- The Washington Times - Thursday, August 8, 2002

The second battle for Chancellorsville

I have read with great distress about the proposal to develop a large portion of the Chancellorsville battlefield, including construction of more than 2,000 homes plus retail businesses ("Civil War site eyed for a subdivision," Metropolitan, Aug. 1).

While I am a strong supporter of private property rights in general, sometimes the greater good for the larger community should be considered and the landowner adequately compensated.

I first visited the Chancellorsville battleground more than 30 years ago before Interstate 95 was completed in many areas and there was not a single modern building all the way to Salem Church and beyond to the Chancellorsville battlefield, which is part of the Fredericksburg and Spotsylvania National Military Park.

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Over the years, I have stopped to visit the area again and again, and I have been stunned by the unbelievable encroachment of urban sprawl on this historic, hallowed ground.

I should think the local government officials would be jumping at the opportunity to seek a means to preserve this part of the nation's heritage, especially since Chancellorsville was a great Confederate victory and the site of the death of Gen. Thomas J. "Stonewall" Jackson.

The Civil War battlefields in your area Fredericksburg, Spotsylvania, the Wilderness, Chancellorsville were not left to us virtually undisturbed for more than 140 years only to be rent asunder by modern earthmoving equipment and commercial developers.

Houses bring more people and demands for community services, as well as schools, often in greater proportion than the tax revenue they generate. Properly preserved Civil War battlefields, on the other hand, are a unique community resource. Battlefields attract history-minded tourists who spend money to stimulate the local economy and create jobs.

No new Civil War battlefield sites have been created since 1865. Once one is destroyed, it can never be resurrected. Thousands of communities across the United States would welcome having a Civil War battlefield sited in their town, just for the economic return and jobs a well-run battlefield visitor center can bring to the area. Spotsylvania County should not throw away the great potential from a local economic engine that stands underdeveloped only because of a lack of foresight.

Just because the county hasn't seen a way, as yet, to take advantage of this potential, those currently in office (to whom these battlefields have been entrusted) should not make short-term decisions that will have negative long-term impact locally, as well as nationally, by destroying a historic resource.


Tunbridge, Vt.

Memo to Bush administration:Civil servants are not civil slaves

The security of the United States is critical and so, too, should be the discussion and ultimate decisions implementing new security measures for our homeland and its citizens. Exploiting the natural fears caused by the horrific events on September 11, the Bush administration as evidenced in Office of Homeland Security Director Tom Ridge's Aug. 1 Op-Ed column "Department of hollow security?" is attempting to gut civil service protections and deny employees their basic union rights. This not only diminishes the seriousness of the debate, it also demeans and insults the employees who are being called upon to protect our homeland.

The White House claims it needs "greater flexibilities" to hire, fire, promote, reassign and transfer employees of the new Department of Homeland Security (DHS). It's a great sound bite. But the White House already has those flexibilities. What the White House is really saying is that it wants unfettered, unilateral power with no checks or balances just like Enron, WorldCom and Arthur Andersen.

Nothing in civil service law or any collective bargaining agreement interferes with a manager's right to immediately remove any employee judged to be a threat to national security or public safety. According to U.S. Code, "(T)he head of an agency may suspend without pay an employee of his agency when he considers the action necessary in the interests of national security."

Further, nothing in civil service law or collective bargaining agreements prevents management from assigning federal employees, involuntarily, to remote locations or special assignments. In times of emergency, including any situation involving war, a threat to national security or to public health, under 5 U.S.C. 7106, management is expressly allowed to "take whatever actions may be necessary to carry out the agency mission."

The White House insists that DHS management needs the authority to hire more quickly and to pay certain employees more. Yet, existing law allows management to provide recruitment and retention bonuses for high-quality employees, cash bonuses for superior performances, and special high rates of pay to secure the services of specialists and experts. Moreover, Sen. Joseph I. Lieberman's legislation includes provisions that would provide DHS management with direct hiring authority for critical needs and expedited procedures for more routine hires.

The collective bargaining rights of federal employees whether in the Defense Department, Immigration and Naturalization Service, the Customs Service, the Coast Guard, the General Services Administration (GSA), or any other agencies have never undermined national security.

AFGE members don't just support the goal of protecting America from terrorists. It's what we do every day. Before, during, and after September 11, we have worked to protect the freedoms all Americans hold dear. Our homeland security will be best served by maintaining our nation's proud history of a civil service independent of politics and cronyism. Denying federal employees their basic freedoms at work will not make the nation saferonly less democratic. Mr. Lieberman's very sensible legislation does not provide civil service protections or collective bargaining rights to a single employee who does not already have them. And there is absolutely no reason why an employee who works as a Federal Protective Officer for GSA or stands guard for the Border Patrol should be stripped of those protections and rights when she is transferred to another agency to perform the same work for the federal government and make the same sacrifices for the American people.

Bobby L. Harnage Sr.

National President

American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO


SUVs everywhere and no soccer moms in sight

While the Ford Excursion may very well qualify as a Low Emissions Vehicle, yesterday's editorial "R.I.P. to the SUV?" conveniently omitted the fact that the sport utility vehicle gets a paltry 11 miles per gallon.

At a time when this country needs to reduce its dependence on foreign oil, it is the height of social irresponsibility to drive such a vehicle unnecessarily.

While some people have a legitimate need for a vehicle that can seat 10 passengers or haul 10,000 pounds, most of the SUVs that I see on the roads are being used for everyday errands and only carry one or two persons. I have yet to see even one "soccer mom" transporting a team.

If people feel that they absolutely must own an SUV, they should also own a second, lighter vehicle, and only drive the SUV when truly necessary.



Sacrifice animals respectfully

The letter by Jim Beers ("Even a poor lab rat is entitled to some happiness," Monday) in response to my column "Atrocities in the laboratory" (Op-Ed, Aug. 1) highlights the misguided and unfounded attacks by opponents of humane treatment of animals. Mr. Beers, who is an adviser to the National Trappers Association, went off half-cocked. It would appear that in his rush to attack the messenger he didn't read the message, for if he had he would have seen that several of his most important points were addressed.

First, a federal law passed by Congress to protect all warmblooded animals including birds, mice and rats had existed on the books for more than 30 years, until the National Association for Biomedical Research had it weakened. Second, this association did it against the will of its own constituency.

Unlike the trappers Mr. Beers usually represents, who are regulated by state game agencies, animal researchers have been subject to federal regulation for decades and no one, except Mr. Beers, has expressed the need to shift this responsibility to the states.

I did not present an animal rights perspective, I merely pointed out the need to ensure decent treatment of all animals whose lives are sacrificed for research purposes. I also wanted to highlight a trade association that purports to represent the research community when, in fact, it clearly does not.

It is sad that Mr. Beers chooses to brand anyone an "extremist" for having an opinion that differs from his own.


Policy analyst

Society for Animal Protective Legislation


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