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.
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