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Those who didn't win can still help the city

May 18, 2001

Those who didn't win can still help the city



Congratulations to the winners of Tuesday's Hagerstown city election. All who ran can be proud that their campaigns stuck to the issues, avoided personal attacks and gave voters a variety of good choices. But it would be a shame if the city were to lose the input of those who were not victorious for the next four years.

What do we have in mind? Prior to 1980, the city functioned with many more citizen advisory boards than it does now. The council in office then eliminated them to streamline government, but in the process it also removed opportunities for people who were interested in government to get involved without running for office.

Those boards enabled their citizen members to see how government worked from the inside and also provided elected officials with additional ears in the community. It may be too late to return to such a system, but it should be possible to recruit good people for a variety of groups to examine vital city issues.

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Like what? The merger of city and county services needs a new look, as does the idea of building a new city business/industrial park. Other cities have had success in drawing new residents and businesses to older downtowns; a study group could look at what they did and how it could be recreated here.

Tourism needs a boost, too, from a citizen group which could explore ways to get visitors to the Antietam Battlefield to include Hagerstown in their travel plans. On a related topic, another group could look at whether renovating buildings to historic preservation standards can make property owners money, or if, as some have suggested, it's time to modify some of the rules.

An essential ingredient of this process has to be a willingness on the part of elected officials to take seriously the input they receive. Not every study has to be done by a paid consultant; some might turn out even better if they're conducted by people who have to live with the consequences of the actions that they recommend.

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