- The Washington Times - Saturday, March 20, 2004

Replacing pipes, reducing rhetoric

Wednesday’s editorial “Don’t pipe in” tried to throw cold water on my proposal to fund the cost of replacing the lead water lines in the District. My proposal would protect the public health by having the District fund the cost of replacing the portion of lead pipe on the homeowner’s side of the property line, a portion of the pipe the D.C. Water and Sewer Authority (WASA) does not replace. The gist of your criticism appeared to be that my proposal was a “costly entitlement” program with taxpayers footing the bill. The reality is that I am trying to ensure that safe drinking water is flowing through the pipeline to protect everyone, while others “pipe in” rhetoric.

Unfortunately, The Times does not acknowledge that replacing the pipes is a public health issue. Replacing the pipes isn’t some sort of luxury the government is providing to homeowners. It’s a necessary protection of the health of our residents. The risk from lead in the water is greatest for expectant mothers and children younger than 6 — in other words, residents who have no say in the replacement of the pipes and no way to protect themselves if the pipes aren’t replaced. The Times also tried at every turn to dramatize the cost of the program, but the truth is that the replacement program is likely to cost just $5 million per year — out of a $6 billion-plus budget — and the program would need to last just about 10 years under the Environmental Protection Agency’s replacement requirements. This is a relatively small, and necessary, price to pay to protect the health of our most vulnerable residents. It is the government’s role to protect the public from these avoidable mistakes. If no one else will pay for the replacement of the pipes, the District must take charge, find the money and fix the problem. We can do that with our capital funds and by pushing the federal government to find dollars, but it must be done.

Bottom line: it is cynical for The Times to suggest otherwise.

HAROLD BRAZIL

At-large member

D.C. Council

Washington

A ‘heritage of harmony’ for Syrian Kurds

In response to “Rights for the Kurds” (Op-Ed, Tuesday), let us re-emphasize a simple but important fact: Throughout Syria’s long history, Syrian Kurds have always been a vital part of its social fabric. This can be proved easily by reviewing the large number of prestigious positions held by Syrian Kurds in government, military, diplomacy, clergy and civil society.

All Syrian Kurdish parties have recently issued statements categorically condemning the acts of violence perpetrated by a group of renegade elements. They share with the rest of the Syrians their concerns about what might lie behind all this violence and counterviolence.

Not only does Syria respect all its minorities, who enjoy equal rights, but it also prides itself on its heritage of harmony among all communities in Syria.

MARYAM SHAQRA

Media analyst

Embassy of Syria

Washington

Nader’s reach won’t cut Kerry

I wish to comment on a bit of sloppy analysis that slid its way into Steve Miller’s article “Nader campaign gives Bush a boost in polls” (Page 1, Wednesday). Mr. Miller compares results in which Mr. Nader was included in the poll questions to results in which he was not, showing a dip in Mr. Kerry’s numbers of 5 percent (the margin of error was 3 percent).

However, his extrapolation includes no discussion of the unpledged voters responding to either question. According to the full poll results, when the question posed mentioned only Mr. Kerry and Mr. Bush, 1 percent voted for “Other,” 1 percent said they “Won’t vote,” and 2 percent said “Depends.” When Mr. Nader was included, the total from those categories was 1 percent. In other words, Mr. Nader picked up 3 percent of his 7 percent total from people uncommitted to either major-party candidate.

Given the margin of error, one can definitively confirm only that Mr. Nader drew 1 percent of voters from Mr. Kerry — hardly “cutting a wide swath,” to use Mr. Miller’s words.

Also missing from Mr. Miller’s analysis were the total number of nonvoters polled — pointing out such things as that 18 percent of the 1,206 adults polled were not registered voters or that 29 percent of all those polled did not vote in 2000. This might have given some perspective on the helpfulness and reliability of questioning this particular group of people. Furthermore, no questions were asked directly of those being polled about Mr. Nader’s effect on their votes, which would have been the only sure way to gauge the bearing on Mr. Kerry’s support.

MARK ZIPKIN

Somerville, N.J.

Moon step before Mars leap

President Bush’s bold space-exploration vision calls for the United States, working with partner nations, to undertake a long-term journey to the cosmos. In pursuing this vision, NASA will help develop revolutionary technologies and capabilities for the future that will benefit all Americans while maintaining good stewardship of taxpayer dollars.

Contrary to S. Fred Singer’s assertion in his Monday Op-Ed column, “To the moon of Mars,” this initiative is being given a fair hearing on Capitol Hill. Last Friday, for example, the Senate approved guidelines for the fiscal 2005 federal budget that includes President Bush’s funding request for the National Aeronautics and Space Administration and assumes the administration’s plans for space exploration will get full funding through 2009.

In his commentary, Mr. Singer criticizes the call for using the moon to help us prepare for the exploration of Mars and beyond. But as Michael Griffin, a former NASA chief engineer who has gone into the private sector, told the House Science Committee last week, “The value of being on the moon is learning how to live on the surface of another planet. It would be an act of technical hubris to think that going straight to Mars is even possible.”

We are further gratified that Apollo 11 commander Neil Armstrong, who knows a fair amount about exploring the moon, said last week, “Our president has introduced a new initiative with renewed emphasis on the exploration of our solar system and expansion of human frontiers. This proposal has substantial merit and promise.”

SEAN O’KEEFE

Administrator

NASA

Washington

Intentions rendered meaningless

In response to “Sinister Linkage … amid wobbles” (Commentary, Friday), the question appears to be: Was Spain’s electoral outcome a capitulation to terrorism or the free expression of democracy? A crucial point is being missed: It does not matter what signal the Spaniards intended to send to the rest of the world with their votes. The only interpretation that matters is that of the terrorists, and the terrorists will think they influenced the Spanish people to change their foreign policy by committing an act of terror. Whether Spain intended it or not, the terrorists won.

CHRISTOPHER DESBARRES

Alexandria

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