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Time to lobby hard for UM campus

February 26, 2002|BY BOB MAGINNIS

In the struggle to trim Maryland's budget in an election year, the University Systems of Maryland campus proposed for downtown Hagerstown could be cut, Del. Sue Hecht told local business leaders last week. It's time for citizens to get involved in a lobbying efforts to see that it doesn't happen.

The proposal would only cost $12.4 million, not a major expenditure in most years. But this is an election year and following a year in which surpluses vanished like snow on a warm sunny day, money is in short supply, for two reasons.

The first is that lawmakers would like to give taxpayers a 2 percent income tax cut, the last installment of a 10 percent cut passed several years ago. The second is that Gov. Parris Glendening is proposing that the state pay for $70 million in projects delayed last year by borrowing more money instead of putting them on hold until revenues rebound.

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One obvious choice for lawmakers would be saying "no" to the rural areas with less political clout - like Washington County - and letting them deal with the next governor. Will the next governor be as committed to the "Smart Growth" idea that brought the campus downtown? It's hard to say.

The easier path would be to press the governor to keep his commitment to Hagerstown by gently reminding him that "Smart Growth" is his program and that he personally chose the downtown site. If it revives downtown, as many hope it will, it could be a major part of Glendening's legacy.

Two leaders in that effort should be former Hagerstown mayor Steve Sager and former Frederick mayor Ronald Young, both of whom lobbied hard for the downtown site. It's not over yet, gentlemen, so use whatever influence you have, and quickly.

As for the general public, we advise citizens to send respectful leaders to Gov. Parris Glendening, at the State House, 100 State Circle, Annapolis, Md., 21401. This is not the time to assume that someone else will do it, so please get going.

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