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Back to square one for slippery bricks

January 19, 1998

So how come we spend $3.4 million on an ice rink, when for a mere half-mil we have the Public Square Brick Exchange Program?

Anyone walk through downtown Hagerstown Thursday? It was like walking across Lake Champlain in February. People resembled human bowling pins being struck by an invisible ball.

I can hear the contractor on the phone with City Hall now. "What, you wanted Public Square to be brick? We thought you said you wanted it to be slick."

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Like any other good masonry item, ice apparently sticks to bricks like a lawyer to an ambulance, to the point where you can't get it off with a jackhammer.

By 4 p.m., public works crews had visited the Square six times, using up more salt than a family restaurant, and it was still slippery, city officials said.

They're hoping this is only a temporary situation and I believe they may be right. Traction ought to improve significantly once the winos have sufficient chance to spill enough Mad Dog and spit out enough gum.

Which they won't for a while, because the completion date for the Brick Exchange Program has been moved back yet again, this time until March.

Oh, but speaking of spitting, how 'bout that little catfight going on in Annapolis among members of the Washington County legislative delegation?

It seems Del. Bruce Poole is miffed because the delegation's secretary, Chris Shank, is pondering a run against him later this year.

Since Shank won't commit one way or the other, Poole believes he ought to be sacked.

Shank says he's perfectly within his right to hold a job with the delegation and, as a citizen of Washington County, he's perfectly within his rights to contemplate a run for office.

Normally an underling jockeying to take his bosses' job wouldn't stand a chance. Yet Shank's position is bolstered by his close association with Del. John Donoghue.

This has caused a rift between Poole and Donoghue and a lot of marvelously uncomfortable choosing of sides among the remaining six members of the delegation, not to mention more private snipping than Sunday-coupon day at the trailer park.

Poole is probably right. In the private sector it would be crazy to think that your chief competitor should have access to your mail, answer your calls and be your liaison to your customers.

In theory at least, Shank could answer a call from a constituent in Boonsboro by saying "Well PERSONALLY, I would LOVE to help you, but Delegate Poole said to tell you to go sit on a railroad spike."

But if you like chutzpa, you have to love the way Kid Shank is shaking Poole around like an Airedale with a rag doll, putting off and putting off the day he says he'll make up his mind. Now he says he won't decide until after the session.

Making this even more beautiful is that Shank is a Republican, while Poole and Donoghue are Democrats. And Shank the Republican is Donoghue the Democrat's campaign treasurer.

Aside from Poole, the delegation's only other two Democrats both support Shank, saying he does wonderful work. And he does, too.

But face it, up 'til a couple years ago the same job was handled by a nice, white-haired lady named Nancy. It's not like you need Erskine Bowles to manage the idiosyncrasies of legislative life.

On the other hand, if Poole succeeds in getting rid of Shank, isn't he basically guaranteeing Shank will have nothing else to do but fire up the ole campaign fires?

The "Keep your friends close and your enemies closer" logic would seem to apply. Poole is also giving Shank a lot of free ink.

However, given the entertainment value, far be it from me to urge Poole to give up the fight.

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