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Monday, April 8, 2013

IS THE HERALD MAIL HOLDING A GRUDGE AGAINST THE CITY OF HAGERSTOWN?

 The Herald Mail was a huge proponent for the new stadium to be built partly on property that they own. 

   The Herald Mail published an editorial in their newspaper today that was in my opinion harsh and unproductive, criticizing the current Hagerstown mayor and council for the "loss of the BOE," among other things. I have written several posts that questioned the city, mostly during the last administration and almost entirely about the proposed new Suns stadium that was to be located on Summit Avenue and W. Baltimore Street. The Herald Mail was a huge proponent for the new stadium to be built partly on property that they own. You can imagine their disappointment when the voters decided in the recent election that they did not want a stadium at that location and they did not want the taxpayer to almost exclusively pay for it. It seems that they may be carrying a grudge.  
"If, like a scorned lover, the city is looking for reasons why the school board was hesitant to commit, it need only cast a glance into last week’s mirror." 
   The editorial begins by blaming the new administration for the Board of Education deciding to relocate outside of the city limits. The mayor and three of the five council members were newly elected only five months ago. The BOE has been talking with previous administrations about relocating downtown since February of 2000. They began talks with the most recent past administration two years ago, commissioning a task force established by the Greater Hagerstown Committee to explore possible locations downtown. Apparently, it took GHC two years to present a report. By then it seems it was too little too late. How can they expect this administration to do in 5 months what previous administrations did not do in 13 years or even the last two years? If they erred at all it was having confidence in the groundwork laid by the outgoing elected officials and the GHC, and assuming that the BOE was communicating honestly with them and truly interested in downtown. Just look at the facts:

Feb 12: The GHC presents their report after be commissioned two years ago.

Feb 19: Mayor and council make their pitch to the school board to relocate downtown.

Feb 19 (3 hours later): The school board voted unanimously to enter into a purchase agreement to explore buying the former Allegheny Energy headquarters off of Downsville Pike for its administrative offices.

The school board did not communicate to the city that it was seriously looking elsewhere, and did not even give them the courtesy of letting them know that they were ready to sign an agreement with Allegheny Energy. At this point I think everyone knew that the board had no intentions of moving downtown. The BOE then asked for hard figures. I am not sure how much more they wanted in addition to what GHC provided in their report. The mayor became visibly angry with me when I asked him that question at a meeting of the Citizens for the Protection of Washington County. In hindsight, I understand why he did. 
  
   The Herald Mail editorial went on to say,   
"Yet individual council members seem more concerned about justifying questionable actions of the past. Councilman Kristin Aleshire in particular has taken to public message boards trying to explain why the decision to let the Suns stadium proposal die was not really a mistake."
   I think this quote is very telling about what really motivated this scathing editorial. They obviously think that not building a stadium on property that they own needs justification. They show no respect for the community or the taxpayers who did not want it. Just a reminder: the mayor and council are elected to represent the people who elect them. They are not crowned; they are elected. 


"...the problem is that not enough people are profiting [in Hagerstown]."

     The editorial then mocks the city for signing a non-binding agreement with Sora to allow them to develop a plan and seek private and public funding on behalf of the city. It is non-binding because you can bet that they would be writing editorials about how it was unethical to make Sora exclusive without giving other developers the chance to bid on the master plan wholly or on individual projects within the plan. They further mocked them for developing a task force of individuals who have nothing to gain and who have had experience in P3s to advise them in their possible partnership with Sora. They imply that the city is afraid that Sora, or anyone else, will make money in this town. Actually, they are making sure that Sora or anyone else, including the Herald Mail, does not profit at the expense of the taxpayer. They are doing their jobs! 

   Finally, they use a small unrelated matter to somehow prove that this administration is unwelcoming to businesses. They refer to the task force that was formed and reported to the mayor and council regarding a dog park for downtown. It is a dog park not a business. The mayor and council want a dog park and one will be approved. It is simply the location that is in question and certainly the city has a right, no a duty, to question the data provided, and based on that data deliberate and decide on a location that the community will appreciate and that will not become a burden to any of its citizens.
Get over it!
   This mayor and council listened to the voters and decided not to build a stadium on Herald Mail property. If the Herald Mail has a grudge about losing out on the possible sale of their property for a stadium, it is misplaced. Their issue is with the community and the taxpayer who support their business. That is not a good idea, so I suggest that they get over it!
   





  
   

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