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Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Damaged Humans Kill--Not Guns--My Story

   As the country debates the stricter gun laws that are largely a consequence of the tragic shootings in Sandy Hook, I find myself in the uncomfortable position of not just feeling compelled to defend the 2nd Amendment while people are still grieving...but also feeling compelled to share a very personal loss of my own, involving a gun. I can't delay because our governments, federal and state, have either had a knee-jerk reaction to tragedy, or God forbid, they are using tragedy to promote an anti-gun agenda. The president has issued 23 executive orders aimed at stricter gun controls, and many states have followed his lead and are introducing legislation that infringes on our 2nd Amendment rights. There is no time to waste.
   I am of the belief that the 2nd Amendment asserts, not gives, the right of every law abiding, mentally stable American to own the gun or guns of their choice. I do not think that it has anything to do with hunting. I believe it has everything to do with the God-given natural right to protect yourself...not only against a life-threatening person, but more specifically our government. The Constitution is not a document meant to protect the government from the people, but rather the people from the government. Our government and the Liberal media are conducting a propaganda campaign to convince the masses that guns are evil, and that if we could rid the country of guns there would be no more murder. I don't buy it and statistics do not support it. I'm writing this because I want people to know that I support the 2nd Amendment, and defend it, even after my only sister was shot and killed in 1993.  
   I am acquainted with the deepest darkest grief a human being can experience when losing someone that they love, suddenly and tragically, in an act of violence. When you get that phone call and your breath escapes you and you crumble to the floor, life is never the same after that moment. You are never the same. So I don't take this lightly. I am not just some right-wing zealot pounding my chest and making proclamations. I know what I'm talking about. I've paid some dues.
   My sister was assassinated in her own home by a damaged, angry, anti-social, man driven by  hate and jealousy...and he used a shot gun. It wasn't the so-called assault weapon and it wasn't a hand gun. It was a shot gun that is typically used for hunting. The NRA did not fail my sister. There is a lot of blame to go around, and I include myself, but the NRA and the gun manufacturer don't even make the list. 
  Her killer was her "estranged husband" who was a Vietnam veteran who came home with a raging case of post-traumatic stress syndrome. When my sister met him there were people who warned her that "he wasn't all there" because of the war. Some said that he was known to get into fights at the local bar and fight so violently that he was feared. Of course she asked him about it, and he admitted that when he first came home he had some problems. He said that he had it so bad that he could be driving on a highway and he would suddenly think he was under fire back in Vietnam...but that he was fine now. He seemed fine to her, and besides it was 1980 when they met. He had to be over it by then, right? Was the Veterans Administration aware of his condition? If they were, did they follow up? Or did he just disappear into the population, into my family, with a ticking time bomb inside of him? Incidentally, Hollywood, his favorite movie was "Rambo" and he watched it and all of the sequels many, many times. Hollywood, you made the list.
    He was quite socially awkward and stuttered. He seemed oblivious to social cues even one-on-one, but in a group he was lost. He would talk too much or too loud. He would say things that seemed out of context and odd.  He shared that he had been emotionally tormented by his father and felt damaged by it. My sister had two small children when he moved in with her, and about a year later she married him. She truly grew to love and accept him unconditionally. I am not exaggerating when I say that she seemed to be the only one who "got him." Most people thought something just wasn't right about him. I knew he wasn't "normal." I told my sister when I met him that I wasn't comfortable with him around her children.  Was that enough? Shouldn't someone, anyone, me...have been able to do something to get him help? 
     As the years went by I also just accepted his quirkiness, and he had become family to me. They had been married almost 10 years and the children were preteens. The usual teenager-related problems developed in the house. My sister had a new baby, making them a blended family.  I was surprised to find out that they were seeking family counseling  At first she said it was mostly for and about  the teenagers, but one day it slipped out that he was going for anger issues. I thought that was odd because in the almost 10 years that I knew him, I had never known him to show any signs of anger or abuse towards her or the kids. He was learning to control his anger with biofeedback. I started noticing at family gatherings that he was having a hard time controlling his anger towards her son. Little things seem to enrage him and he seemed to be fighting to control himself. Why didn't I see the danger brewing? Shouldn't the counselor have been able to perceive the dangerous rage and taken steps to protect this family?
   When I think back at the final year and a half of her life, after they had legally separated, there were so many signs that she was in danger. By now I lived in another state, but we talked often. He was living with another woman, but when he learned that she was dating someone he lost it. He began to stalk her relentlessly. She saw him watching everywhere that she went. He found a way inside her apartment once, and was waiting inside when she got home just to show her that he could. He found a way into her fiance's house, and was waiting inside when they came home one night. She reported everything to the police, but no one would help her. He threw acid on her new car. The police said there weren't any witnesses. One day he slapped her when he came to pick up their daughter for visitation. The police said they didn't see it. There was nothing that they could do. He broke into their house that was up for sale, and he destroyed the walls on one floor of the house in a fit of rage. No witnesses. Shouldn't law enforcement have been able to protect her?
   She reported to Social Services that she didn't think that he was fit to have unsupervised visitation of their child. This led to countless interviews with social workers and psychiatric evaluations, and the lawyers were kept busy filing all of the paperwork. I know because I found mounds of paper describing the legal battle along with reports from social workers and psychiatrists. Shouldn't the social workers, the psychiatrists, or the lawyers have been able to perceive the danger and do something to protect this family?
   It finally came to a horrible tragic ending on Father's Day in 1993. I am told that he told the guys at work (who thought that he was strange) that he was going home to kill his family. He came to her house to pick up their child for visitation, and brought the gun into the house in a box. He shot and killed my sister and her fiance. He shot and wounded her teenage daughter, who pretended to be dead so that he wouldn't shoot her again. He then took his own life. 
   There was evidence that he had been planning to do this for some time. He had his mind made up long before he did it. It wasn't a matter of if he would do it. It was just a matter of when. Men like him, who are determined to kill, will get a gun. The government could confiscate every gun in the land, but a man with a mind to kill will get a gun. 
   I only wish that when she could get no help and no protection from anyone that she would have purchased a gun for her protection. I wish that her fiance had a gun for their protection. Maybe no one would have been killed that day except for him. I have to believe that at least fewer would have been killed or wounded. 
   That tragedy could have been avoided somewhere along the way if he had only gotten the psychiatric help that he needed before Vietnam, after the war, during family counselling, or  through the interactions with social workers, psychiatrists, and lawyers. If only his employer or fellow employees had reported his threatening behavior, or if family and friends could have intervened, maybe it would have had a better ending. 
   My sister was killed by a damaged, angry, anti-social, man driven by  hate and jealousy...and he used a gun. 

Join the Hagerstown TEA Party for a Western Maryland Day of Resistance on February 23, 2013. Click on the link below for more information.

Western Maryland Day of Resistance

Sunday, January 20, 2013

Developer says 'Hagerstown has it'

LINK: Developer says 'Hagerstown has it'

My first concern is always the money. According to this article the Dream Team has a track record of investment...100% private investment. I like that! If that is how the Hagerstown public-private partnership develops I will be very excited about this partnership and what it can accomplish in our town. This is completely opposite of the Baltimore Street stadium proposal where the taxpayer took all of the risk and put up most of the funding with the Suns, a private business, having the most to gain. 

Friday, January 18, 2013

A PUBLIC-PRIVATE PARTNERSHIP GONE BAD

LINK: BREAKING NEWS: A victory for Maryland taxpayers » Research » The Maryland Public Policy Institute


A public-private partnership gone bad. Hagerstown considering entering one to revitalize downtown and/or build a stadium. Something to watch and research further for sure.




Wednesday, January 16, 2013

DREAM TEAM COMES TO HAGERSTOWN: SHOW ME THE MONEY!

DEJU VU?

   
    I attended the mayor and council meeting last night where it was reported by the Herald Mail that a development firm would be presenting a plan for the revitalization of downtown. It seemed kind of random at first. The article stated that the group that would be presenting had been looking at Hagerstown for 7 or 8 months. My first thoughts were, who invited them to look at Hagerstown and who invited them to present to mayor and council? When I read further that they would be offering a plan that involves a public-private partnership (P3), I immediately made the connection with the recent Chamber of Commerce (COC) forum on P3s entitled Public-Private Partnerships: Opportunities and Obstacles with David Birtwistle of Balfour Beatty Construction. This couldn't be a coincidence. The HM also stated that: 
"In public session, little progress toward any type of plan for a major urban renewal project has been made since the city’s new administration took office last November, but Tuesday’s presentation could spark new interest considering the involved parties."
It sounded like last November was light years ago and that they not only nixed the HM's beloved Baltimore Street proposal, but had not offered a single idea to replace it in all of that time. That hyperbole, which allowed the new administration no time to adjust and get up to speed on important city business or have time off for the holidays, made me feel like I was instantly back on the HM-COC (and others) treadmill of manipulation during the recent stadium controversy. Needless to say, I went to the presentation with a bad taste in my mouth and a little skepticism. Coming from the perspective of the Hagerstown TEA Party, all I wanted to know at this point was: 1.) will this partnership be advantageous to the taxpayer and 2.) show me the money. 
  

DREAM TEAM


    Before the meeting I asked Council Member Penny Nigh who invited this group. She wasn't sure, but she said that they had been before the last administration and that they apparently weren't interested. When Mayor Gyspert's  introduced them he said that he had invited them simply to "start a discussion" and emphasized that the city was in no way expected to commit to anything. Where have I heard that before?
   The team came forward led by local attorney D. Bruce Poole. Apparently he brought them together out of a love of Hagerstown, embarrassment of the condition of Hagerstown, and a desire for his children to want to return to Hagerstown after college. They did seem quite impressive in their number and presence alone, but once they began to share all that they had individually accomplished in other towns across America, their "connections," and what they were offering Hagerstown, I thought this is a Dream Team coming to the rescue. I call it the Dream Team now simply because they don't have a group name. They are not all a part of any one organization with a proper name. The individuals who make up this Dream Team are:

  • D. Bruce Poole, a local attorney
  • Tim Elliott, of Sora Development, a real estate development company
  • Dane Bauer of Daft, McCune and Walker Inc., an engineering firm
  • Chuck Brawley of Skanska, a multi-national construction company
  • Rob  Hopson, introduced, project connection unknown
  • Melissa Schmidt, introduced, project connection unknown
In addition to the Dream Team, several local business owners were present. It was not a meeting where the public could speak, so I wondered if they were there to invest money. That would different!
  

I LOVE IT, BUT...SHOW ME THE MONEY!


    I have to tell you that as a homeowner and resident of Hagerstown I thought that the presentation was quite exciting. I say that in all honesty. They talked about finding our assets and economic growth drivers and connecting them in ways that are both good for the community and  create revenue. They were quite enthusiastic and spoke hope into the room. I want this hope and vision to become a reality for this city. I just have this nagging voice in the back of my mind yelling "Show me the money!"
   I liked the stadium idea. The money just wasn't there to pay for it. I was hoping that private investors, along with the mystery $15M donor, would come forth but they never did. Without the private investors the state wouldn't contribute. I didn't agree with using any public money for the stadium, but that is not the point. No state funds were available because there wasn't enough private investment. There just wasn't enough money.  So...will there be enough money to create the vision that this team and our elected officials agree on? Who will pay the larger share in this partnership, the private investors or the taxpayers? Even if the private investors meet investment expectations, does the taxpayer have the money to pay its share at the city, county, and state levels? The taxpayers may want to follow down this path. I do! But can they afford it? 
  

 METZNER IS STILL A BIG SPENDING LIBERAL

   
    I say show me the money first, before I get my hopes up. In a conversation with Council Member Metzner, he stated that he believes that the next time that we go forward on any project meant to revitalize downtown, we should get the money first. I agree. He said this before the presentation. I wonder if his enthusiasm has changed his new outlook on the money. 
   Oh-and just so you know...Council Member Metzner is still a big spending Liberal. Apparently he received some emails and phone calls from a few unhappy Liberals who thought that he had gone rogue or turned too far to the right regarding the Baltimore Street proposal. He assured me in this same conversation that he would still support the stadium downtown if the money was there to support it. He said that he is a realist and the reality is that the money wasn't there, there were no private investors coming forward, and even if they had the money they could not meet the demands of the Suns to build it by next season. He said that if the money was there he would vote for it today. However, given a choice between a downtown stadium and the BOE moving downtown he would choose the BOE. I just wanted to clear that up. Mr. Metzner and I are on opposite sides of the political spectrum, but he is a nice man ( a reasonable Liberal!) and I don't want to misrepresent him.
    

WE HAVE LOTS OF MONEY!


   The good news is that  Chuck Brawley said, "We have access to capital," and Dane Bauer said,  "We have money. Lots of money to funnel through Hagerstown." Now that's what I'm talking about! On the other hand he assured everyone that he has the connections and the know how to get the public money needed from the state. I know this is where the public-private partnership comes in, but I am hoping that public funds will only be used to provide infrastructure and services that are typically provided by the various levels of government. I guess I have to wait to see how this partnership develops before I can comment on the appropriateness, or not, of the funding plan. I am also anxious to see if any of the business owners in attendance will be financially investing in this new vision, unlike their failure to invest in the Baltimore Street proposal while all the while "supporting it."
   

OUR ELECTED BODY IS OPTIMISTIC...MOSTLY


Metzner: This is the 5th time we have met with this group. Over the last four months there has been a momentum building for revitalizing downtown. We cannot let this momentum go away or we may not be able to get it back. In the past we would discuss it to death. We can do that or we can pursue this. I like the potential of "back to the future," partnering with Meritus Health and tying it to downtown, along with the education theme downtown...as opposed to the past administration was centered too much on one thing, the stadium. Tonight we have to decide yes or no, and if yes we need to move forward. We clearly have to include Neighborhoods 1st, our seniors, residents as we move forward. These are integral, and we can't make the same mistake [of leaving them out of the process].

Brubaker: If we start downtown we have to determine the "scope of service" outside the city. This needs to be discussed. The University is an asset, however it is a fledgling, so what are our economic drivers? We need to find them. We need to do "due diligence  and interview other agencies [other than the Dream Team]. Note: This invited some nervous comments. Bruce Poole asked well where have the others been? We have seven months invested. We have government and business support. We need to go to the next level. Metzner strongly agreed saying that we don't need to look at other groups. The city staff has worked on this for eight months and we can't waste anymore time and resources. [Isn't there something between "jumping to demands" and "talking to death" for this elected body? How about due diligence at a reasonable pace?]

Alshire: Transparency is paramount for public support. I appreciate the public presentation. There are going to be other entities, for example CHIEF and others, and they need to understand that we make the decisions. I still think that education gives us the biggest bang for the buck versus a stadium, but tying together the East End [sports] to downtown works too. I reiterate that the government roll should only be infrastructure and services. We need to reinstill the idea of a destination for private investment and not for public services. 

Munson: This is a unique opportunity. The city can't do it...Hell no! It's time to stop talking. We have to have a responsible proposal to the governor no later than September.

Nigh: I've been around for years and this is the most realistic plan that I have heard. The concept is wonderful. I agree with Kristen that this government is the final say. Respect us. We are the elected body. 

Mayor: Hagerstown has low self-esteem. We tend to think small and be reactive. It is time for a shared vision. We will contact the group in the next couple of days.

Bauer: We need to get organized in the next 90 days. We need a master plan by the end of September.


  PLAN MARYLAND?

I couldn't help but notice the repeated use of buzz words "sustainable walkable community" used by the urban development  team member. For  those of you who are concerned about Plan Maryland and Agenda 21, this may lead to further research. However, we know our governor will love the Plan Maryland language, and it may help them to get the money that they are seeking from the state. 

 

   
















Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Firm to present redevelopment plan for downtown Hagerstown

Firm to present redevelopment plan for downtown Hagerstown


I am wondering who invited them to look at Hagerstown "over the last 6 or 8 weeks."  Was it the last administration, or the new administration, or was it the Chamber of Commerce? I find it interesting that the Chamber hosted a forum just last week on public-private partnerships. Couldn't help but notice the little disrespect and taunt in the article towards the new administration: "In public session, little progress toward any type of plan for a major urban renewal project has been made since the city’s new administration took office last November, but Tuesday’s presentation could spark new interest considering the involved parties." I guess the HM and the Chamber are still pouting over the taxpayers and voters rejecting their Baltimore Street proposal.

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Del. Neil C. Parrott seeking anonymity for petition signers

Del. Neil C. Parrott seeking anonymity for petition signers

When Maryland citizens sign a petition to request a referendum for a law that could be against what the majority of its citizens  support, they don't expect to become a target of hate, but that is often what happens. Just read the hateful comments to this article for just a small sample of what may be aimed at those who sign a petition on a controversial issue.  For this reason, a bill that promises anonymity for petition signers is critical to protect the citizen and the petition process provided by the Maryland State Constitution. It is at least as important as the privacy that is expected in the voting booth. Saddam Hussein would receive 100% of the vote in his scam of an election. Why? It was because of the consequences of voting otherwise. This is a basic American concept. Please support Neil Parrott in his effort to give every citizen a voice without fear of losing their job, being harassed and bullied, or fear of physical harm. 

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

METZNER DOES EPIC TURNAROUND ON NEW SUNS STADIUM

   Hagerstown City Council Member Lewis Metzner (Democrat), one of the strongest proponents of the proposed new Suns stadium second only to past-mayor Robert Bruchey, did a complete turnaround at the mayor and council meeting, shocking many. This was the first time that this new mayor and council spoke publicly about the project since winning the election in November.
   Metzner began by stating that he had been for the new downtown stadium all along, but not at any cost. He believes that the project would cost at least $25M wherever it is built. He said, "the Chamber of Commerce has sent us many nice things...everything but money." This was after the Chamber paid for a full page ad in the Herald Mail imploring the new mayor and council to proceed with the initial proposal. The logos of about 20 businesses, many not located in downtown Hagerstown, were displayed in the ad as a show of support for the project. He pointed out that none of them offered to invest money in the project. This is the second public criticism against the Chamber in one month, following the public rebuke by the Washington County Delegation for their lack of support in Annapolis.
   Metzner went on to say that the previous proposal was expected to cost between $30M to $40M. He stated that not one member of the previous administration thought that it was possible without the phantom $15M donor. He surprised the room when he stated,
"We don't have the funding to meet the demands of the Suns. They came to us demanding a new stadium and we jumped to their demands! They are demanding a new stadium by April 2014 and that just isn't possible."
   Metzner revealed that there are other teams who have asked to play in Hagerstown who are willing to play at the Municipal Stadium. He said that if the people want to revitalize downtown than lets build a stadium there.
 "But if it's about baseball lets give them baseball. Maybe that will mean another team because we just can't meet the demands of the Suns. Maybe if we submit an RFP [Request for Proposal] it would lessen the demands." 
   The conversation started when the  mayor asked each of the council members to state where they stood on the stadium. Council Member Munson (Republican) started by categorically stating that he is against a downtown stadium. He said that he knocked on 9,000 doors talking to at least 4,500 people and only 55 were for the stadium downtown. He stated that the people did want to keep the Suns and did want a stadium, but not downtown, and he was going to do what he told the people he would do if he were elected.
   Council Member Kristen Alshire (Democrat), reiterated earlier statements that it comes down to affordability and reasonableness of cost for him. The new proposal to locate a new stadium on the East End depends on about half of the funding needed for the first proposal. He reminded everyone the terms presented by Suns owner Mr. Quinn: $3M form the city, $3M from the county, $6M from the state, $6M from the Suns, and $3M from outside investors. He noted that with the original proposal the cost estimates kept rising and the private investors never came forward. He stated that he would need to set a ceiling on the costs, and if the project exceeded those costs he would no longer support it. He would also need to see private investors coming forward.
   Council Member Martin Brubaker (Democrat) stated that it will probably cost just as much to build on the East End as downtown (Munson agreed). He went on to say that since he thought the cost would be equal, he thinks that the stadium should be built downtown to spin off other investment. However, he admitted being discouraged that no outside private investors came forward, besides the phantom $15M donor, which would mean funding the project completely with public money. "...so it doesn't seem viable." Brubaker, in my humble opinion, later behaved in a manner unbecoming of an elected official when the mayor stated his position on the stadium.
   Council Member Penny Nigh (Democrat) gave another perspective on the downtown-or-not-downtown argument when she asked City Engineer Rodney Tissue what was the distance between Municipal Stadium and the city line. He stated that it is 4,000 feet or 3/4 of a mile. She said simply, "Keep it on the East End." She reminded everyone that the Suns originally offered to invest $6M, but have since lowered that amount to $3M, and that the county rescinded funding that was promised when the project took a turn towards the East End. Nigh said, "Mr. Quinn needs to figure it out now."
   Mayor David Gysperts (Democrat) said that he thinks all options need to be on the table and that "the downtown site remains on my menu of options." Most opponents of the downtown site thought that he was against it during the election. Then the mayor stated that he liked the old hospital site for the stadium. This is when Brubaker mouthed to the audience, "Is he crazy? Is he drunk?"  Gysperts went on to say that he is no engineer, but he did not think that the  rubble issue at the hospital site would be a problem. He said, "it is literally 4 blocks from the original site and we do not need 65 more townhomes downtown."
   At this point I had to leave for another meeting, but as I was leaving I heard Metzner say that wherever the stadium is built they need to do things differently than the previous administration (he was a member). He wants this administration to be more transparent and keep the public informed every step of the way. What a novel idea. I like it.