Letters: December 2, 2005

Dollar dilemma needs to be examined

We are now being told Delaware is contemplating the sale or lease Interstate 95 and State Route 1 to private investors, perhaps even foreign ones? Why?

Seems DelDOT needs an additional $2.7 billion (that’s with nine zeros, folks) to fund DelDOT projects already approved by the General Assembly. That means DelDOT would require roughly $400 million a year over the next seven years just to complete them by the year 2013, its target date.

Sen. Venables has stated, “It’s not as if this financial short-fall should come as any sudden surprise to our legislators since $30-plus million was taken from the Transportation Trust Fund back in 1990 to partially cover an already existing $110 million shortage in that year’s operating budget, and apparently was never replaced.”

He went on to say, “Ann Canby, the previous Secretary of Transportation, warned the legislators of the growing danger when she left but no one apparently paid attention.”

Sen. Venables indicated “monies were taken out of that trust fund over the years and never replaced — to the point where the fund now has a $211 million deficit” that is now threatening the state’s $500 million capital improvement program because the missing money is needed to finance the state’s road and bridge construction projects.

Yet Sen. Thurman Adams, president pro tem of the Senate, had the audacity to declare at the end of the last general assembly, “We addressed everything we needed to address, maybe not everything everybody wanted to address but everything that needed addressing.”

My God, how, in good conscience could he have so misled the citizens of Delaware? Here we are at the point where the state is considering selling some of the state’s major assets (actually the citizen’s assets) so they can fund much needed transportation infrastructure and the good senator was telling us the legislature had addressed everything that need addressing. Hello, this problem didn’t just occur between the end of the last legislative session and today.

Furthermore, Sen. Adams was aided and abetted in his duplicity by the governor. Seems as I recall Ruth Ann Minner more than once telling us (actually bragging) to whoever would listen, as to how sound our state financial condition was. Now here we are contemplating the sale of some of our roads in order to overcome what can only be called horrific financial mismanagement (at best).

Where did the $211 million go? One has to wonder what those responsible for the financial health of our state were doing during the period in question.

I can remember the governor telling us back in her January 2004 State of the Union Address how there wouldn’t be funds available to give the state union employees a raise that year. However, after the head of the employee union publicly stated around March that he felt those employees deserved a raise, the governor then declared in May that additional funds had been located and the raise could be granted after all. Shortly thereafter the legislature approved the raise before they adjourned for the year.

Then around September the governor once again publicly announced the state did have financial shortfall problems after all. Of course the raise was never rescinded and nothing more was ever publicly said about the subject. I remember because at the time I wrote several letters to the newspapers commenting on the unusual timing and coincidences of what had taken place.

Then earlier this year raises were proposed for the governor, lieutenant governor and legislators. One is left to wonder how they are seemingly able to find monies to increase salaries for state employees but are apparently unable to find the necessary monies to replenish a depleted Transportation Trust Fund that was established to meet the transportation needs of all citizens

I don’t know it for a fact but could there be a link between “found” money for state pay raises and growing shortages in the Transportation Trust Fund? Don’t know but that’s the problem with large unaccounted monetary shortages — they tend to open up one’s mind to all sorts of possibilities regarding careless handling of the citizen’s monies.

For example, who is responsible for the state finding itself in the ludicrous position of DelDOT spending over $70 million to private outside consultants in an effort to get capital projects up and running more quickly — only to end up with a list of projects ready to go but little or no money to pay for them?

Are the citizens of Delaware expected to believe that those who authorized the expenditure of this kind of money had no idea of the enormous Transportation Trust Fund shortfall that existed, and that the money wasn’t there to fund those projects regardless?

So the question is begged of those in charge, “why spend that kind of money for outside consultants in order to plan and design projects more quickly for which it was known there is insufficient funding available? Or, was this merely another way to spread a lot of taxpayer monies around to outside interests?

Some legislators and others are portraying Nathan Hayward, Transportation Secretary, and DelDOT as the bad guys but the truth is that he and his department can’t build and maintain transportation infrastructure with money they don’t have. That responsibility rests squarely with our state legislators and the administration, past and present.

Collectively, they make the policy and the funding decisions that determine where, when and how much of the state’s resources are to be allocated. They also made the earlier obvious decisions to “rob Peter to pay Paul” rather than do what had to be done in order to run the state on a more sound fiscal basis as we went along.

The responsibility for this mess is not all the Democrats. Leaders from both parties actively participated in preparing and recommending the budgets that were presented to the governor for her approval each year. One has to believe they have been aware of the Transportation Trust Fund deficit for a long time.

Seems as if our legislators had forgotten or disregarded the fact it takes money to build and maintain the state’s roadways, and consequently failed to budget accordingly over the past years. The only legislator I can remember publicly voting against some of those proposed budgets was Sen. Colin Bonini, who took some heat for doing so at the time. Guess he’s starting to look a little smarter right about now. Keep it up, senator.

It is our legislators and the administration who are the problem so they need to get their “house in order” and correct it rather than trying to rely on a quick fix by leasing or selling off some of our assets.

In essence what is being proposed is that state’s assets (our assets) be leased or sold to bail out terrible fiscal mismanagement on the part of the administration and legislators. If they don’t identify and take the necessary steps now to fix the root cause (themselves) for this financial crisis, then it will be only a matter of time before some other legislator is suggesting that some other state asset be leased or sold to cover some other financial shortfall or fund a pet project.

To paraphrase one legislator, “leasing or selling the roads would result in a large sum of money and politicians are very good at spending large sums of money.” Undoubtedly they would then use this proposed lease or sale of state assets, if approved, to justify similar requests in the future. That’s how it seems to work.

I guess we won’t have long to wait to find out what comes down as I understand recommendations are to be presented to the governor by the 30th of this month.

Allen Ide

Be aware of emergency vehicles on the road

A few Sundays ago, 20 November ‘05, I had an event that required my transport to Beebe Medical Center, Lewes, Del. The local EMS team responded to Shirley’s 911 call, as well as Millville ambulance crew headquartered at Millville Volunteer Fire Station on Route 26.

The 911 lady, sorry didn’t get her name, here and gone for another call, gave a “once over lightly” and said ship him north. Sean Humphreys and John Watson bundled me up and out the house we went, down the brand new Lord Baltimore Lions Club ramp built for Shirley who is wheelchair bound, into the waiting bus ... even had the heater running.

We left Banks Harbor Retreat with “lights flashing” up Clubhouse Road to the stop sign at Old Mill Road, left on Old Mill Road to the light at Route 26, left on 26 to the Ocean View light, another left on to Central Avenue, north to the traffic light at Fred Hudson Road ’til we reach the light at Route 1 where we turned left again and headed north with “lights flashing.”

On reaching Dewey Beach the “fun” began ... My driver hit the “horn/siren” a couple of times for traffic, up the “lost mile” to where Rehoboth Avenue blends into Route 1 north. From this point north to the cut off to the Ferry Road, I heard nothing but “siren/horn, horn/siren,” etc.

Now this, the Rehoboth Beach-Dewey Beach Chamber of Commerce tell us, is the “shoulder season.” I ask you, what happens on Black Weekend at our local store and the outlets on US Route 1 drawing folks from wide and far? Capt. Jeffrey Evans, section commander, Delaware State Police, doesn’t have the helicopter surplus flying time this will require, nor is it likely the governor will put it in the next budget.

Traffic did finally give way. Well, we made it to Beebe, in one piece, due to the skill of the driver, where I was offloaded, put into the good hands of ER Dr. Eric Gallagher, heard “Farewell, Goodbye” and the Millville Ambulance crew were gone back to the station for the steak dinner I screwed up.

Now when I sat for the DMV test for my ticket at age 16 (olden days) I got high marks on the question dealing with “emergency traffic.”

You may wonder why I wrote this memo. Well, get your self a copy of the Baltimore Sun, Thursday, 24 November ’05: front-page banner headline “Unbelievable Driving,” story written by Lem Satterfield, Tom Pelton and Gus G. Sentements, staff Baltimore Sun reporters.

H. Earle Gerding
Banks Harbor Retreat

Fenwick Island — is it one of the Quiet Resorts?

Why can’t the Fenwick Island Town Council do something about early morning noisy trash trucks?

It seems that Fenwick Island can pass ordinances about other noises. Pile drivers and contractors can not start making noise before 8 a.m. My neighbors and I have asked the council for many years to do something about the trash trucks that empty Dumpsters early in the morning, but so far no action has been taken.

Again last Friday morning, Nov. 25, my family was awakened at 6:32 a.m. by a trash truck emptying the Dumpster at the restaurant Pete’s next door and the Farm Store across the street.

The last time this happened I called the police and was informed that they were unable to issue a citation or any other enforcement as the town does not have any ordinances against this problem.

“107-1 Noise Disturbance — Any sound which endangers or injures the safety or health of humans or animals, or annoys or disturbs a reasonable person of normal sensitivities, or jeopardizes the value of property and erodes the integrity of the environment.”

“107-5 D. Productive activities; activities for residential use or for the health, safety and welfare of the community. Unavoidable noises created by activities such as repairs, construction, gardening, grass cutting, power cleaning and aerial pesticide spraying are permitted between the hours of 8:00 a.m. and 8:00 p.m., provided that reasonable efforts are made to minimize such noise and the activities do not violate any town ordinances or state or federal laws. Noise disturbances that are not required to carry out these activities, such as excessively loud music or unnecessary loud shouting at a construction site, are also a violation of this chapter. Not to be exempted are activities that would otherwise be considered productive but result in frequent and repeated noise disturbances with no reasonable time line for termination. [Amended 9-27-1996]”

It seems that any of the above ordinances would apply to this problem.

Why can’t we get these enforced?

J.B. Childers
Fenwick Island

Local stores can fill all holiday shopping needs

The holiday shopping season is now officially upon us. I’d like to take a moment to remind your readers that local chamber member businesses can fill all their holiday shopping needs.

There’s no need to spoil a great holiday mood fighting traffic and crowds at the mall or big-box store. You can find the perfect gifts for family, friends, or yourself, right in your own backyard.

Stroll the shops of downtown Bethany; visit the fun, unique stores that dot Route 26 and along Route 1 in Fenwick; connect with the past at the antique shops on Route 54 and in Selbyville. Restaurant gift certificates make perfect gift for the “hard to shop for” person. Local chamber of commerce merchants will be happy to help you find just the right gifts this season.

Many studies prove that when you shop at local, independent retailers more of every dollar you spend gets recirculated right here in our community. Gifts you choose at local merchants are more personal and special — and you’re supporting the community in which you live.

Happy holidays!

Karen L. McGrath, executive director
Bethany-Fenwick Area
Chamber of Commerce
Has war in Iraq really been worth the price?

After 911, many of us had two reactions:

1. Why? Why did they do this to us?

2. Pride! We are “good” people. We always try to help people. Why do Muslims hate us?

As time went by, we found out that Osama Bin Laden and Al Queda were responsible for this attack which killed 2,976 people. Why?

We have been unable to capture Osama but we do know that he is from Saudi Arabia and objected to our presence and influence in his country. We do know that Osama convinced 19 other terrorists to get on planes and sacrifice their lives on 911.

How many future Bin Ladens is George Bush creating in Iraq? We know how many Americans have died in Iraq. It will soon pass the 2,100 mark.

How many Iraqis have died? According to a survey conducted by the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, 100,000 Iraqi civilians have died in this two-year war and 30,000 military personnel – 130,000. How many friends and relatives of those 130,000 will turn into “future Bin Ladens?” Has removing Saddam Hussein from power been worth it?

Has it been worth 2,100 American lives?

Has it been worth 130,000 Iraqi lives?

The USA only goes to war to repel invaders. This is what George Bush’s father did in Kuwait. He expelled Saddam Hussein’s invasion and stopped at the border. We do not invade other countries. That is not the American way.

The only thing we have accomplished with this war is to make it easier for the terrorists to kill Americans by flying them across the ocean.

Russ Melrath
Bethany Beach