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Editorial - No laughs in this re-run

June 19, 1997

It's summer re-run season on TV, so why not in real life as well? If what went on at yesterday's meeting between the Washington County Commissioners and the county's state lawmakers is sadly familiar, it's because we saw much the same thing when the county board was trying to deal with economic development.

Here's the plot of this melodrama: A citizens' group, alarmed that matters are drifting without direction, tries to steer the meandering vehicle back onto the highway. At this point elected officials wake up and, realizing that something might actually get accomplished without their involvement, start tramping on the brake pedal.

That's how the commissioners reacted to the business community's push for a reinvigorated Economic Development Commission. After voting in June of 1996 to create an independent EDC, the board reversed itself in December, telling everyone that they were going to be in charge. Being in charge, however, hasn't enabled them to fill the EDC director's post, which has been vacant since October 1995.

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On tourism, a roundtable group of citizens, businesspeople and elected officials agreed that it was time to shake up the county's tourism operation. A transition team of citizen volunteers was named to restructure the agency and hire a new director. Yesterday, on the day the new director's hiring was announced, the commissioners had second thoughts. Before anything happens, they want to see a plan.

The commissioners might not be in the dark if their liaison to the transition team, Commissioners' President Greg Snook, had attended more of the meetings. The minutes indicate he was absent more often than he was present.

In May of 1996, the commissioners opposed raising the room tax that funds tourism operations to promote Civil War-related activities. They lost and this week the group staging the 135th commemoration of the Battle of Antietam reported that almost every local hotel room is booked for that week in September. Despite the commissioners, good things are happening. If they're smart, they'll step back and let the transition team do its job.

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