Saturday, January 27, 2001

Glendening ‘fights the tide’ of fair contracting policy

In the Jan. 22 article, “Glendening aims to boost contracting of minorities,” the Business Times reports on the Maryland governor’s proposal to increase the state’s goal of 14 percent minority participation in state contracts to 25 percent.

Parris N. Glendening’s proposal violates the law.

The Supreme Court has made clear in its recent decisions that government programs that discriminate on the basis of race or ethnicity are “presumptively invalid.” Mr. Glendening, in fact, acknowledged in his State of the State speech that his proposal was “fighting the tide” and that “legal challenges … will result.”

Discrimination in favor of some groups is allowed only if there is no other way to fight discrimination against them. But the first sentence in the state-sponsored report on which the governor relies declares, “The State of Maryland has long been committed to including businesses owned by minorities and women in its contracting and procurement activities,” and it concludes by listing no less than 15 race-neutral ways to make contracting more available to minority companies.

Even if it weren’t bad law, the proposal would be bad policy. Instead of fighting discrimination, the state will be aiding it. The governor’s office asserts that the program is not a set-aside, but rather an encouragement tool. But what is being encouraged (required, more accurately) is the sorting of contractors into different categories because of race, ethnicity and sex, with some then receiving favored treatment and others being disfavored.

In the State of the State speech in which he announced the initiative, Mr. Glendening concluded his discussion of the proposal by talking about the small-business loan and the scholarship that his father and he, respectively, had received from the government. He then asked, “[I]f these programs were right for white males, how can we not show the same support for women and minorities?”

The answer is that, if the old programs were limited to white males, then they weren’t right. And any new program that discriminates according to race, ethnicity or sex won’t be right, either.


General Counsel

Center for Equal Opportunity


Ashcroft exhibits grace under pressure

I have been heartened by The Washington Times’ many substantive articles detailing the merits and deficiencies of the objections to former Sen. John Ashcroft’s nomination for attorney general. I take exception, however, to a statement in your Jan. 24 editorial “John Ashcroft deserves better”: ” …Mr. Ashcroft must now contend with a reputation in tatters, willfully distorted, shredded and sullied by his political opponents.”

However many attempts have been made to damage his reputation, Mr. Ashcroft’s behavior and demeanor throughout the confirmation hearings, as well as that of his supporters, have served well to illuminate his character. Even Missouri Supreme Court Justice Ronnie White testified clearly that Mr. Ashcroft was not a racist.

Every quotation that Mr. Ashcroft’s opponents take out of context only strengthens his image, because each attempt to discredit him has further revealed the desperation of his detractors. In contrast to them, Mr. Ashcroft emerges as a truthful, moral man of great integrity.

Far from lying in tatters, his reputation has been put to the test and has emerged untarnished. Time, no doubt, will underscore this fact.



Transit Authority land deal ignores neighborhood concerns

Many thanks for your Jan. 24 article about the plan of the Washington Metropolitan Area Transit Authority (WMATA) to put 118 townhouses at the site of the Brookland Metro station (“Housing plans upset neighbors”).

Though WMATA is required to hold a public hearing when it changes a bus route, it can sign a deal to sell millions of dollars of land bought with taxpayer money without any public hearing.

WMATA is involved in similar dealings near the Takoma Park Metro station, and it will surely happen in many other communities as long as WMATA decides behind closed doors what’s best for our neighborhoods.

The Takoma Park scenario, which involves the same builder that is working on the Brookland site, has raised serious questions about traffic and WMATA’s ability to provide bus service in the coming years, once the land is filled with 100 townhouses and two-car garages or apartments. We keep asking WMATA, the city and the builder about these issues, and each time we are told, “Trust us. It’s all going to work fine.”

Well, the process is not working for many communities, as your article illustrates.

We need legislation that forces WMATA and the D.C. Planning Office officials to remember that taxpayers bought the land, pay the system’s operating expenses and pay their salaries. After all, the taxpayers are the ones who have to live with the impact of development.

What ever happened to democracy?


Advisory Neighborhood Commissioner


Time to rethink missile policy

President Bush has inherited a paradoxical policy: our commitment to a national missile defense (NMD) and the still-effective, although greatly modified, Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty of 1972.

These two policies have been at odds since the fall of the Soviet Union. The former has been debated up and down in Congress as a means of addressing the present national security needs, while the latter has wielded an authority that, due to historical precedence, is no longer necessary. Changing times and events have left the treaty’s objectives obsolete.

The new administration will need to take a hard look at its effectiveness, especially in light of the progress of NMD.

But before Mr. Bush addresses either issue, he must decide where the United States stands. There are still many questions concerning our defense position that need to be answered. Every day, new scenarios emerge that were unanticipated during the Cold War and the ratification of the ABM Treaty: rogue nations with nuclear capability, China’s aggressive stance toward Taiwan, Russia mobilizing in the Baltic Sea.

Many defense experts argue that the plans and commitments of the past do not fit well with these developments. And attempts to force new situations into old rules have often reaped unfortunate results.

Ideally, by reviewing current conditions and establishing new objectives, the ABM Treaty can be updated. The NMD strategy should be addressed according to our current position in the world, not that of days gone by. Once this is done, the treaty should be amended accordingly.

There is an old adage that one should not put new wine into an old wine flask, else the wine turns bitter and wears a leak in the pouch. The United States has emerged as the world’s sole superpower, but our recent inattention to the evolving international situation is weakening our national security policy.

The United States needs a new wine flask before this one splits at the seams.


Falls Church

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