As this is being written, only a handful of candidates have filed for the Hagerstown Mayor and Council races that will be decided this coming May 20. It is not too early, however, to begin talking about what this race should be about.
As former councilmember Larry Vaughn has suggested, it is time for a debate on downtown revitalization, and whether it's worth the money being spent. Enough properties have been renovated and enough new businesses have filled empty storefronts to justify asking whether the effort is on the right track.
We'd say yes, as far as it goes, but if downtown is to succeed in becoming a place people can be proud of, the city must develop attractions tourists will visit, follow through on promised upgrades in building code enforcement and trash removal and continue improving downtown streets and parking lots.
That doesn't mean ignoring the needs of the rest of the city, particularly as they relate to housing. In November of 1996, the Federal Reserve Bank of Richmond did a community profile in which it noted that because of the high cost of rehabilitating older homes and the low-to-moderate income levels here, only 30 percent of Hagerstown households own their own homes. A partnership of local banks took on the task of building home ownership in one West End neighborhood two years ago, but a city-wide effort is needed.