Comments about Board of Education member should be disavowed; county animal welfare bill requirements too harsh

Comments about Board of Education member should be disavowed; county animal welfare bill requirements too harsh

Schallheim should be supported, not criticized

Amy Leahy’s recent letter to The Capital criticizing Dana Schallheim’s priorities on the Board of Education is appalling on several fronts.

To suggest the Board of Education should not prioritize ensuring a free and equal public education for all students regardless of identity, including those with disabilities, is both callous and irresponsible. And not least because this is a constitutionally protected right. A board unconcerned with civil rights issues leaves the school district vulnerable to lawsuits.

Leahy also suggests that promoting social acceptance in schools is unimportant, which ignores scores of research proving that students’ sense of belonging predicts both academic achievement and mental wellness. (e.g. Walton & Cohen, 2011, Yeager & Walton, 2011, Gopalan et al, 2022)

Leahy suggests that because Schallheim has been a strong advocate for students with disabilities and against bullying, she is not focused on academics. This is nonsense. The other important predictors of student achievement are research-based curriculum, high quality teaching and strong leadership.

Schallheim has led the charge to adopt improved curricula that align with latest research, hire a nationally recognized superintendent and retain great teachers by offering fair pay and benefits. This is why our county teachers support Schallheim, not her opponents.

Given that Leahy is a top donor to Schallheim opponent LaToya Nkongolo, voters might assume Nkongolo supports Leahy’s fringe views and irresponsible rhetoric. I hope that this is not true and Nkongolo disavows Leahy’s comments.

Fish Stark, Annapolis

Stark is an educational researcher and program developer

Proposal raising requirements for vicious designation goes too far

As chair of the Anne Arundel County Animal Welfare Council, I ask you to correct an inaccurate statement in The Capital’s Feb. 24 article about an animal welfare bill before the county council. The article states: “County animal welfare groups, including the Animal Welfare Council, have been pushing for the law to be changed …”

To the contrary, the Animal Welfare Council, which advises the county executive on animal-related matters, never has pushed to change this law that governs what happens to pets who kill or maim humans or other pets.

In the past five years, Animal Care & Control has investigated 6,000-plus animal bite/attack cases, but deemed just 28 dogs “vicious,” the designation that puts them on “death row.” The vast majority of bite cases only result in warning letters and citations. Animal Care & Control does not appear to be heavy-handed in its vicious designations.

As we testified Tuesday before the council, Anne Arundel will become an extreme outlier among Maryland counties if its requirements for determining if a dog is “vicious” are raised above even the criminal standards for determining if a person has committed murder.

Requiring eyewitness or video evidence to secure a vicious designation is simply going too far. We have given the strongest recommendation possible with a unanimous 9-0 recommendation to strike this requirement. It would be a mistake.

Jacqueline Kyle, Glen Burnie

There are better alternatives to manage rodents than glue traps

Glue traps, also known as sticky traps or glue boards, are cruel and inhumane. Animals stuck on glue often take days to die, suffering in agony.

As they struggle in panic to free themselves, trapped animals could tear their own limbs and skin. Those that can’t escape die slowly from dehydration and starvation. Sometimes animals’ heads become stuck to the adhesive, and they die because they can’t breathe.

Glue traps are unhygienic, putting human health at risk. In trying to escape, the animal defecates, urinates and bleeds, spreading germs and viruses. For these reasons, the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) advises against glue traps.

Beyond that, glue traps don’t work in the long run. When a small number of animals, usually mice, are killed, the food supply is more available for the remaining (and reproducing) number. The use of glue traps causes a never-ending treadmill of lethality and failure.

Anne Arundel County contracts with pest control companies, that place glue traps in county buildings — schools, senior centers, libraries, community centers — with the intention of controlling mice and other animals. This cruel practice must stop. There are more humane, more effective, and more cost-efficient ways to manage rodents.

Because glue traps are inhumane, ineffective and potentially hazardous to humans and the environment, they’ve been banned in many places. Glue traps are banned in many countries in Europe, in New Zealand, and in much of Australia.

They’re banned in more than 100 airports across the United States. They’re banned in West Hollywood, the first city in the country to ban glue traps. They’re banned in the New York City Police Department. They’re banned in the District of Columbia.

State and local legislatures in Massachusetts and California have bills in the works to ban glue traps. Congress is taking up the Glue Trap Prohibition Act of 2024, sponsored by Congressman Ted W. Lieu. The bill is endorsed by PETA, the Humane Society of the United States and the Humane Society Legislative Fund, among other animal welfare and wildlife protection groups.

What can you do? Don’t buy glue traps. Don’t hire pest companies that use them. Object when they are used in your facility. Write to city and county leaders expressing your support for a ban on these cruel and inhumane devices. Research other methods to control mice.

Mice and other small animals deserve our compassion and respect. They suffer, just as we do. For our own humanity, we must try to be humane. I don’t believe people want to be cruel. Glue traps may seem to be cheap and easy to use, but once we’re aware of how they work, we can’t in good conscience and in any rational sense help but be repulsed and want to find a better way.

Cynthia Barry, Annapolis

Power grid problems are not caused by any one industry

A recent article discussed a bill pending in the legislature that reduces red tape for data centers. The article offered a fundamental misunderstanding of the power grid and inexplicably blames certain businesses, in this case data centers, for potential power grid difficulties.

Regarding data centers, the author stated: “But they guzzle immense amounts of power, from a grid that still isn’t fueled with a large percentage of clean energy.”

Power grid problems are not caused by any one industry. Likewise, the lack of green energy in the grid cannot be blamed on one industry. The power grid is a national network fed by power generators throughout the country.

These generators create power by several methods like coal, natural gas, nuclear solar, and wind. Maryland both produces power and consumes power. We use electric power for home lighting, computers, appliances and to charge devices such as tablets, phones, and cars.

We also perform internet business on a regular basis and use cloud services to manage our ebuisness both at home and at work. That ebusiness requires data centers filled with servers.

The solution to power grid problems is not to restrict the very business that underpins how we increasingly perform our work. It is shortsighted and folly to suggest that power grid problems will fade if we place further restrictions on data centers in Maryland. Those companies will go elsewhere and obtain power from the national grid from a different physical location.

We can agree that our challenge is to expand the power grid and to move toward a more sustainable source of power. That move will not happen overnight, but data suggests that the movement is occurring.

We can and should do both — expand business and green energy.

William Daley, Stevensville

Ex-county executive doesn’t deserve platform to express his views

Why in the world do you keep giving a platform to the former County Executive John Leopold, who was convicted of crimes while in office and resigned in disgrace?

That’s not counting his alleged behavior in government vehicles and elsewhere, as well as having county employees perform inappropriate tasks. He even had the audacity to talk about it in his article.

In the era of Donald Trump I guess we can view the “crimes” and behavior Leopold”] as “sleazy quaint.” But why do you continually give this disgraced person a platform to express his views? He does not deserve that respect or honor. Please stop it.

Peter Marx, Annapolis

Healthy opportunities and joy exist for the developmentally disabled

On Feb. 21, I attended Developmental Disabilities Day in Annapolis. I am a parent advocate. One presenter stated that in the past services for the developmentally disabled were only available to the wealthy. I believe that statement is not only divisive but counter-productive.

If it had not been for President John F. Kennedy, who was from a wealthy family and who had a developmentally disabled sister, individuals with developmental disabilities would not live the lives they enjoy today. Programs in their communities, job training, group homes, education at all levels, medical care, access to transportation and access to buildings, to name a few services, would not be available.

Because of Kennedy’s efforts, the government stepped up. His sister, Eunice Kennedy Shriver, also started Special Olympics, initially at her home. She established a world of healthy opportunities and a lot of joy for the developmentally disabled.

Kathy Hargett, Potomac, Maryland

Someone needs to investigate the Comptroller’s Office

Is anyone doing anything about the current situation that is happing at the Comptroller’s Office and why has The Capital not done a story on it?

This month, with hardly any prior notice, the Comptroller’s Office released a new platform, “Maryland Tax Connect,” for business and individuals to file and pay taxes. The old system, bfile, worked well and I have been using it to file and pay sales tax for four entities over the last 25 years.

The bfile system was taken down and users were left blindsided by this new platform that we had to wait for a letter with a pin number in order to register to use. Even when registered, the site is impossible to navigate, does not compute correctly and keeps bringing you to a blank space with no confirmation of what has happened or if there is an error.

If this site was introduced as an upgrade somebody should lose their job and if the comptroller vetted the site prior to release they should lose their job.

Nobody answers the phone at the office for assistance, presumably because they are getting so many calls, and nobody responds to emails seeking help. I had a source inside the office check to make sure that my emails had gone through and that was confirmed with the comment that there were thousands of emails waiting to be responded to.

I am left with no options at this point and all I want to do is pay my sales tax. Who is in charge of this disaster and who is going to fix it??

Anthony Clarke, Davidsonville

Bill raising pet food fees would impose another financial burden

House Bill 85, currently under consideration in the Maryland legislature, would increase fees on pet food, already among the highest in the nation, making it even harder for working-class residents to experience the joys of animal companionship.

A 2021 report found an estimated 29 million dogs and cats live in households that use food stamps. Almost one-third of pet owners said they can’t afford their veterinary care. These costs are already rising faster than overall inflation: The price of pet food is 25% more expensive than in 2020, and vet care is up 11% since 2022.

Research consistently proves that animal lovers are willing to make sacrifices for their best friends. Consider that nearly half of pet owners who say they’ve gone into debt to cover vet bills, or the 40% of dog owners who live on a tighter budget to provide for their pooch.

Maryland’s recently passed ban on the sale of dogs and cats has already put prospective pet ownership out of reach for many by requiring car ownership and hefty sums of cash up front to purchase a pet from a breeder. HB85 would impose another financial burden on the Maryland pet owners who make up roughly half of all households in the state and could further discourage others from welcoming a pet into their home.

That would be a shame. Pets make us happy and healthy. Owning one shouldn’t be a privilege reserved only for the wealthy elite. This proposed tax barks up the wrong tree.

Will Coggin

Coggin is managing director of Center for Consumer Freedom

Comments about Board of Education member should be disavowed; county animal welfare bill requirements too harsh

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