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Sunday, October 28, 2012

Not AWOL and Definitely Not Defeated!

    I feel like I've been AWOL for almost three weeks. It seems I've actually been missed by those who love me, those who hate me, and those who love to hate me. I don't think I have gone a day without thinking about politics and issues, attending meetings, or at least posting on social media for at least the last four years. I have to admit that after the so-called open-forum community meeting on the proposed new Suns stadium on October 9th, I was feeling a little jaded. I think my final posting afterwards was, "Pollyanna has left Hagerstown." At the time I didn't know that circumstances would actually cause me to leave Hagerstown and politics for a short time.
   I took an unexpected trip to Texas for a week for work. The night that I returned I went directly to the hospital in Glen Burnie, MD where my aunt was not expected to make it through the night. She died at 9:15am the next morning. Of course there was a viewing and funeral to follow. I rushed home to prepare for the traditional Mummer's Parade party at my house that my family and friends look forward to every year while working from home. These three weeks have been a blur. So while I was feeling disillusioned with obnoxious liberals, self-important conservatives, my city, my local elected officials, the local media and myself to name a few...I have not nor will I ever give up!
   I want to go back to that community meeting that was to be a forum where we could get "the facts" concerning the stadium and not the negative assumptions of us neurotic naysayers. The facts were going to be provided on tables according to subject (i.e., traffic). We had from 3:00pm-6:00pm to review these facts and then city staff would present them in the form of a video and oral presentations from our local experts for about 30 minutes. Then we would have all the time we needed to ask city staff and elected officials questions and get the much awaited answers. Well not all the time we needed. We each were allowed 3 minutes. We had an official timer. They got six months, and on our day they got 3.5 hours with no counter presentation allowed and we got 3 minutes.
   Let's just take a look at the one information table on traffic as related to the stadium. You would have thought that the traffic and parking issues were all addressed and ironed out. We do not have to worry about traffic flow or parking for those visiting or for those who live around the proposed site. Maybe unicorn driven carriages would deliver people to the front door of the stadium! I found this so remarkable because I am on the Board of Traffic and Parking for Hagerstown and I haven't seen anything regarding the stadium come across our table. Yet, the implication was that this has already been proven not to be a problem. This bothered me.
   Then the Q&A began. The elected officials and city staff sat upon a platform with skirted tables. The citizens, for and against, had to approach a podium and look up at this very impressive  panel with a timer flashing green, then yellow, then red. Do you get the feeling? Am I describing it in enough detail so that you feel what I saw and felt as I sat in the audience. This bothered me.
   I guess this is where I must talk about Suns minority owner Anthony Dhabura. [Hi Tony! Mr. D told me that he reads this blog when he coincidentally found himself outside of my humble abode on the parade route on the South End last night.] First let me be clear that I have no problem whatsoever with the owners demanding a new stadium. If you can do it and get away with it more power to you! What I have a problem with is the absolute refusal of the city staff, our elected officials, our community leaders (usually self-proclaimed) and our local media to report that they are demanding a new stadium. They have instead colluded to base this proposal for a new stadium on the false claims that Municipal Stadium cannot be upgraded and/or that the Washington Nationals are requiring a new stadium. If I had not attended the one City Council meeting where Councilman Metzner said openly that it was the Suns owners who were demanding a new stadium I would have never known it. Metzner said that when they first met with the owners they went into the meeting with the understanding that the Washington Nationals would work with an upgrade, only to find out that the owners would not. He said, "it was as if the right hand wasn't talking to the left hand." So why can't the public know this? Why the big effort to make it look like something else? I think it is because they know that the people of Hagerstown do not take very kindly to being bullied. If the people know the truth they may reject the proposal. This bothers me.
   Back to the community meeting and Mr. D. I was one of the first to sign in before the meeting as present and as interested in speaking. I'm signing in with head down writing and suddenly there is a face looking up into mine and it says hi. Yep, Mr. D. I thought it was a little peculiar since we had never been introduced before and I didn't think he knew me. As I said I was one of the first to sign in, but I was number twenty-something to be invited to the podium. Just saying. I was sitting at the end of a row as was Mr. D and his female guest. We were separated only by an aisle. There was an elderly man speaking at the podium before the impressive panel and the official timer. He seemed oblivious to the timer and went over his allotted three minutes. Everyone started to bristle and sigh and become quite uncomfortable. Just as I look over at Mr. D he says "Time!" and his companion wags her head in agreement. He wasn't the only one who said it, but he said it. This bothered me. This bothered me alot.
   Finally it was my turn to go before the impressive panel and the official timer. I am not a speaker and I am uncomfortable speaking in front of people. I have to admit that I was angry by now because many of the questions went unanswered and because I thought it was unconscionable for the owner to so brashly limit the time of a concerned citizen, not to mention an elderly man, when this community has been patiently waiting for their turn to be heard. So I said so. Then I only had one two-part question, "When did the conversation change from a $9M-$10M "extreme makeover" of Municipal Stadium as reported in the Herald Mail one year ago to a $30M-$40M new stadium, and isn't it true that it is the Suns owners who are demanding a new stadium?" I looked up at this impressive panel and waited for an answer. Not one of them spoke. They all looked like they needed to puke. I stood there awkwardly waiting for someone to answer me, but the official timer flashed red and I sat down without the decency of a response. This bothered me.
   Then I hear Mr. D trying to be recognized to speak. He looked like an elementary school child who needed to be excused to go to the bathroom. Finally he gets called on to speak and I was waiting for a moment of truth. No, I didn't get it. Instead, he in essence publicly called me a liar. He denied calling time to the elderly man who went over his alloted time. I guess I had auditory and visual hallucinations. OK lets say I give him that one. I thought I heard and saw him call time to an elderly gentleman, but I didn't really. The next one was unbelievable. He said that he did not demand a new stadium, that it was in fact the elected officials and community leaders who came to him and convinced him that they needed the new stadium! So either Metzner and myself are lying or Mr. D is lying. It is that simple. I left there, after arguing with an emissary of Mr. D's in the parking lot for a half an hour, thinking that I was pretty sure that Metzner was not a liar. I didn't know if he slipped and said it that once and I'd never get him to admit it again or not. The chances were real good that I was going to be made to be a liar. The effort to cover up this one important fact was so unified and fortified that it seemed hopeless. That is when I posted that Pollyanna has left Hagerstown.
   Mr. Metzner and I serve together on the Board of Traffic and Parking. The board met two days after the community meeting and at the end of the meeting I asked the board about the rosy traffic implications that were presented at the community meeting. I was told that no the board had not yet addressed the stadium and related traffic issues. Mr. Metzner said  he would like to talk to me about the stadium and talk we did directly following the meeting. He started off admitting that he "is a big spending Liberal" and he doesn't deny it. That was refreshing. I told him that I am the VP of the Hagerstown TEA Party and that I voted for him in the last election. I think that threw him a little. We both talked vehemently about government spending, crony capitalism, grant money being tax money, and the general finances related to the new stadium. Then we talked about the process. I asked him straight out if I had heard him right in that meeting when he said that the Suns are demanding a new stadium. Wait for it...YES! I couldn't believe my ears. I then said, Tony Dhabura got up and spoke at the community meeting and...Metzner finished the sentence...lied! Hallellujah! Mr. Metzner and I had a lengthy and sometimes heated discussion and when we were finished we parted friends. He didn't have an answer as to why he let the lie go uncorrected in the meeting, but he promised to let it be known from that day forward. I haven't heard it said...yet. I am still hoping that he will be true to his word. That is all I want is for the people to know the whole truth and for the people to make a decision based on the truth. We elected them to represent us. We didn't crown them as kings and queens. To represent us they have to hear us, respect us, and consider what we want them to do for us as representatives of this community. 
   As I noted earlier, I ran into Mr. D outside of my home at the Mummer's Parade, and as I also noted I have nothing against him demanding a new stadium. I just want him and the powers that be to be honest about that fact. He offered to sit down and talk about everything. If I thought it could be as constructive as my talk with my new liberal friend, Councilman Metzner, I would love to talk to Anthony Dhabura. But that could just be apples and oranges [a favorite saying of Mr. D's.].

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