Cumberland Times-News

January 23, 2011

Why not ask those who know?

Jan Alderton, Managing Editor
Cumberland Times-News

— Instead of considering another survey about the condition of its streets, the city of Cumberland should turn to its own employees for input.

Police officers, fire and ambulance crews and other city workers who travel throughout Cumberland on a daily basis can quickly tell the mayor and council which streets are in the worst condition.

Their assessment would be cheaper than a new survey — estimated to cost as much as $70,000 and $90,000 — and probably would be more accurate than what consultants could find....

Every year when the Maryland General Assembly gathers in Annapolis there are bills introduced that everyone — even the sponsors, if they are candid — knows have little chance of enactment. Among them this year is legislation from a Montgomery County delegate who wants retailers to charge five cents for every bag they dispense — whether paper or plastic.

Sponsored by Delegate Al Carr, a Democrat, the legislation is aimed at keeping bags out of the Chesapeake Bay and its tributaries. Carr told 630 WMAL News in Washington that the bill would generate a relatively small amount of money — how much was not indicated — while at the same time providing revenue to conservation programs.

We doubt that a five-cents-per-bag fee across the state would be an insignificant amount of money. And it would be yet another “tax” that consumers are forced to cough up.

This is the third year Carr has introduced the bill....

In the West Virginia legislature in Charleston, meanwhile, comes proposed legislation from a Kanawha County Democrat, Sen. Erik Wells, that would suspend the driver’s licenses of parents whose children miss too much school. The bill would warn parents when a child has five unexcused absences and revoke licenses for 10 unexcused absences.

Like the Maryland bag tax, look for Wells’ bill to go no where....

The early voting that Maryland instituted in the 2010 elections was a huge success, with about 77,000 voters statewide casting ballots before election day.

But that number would diminish when the next statewide election is held in 2012 — if a Prince Georges County lawmakers succeeds in reducing the number of early voting days from six to three.

Del. Veronica L. Turner said the reduction in early voting days would cut expenses while having little or no impact on turnout. She doesn’t explain how cutting the voting days in half will not mean fewer early voters....

If you are using the Internet via a West Virginia broadband provider, chances are your service is not as speedy as those in other states.

The Communication Workers of America issued its annual Speed Matters Report recently and found the average speed for broadband service in a West Virginia home is between 2.5 and 3.0 megabits per second, or mbps. The national average is 4 mbps.

Part of the reason for the Mountain State’s slow speed is lack of fiber connections. “In South Korea and Japan, petty much everybody has fiber to the home. And that really has unlimited capacity,” CWA Policy Director Debbie Goldman told West Virginia Metronews. But she said improvements like a $126 million grant for linking rural schools, health facilities and first responders and county offices to a central broadband system in the state should make connections faster over the next couple of years....

When the Hagerstown Suns respond to the call of “Play Ball” this spring their fans will find watching baseball games at Municipal Stadium to be a lot more comfortable.

The team has purchased 800 new seats with backs for the grandstand section behind home plate. The seats, purchased from the Wolf Trap outdoor entertainment facility in Virginia, are said to be in great condition. The team is spending about $100,000 to upgrade stadium seating....

Since Maryland’s law prohibiting use of hand-held cell phones while driving took effect a few months ago, it appears that most drivers are taking the ban to heart. The number of drivers seen holding phones while on the road seems to have fallen dramatically.

Motorists can’t be pulled over by police only because they are on a handheld cell phone. But if they are stopped for other reasons, they can be cited if they were seen by police using a hand-held phone....

Seen on the Internet — Amusing newspaper headlines:

• “Slain Doctor Worried About His Death” — in a Canadian paper.

• “Youth Hit by Train Is Rushed to Two Hospitals” — an unidentified local U.S. paper.

• “Ministry Probes Dead Fish” — in a Canadian paper.

• “Holy Mother Crushes Sacred Infant” in a Catholic newspaper, referring to a basketball game between two high Catholic schools.

• “Joint Committee Investigates Marijuana Use” a Toronto suburb newspaper.

Jan Alderton is managing editor of the Cumberland Times-News. His email address is jpalderton@times-news.com.