney’s Office (USAO-MD) for ethical misconduct to a one-sentence footnote, a relegation further exacerbated by the bullshit half-truth press release the USAO-MD put out after City Paper wrote about what happened with seeming condemnation.

While Brown was able to obtain some victory out of the matter by getting the Maryland Transit Authority Police to reform their canine units, he was unable to get anyone to do anything about rogue elements inside the USAO-MD, elements who are so reckless, arrogant, and juvenile, they bring to mind the definition of “narcissistic personality disorder.” It’s not just Brown making these complaints. Other federal judges, in other rulings, also have commented upon this behavior by the USAO-MD.

The present problem, along with the scent of the win-at-all-cost mentality that has pervaded the office, can be squarely set upon the shoulders of U.S. attorney Rod Rosenstein. In fact, Rosenstein has actually seen the moral and ethical conduct of his office deteriorate steadily since he took over after Thomas M. DiBiagio’s sacking some 10 years ago, while still managing to fill his “glory wall” with all sorts of meaningless awards, plaques, and certificates gained from beating up on and bullying weakened people who cannot defend themselves from federal-government onslaughts while, at the same time, failing to bring home one major federal public-corruption conviction without taint in all that time.

The “Rosenstein Doctrine” illustrates a bigger problem existing in Maryland judicial and attorney circles, where the ebb and flow of ambition and consequence are thwarted at every turn by the intervention of the unseen hands of those behind the scenes. When is the last time the USAO-MD asked for the recusal of a federal judge, let alone investigated one for criminal violations? Why does the USAO-MD allow federal judges, en masse, to violate the “sealing” precedents in this U.S. circuit to the point where almost every single federal criminal trial is being conducted with secret court filings on secret court dockets?

If Rosenstein was so honest and righteous, he would have fired forfeiture maven-in-his-own-mind Stefan Cassella for his presentation of the false—not any other word is accurate or correct—document before the Bredar court. But he did not, instead choosing to send his star criminal chief, Barbara Sale, whose ethics and judgment used to be far beyond reproach at one time, out to muddy herself while defending Cassella’s indefensible conduct. We need a new U.S. attorney in Maryland, and we need one right now.

We also need more lawyers like C. Justin Brown.

William Bond

Baltimore

FROM THE WEB, FACEBOOK, AND TWITTER

Three-plus hours at the City Council Public Safety Committee hearing on police procedures

It’s been 10 years since I wrote about the lack of accountability and public disclosure with the Baltimore Police Department’s stop-and-frisk program. It’s distressing that no lawmaker, at the city or state level, thinks it is vital that citizens understand how often their basic 4th Amendment rights under Terry v. Ohio are being challenged by one of the largest police departments in the country. The BPD has the capacity to track and analyze this data (hello -- Comstat, anyone?), but it is not a priority at the city, state and federal levels. It should be. No young person deserves to be condescended and talked down to for asking basic questions and requesting information that our own City Council members should be demanding from the police department. 

–“Gus Sentementes,” Jan. 28

DPW cries foul on CP criticism of late-Friday press releases

We could all win if you didn’t spill enormous amounts of sewage into local waterways on a what seems to be a regular basis. 

–“Bertram Cavendish,” Jan. 28

A loving obituary for Craig’s, the shittiest bar I’ve ever been to” 

I remember going to that joint with some Loyola kids when I was 21! That was 18 years ago. I can hardly believe that shithole lasted that long!

–“Shannon Nickey,” Jan. 27

 

I hope the irony of calling a Jesuit university “puritanical” is not lost. 

–“kylebates,” Jan. 31

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