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How about a horse-racing high school?

May 24, 2000

I've started to think the problem is not the politicians, it's the voters. In Washington County, lawmakers are under fire for not bringing home enough state money. In Allegany County, House Speaker Cas Taylor is under fire for bringing home too much.

In fact, the school board there didn't want to accept $1 million for schools because they believed it came attached to some unpalatable strings.

Maybe we could trade delegations. Any three members of our delegation for Taylor and a lawmaker to be named later. Heck, if they don't like to soil their hands with local project money, Allegany County voters will positively love our guys.

And I can promise Cas, if he gets us $1 million for schools, we will absolutely, positively not turn it down. At least I don't think we will. Here, you never know.

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Here's the Allegany County school conspiracy theory - which may be complete bunk, but it leads to an idea, so stay with me:

Taylor is pushing for a horse racing track near Flintstone, just about 45 minutes west of Hagerstown. Trouble is, Flintstone doesn't have the proper utilities in place to support a track, things like water lines, sewer lines and access roads.

Meanwhile, Allegany County is in the midst of redistricting its school system, so Taylor's people suggest that Cumberland proper could do with one less school and instead perhaps one could be built in, oh, we don't know, say maybe Flintstone?

And, well, you know, ha-ha, you can't very well build a school without water lines, sewer lines and access roads, can you? And if these utilities are put in place, well, you could hardly blame another potential user from tapping in, say a large, equestrian track-like edifice.

Now if any of the above is even remotely true, I bet you are already thinking the two words that I am thinking: Multiple use.

It sort of fits Gov. Parris Glendening's concept of Smart Growth? And if the projects could share utilities, why couldn't they share actual physical structures? "Whether at school or at play, have a yabba dabba doo time at Flintstone Elementary Downs."

Horse tracks and schools already share a lot of the same equipment, such as public address systems. The infield could double as a football field, the grandstand as an auditorium and kids could buy their supplies at the $2 window. Perhaps horses could be taught to dust erasers.

Should a horse break its leg, God forbid, Lunchlady Doris would be standing by with a hacksaw.

What ag teacher wouldn't jump at the chance to teach animal husbandry at a horse track? What shop teacher couldn't use the "hands on" experience of maintaining the barns? What math teacher wouldn't relish the chance to teach algebra using real odds? What sociology teacher wouldn't long for the chance to monitor the behavioral patterns of the addictive gambler?

What criminologist wouldn't want to attend the grand opening ribbon-cutting ceremonies to study all the attending politicians? Speaking of which, it's nice to see that Glendening treated all the lawmakers to free Preakness tickets, cost to taxpayers somewhere in the neighborhood of 40 grand, or almost one-half of a Clear Spring library grant that somehow the state didn't have enough money for in the year of the $1 billion surplus.

Before, these tickets were paid for by lobbyists, but now that the state has tinkered with its ethics guidelines, that's no longer allowed. You have to admire Glendening for providing a "safety net" and initiating a new government program for state-sponsored gifts for poor lawmakers in danger of "falling through the cracks" for private-industry gifts.

Our own lawmakers took a pass on the freebie. Good for them. Perhaps they can convince the governor next year to put the money saved toward the Clear Spring library.




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist

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