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Senator Munson must act now to save UM campus project

March 17, 2000

How serious is Maryland Gov. Parris Glendening about his "Smart Growth" program?

Serious enough to deny Washington County a new University Systems of Maryland campus if a state senator tries to second-guess Glendening's choice of a downtown Hagerstown site for the facility. It's time for state Sen. Don Munson to do whatever is necessary to get this project back on track.

After a fight over proposed sites that took months and ended with Glendening's choice of the old Baldwin House complex site in downtown Hagerstown, the business community and elected officials, even those who favored other sites, decided that further wrangling was futile. Most resolved to work together to make the project a success in downtown.

Until last week, that is, when state Sen. Charles Middleton, D-Charles, who sits on a subcommittee of Munson's Budget and Taxation Committee, inserted a line into the state budget which calls for a study of which site would best serve students.

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If Middleton were a member of the U.S. Congress, he might have gotten away with that. But in Maryland, the governor is all-powerful with respect to the budget. Legislators can cut the governor's budget, but they can't add to it. And Glendening says that if they add this requirement, he'll put no money in future budgets for the campus.

Obviously the state's chief executive has four aces to Munson's pair of deuces, and the sooner the senator folds his hand, the better it will be.

We hope that happens before this editorial appears, and if so, we applaud the senator for (belatedly) realizing that this is a battle he can't win, and that the casualties of trying might include the UM campus.

If Sen. Munson persists, however, and doesn't ask Middleton to drop the study idea, he could be at least partially responsible for destroying a dream that people assumed for decades might never come true - the establishment of a four-year college in Washington County.

Back off now, please senator, before this cherished dream turns into a nightmare.

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