- The Washington Times - Thursday, March 30, 2000

Voice of the people led to charter school conversion

In Friday's Washington Times, Adrienne T. Washington erroneously wrote that I "ordered" a public school in the District to convert to a charter school, and that I supposedly did so "overriding the objections of the community and public officials" ("Living in the District still means you don't have a voice," Metropolitan, March 24).
That is bogus. Paul Junior High School is being converted to a charter school because two-thirds of its parents and teachers petitioned for the change and won the approval of District officials after a three-year effort. I did not order it, nor did anyone else in the Congress.
I keep waiting for the media to become embarrassed at its lopsided coverage on this issue. Most articles omit the all-important fact that the conversion is being done at the express request of two-thirds of the parents and teachers at that school. How can the public become well-informed if the media is poorly informed?
U.S. House of Representatives
The writer is chairman of the House Appropriations Committee's subcommittee on the District.

Defending the South Vietnamese was not 'senseless'

It was sad that Vietnam warrior and hero Col. David Hackworth referred to our mission in Vietnam as "senseless" ("Bottomless pit of hate," Commentary, March 18).
It is not "senseless" to defend your own life or that of an innocent victim. I don't know what value system supports the life of Col. Hackworth, but my values say we should oppose evil in any form, and when we went to Vietnam we knew we were doing the human and patriotic thing of coming to the defense of the South Vietnamese who were being forcibly taken over by brutes who were being supported by the concerted efforts of "evil empires."
Human dignity and life must be supported by virtuous men and women, otherwise they are unworthy of a common humanity and destiny.

Government addicted to tobacco money

Your March 28th editorial, "Banning the FDA ban" was excellent. It ought to be required reading for all high school and college students. I am convinced that the Clinton administration was not expecting the Supreme Court's majority position that the Food and Drug Administration would have to ban tobacco products if they had the authority to regulate cigarettes. I almost wish that the court ruled in favor of the administration. That would have put them in a real pickle because all the tobacco tax dollars would dry up as a result. Wouldn't that be interesting?
The greed of government (federal and state) over tobacco money is transparent and disgusting. If the Clintonites were genuinely interested in people's health, they would stop the charade and ban tobacco. But, then there is the tax money, which is what it is all about. I think smokers (I am not one) should be given citations of merit for contributing taxes for ballooning government programs. After all, if there weren't any smokers, where would the money come from?
I'm sure some other product or activity in our society would become demonized and taxed heavily to make up the difference. In essence, banning tobacco products could be considered a "risky tax cut." The Clinton administration has no shame.

Repeal of gas tax would leave road repair funds on empty

The Times editorial "Cut the gas tax" (March 23) states that a repeal of the 4.3 cents per gallon federal gasoline tax would benefit motorists. That line of reasoning quickly runs out of gas when you look at how much more motorists are paying in additional fuel costs when they are stuck in traffic congestion and extra vehicle operating costs motorists incur from driving over potholes when needed road repairs and improvements are not made because of a lack of funding.
The Road Information Program released a report last week based on Federal Highway Administration data showing that motorists in the 50 largest cities in the country pay an additional $142 per motorist every year in extra vehicle operating costs including additional tire wear, damage to shock absorbers and wheel alignment and added fuel consumption to drive on roads needing repair.
In addition, Washington-area motorists lose about $1,200 annually in wasted time and fuel consumption resulting from being stuck in traffic, according to the Texas Transportation Institute. That's a lot more than the $26 a year motorists would save if 4.3 cents of the federal gas tax were to be repealed. That type of negative impact on motorists explains why AAA came out against repealing the 4.3 cent federal tax. AAA understands that the long-term consequences of cutting the gasoline tax are much more costly to motorists and to our nation than any short-term benefit of saving a few pennies at the pump.
Moreover, your editorial makes no mention of the economic consequences of cutting the tax. Most of the money from the federal gasoline tax goes into the Federal Highway Trust Fund and is used to repair and improve our nation's roads, bridges and transit. That funding, in turn, goes to private sector companies to actually do the work. If the federal gasoline tax is repealed, then thousands of construction jobs in the private sector also would be cut.
While no one wants to pay rising fuel costs, today's motorists are only paying half of what they were paying 20 years ago to drive the same distance, when inflation is factored in. The federal gasoline tax is not the problem here, and repealing it will cost motorists much more in the long run.
Executive director
The Road Information Program


Traffic accidents are the leading cause of death for Americans 6 to 28 years of age and result in more permanent disabling injuries than any other type of accident. The Washington Times editorial "Cut the gas tax" failed to recognize this serious public health issue could become more severe if we cut the gas tax.
In response to the recent increase in the price of motor fuel and trucker protests on Capitol Hill, several proposals are now circulating in Congress to repeal or suspend federal motor fuels taxes. These measures would have little or no immediate impact on the price consumers pay at the gas pump. They would, however, dramatically decrease federal highway funding for all 50 states and threaten badly needed transportation improvement projects.
According to the U.S. Department of Transportation, poor road conditions or obsolete alignments are a contributing factor in approximately 12,000 American deaths each year. Cutting the federal highway user fee cuts programs that are aimed at helping reduce that public health problem.
Over the past 50 years, every $1 billion invested by the public in government-financed road improvements has helped prevent 1,400 premature deaths and nearly 50,000 injuries. This has saved American society over $2 billion on health care, insurance, lost wages and productivity costs. The tax cut proposals would jeopardize this public health return from investment in transportation.
If the federal motor fuel excise is repealed or reduced, we will face increased risks on the interstate highway system we travel every day. Without this revenue, highways will become more congested and less safe for everyone.
Director of communications
American Road & Transportation Builders Association

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