Hard to believe: A Bowersless election

July 31, 2002|by BOB MAGINNIS

Odds and ends from a columnist's notebook:

For the first time in 27 years, Ron Bowers is not running for office in Washington County.

Bowers, who was appointed last year as administrator of Maryland's Property Tax Assessment Appeals Board, told me this past Sunday that on the last day to file, he went to the elections board twice to see who had filed, but wasn't tempted to put his name in again.

He was helped into his present post by state Sen. Don Munson, R-Washington, whose seat Bowers had once suggested he might seek. In April of last year, Munson told the Maryland Senate that Bowers was "a good man for this job."

Both men have a reputation for paying attention to constituent service, which reminded me of a story I heard years back about a woman who called Bowers about people hunting illegally on some property she'd purchased.


Not long after the call, the lady was surprised when Bowers showed up in person, hammer in hand, and proceeded to post "no hunting" signs for her.

But the goodwill engendered by personally handling such chores wasn't enough to win him another term in 1998, when residents were angered by the fact that the county's sewer system ran up millions in debts, triggering a series of rate hikes.

But if Bowers was wounded by the loss, he concealed it well, agreeing to appear at a 2000 "roast" held to benefit the Hagerstown Community College athletic scholarship endowment fund. More recently, he's been working to streamline the property tax appeals process and to help organize the Western Maryland Interfaith Committee.

And if Kathleen Kennedy Townsend wins the Maryland governor's race, well, for whatever it's worth, Bowers has already been to the Kennedy compound in Hyannisport. Massachusetts.

A number of readers have called to recommend an article in the August edition of the American Legion Magazine entitled "Tax me out to the ballgame."

Written by Ronald D. Utt of the Heritage Foundation, it attempts to counter the argument that professional sports facilities are good for economic development. Two new stadiums really haven't helped Baltimore make a turnaround, Utt says. However, stadium backers would probably argue that without them, things would be worse.

If you'd like to read the article and don't have a friend or relative who's a Legion member, Utt told me it would be posted Tuesday on the foundation's Web site, at

The drive to build a new home for the Hagerstown Suns is probably doomed unless there's a significant amount of private money raised to allay taxpayers' fears that they'll get stuck with the entire bill.

I still believe the best site would be on Salem Avenue, along Interstate 81, where some local officials proposed a business park on the same tract, with companies sharing parking and utilities with the new stadium and perhaps some facilities like restaurants and meeting rooms.

Eugene "Buddie" Morris, a long-time figure in Hagerstown politics, stopped by to ask that I publicize a recent report from FAIR, the Federation for American Immigration Refom. The report says that since 1994, 1.4 million illegal aliens have gained legal residence through a loophole in the law that allows them to "adjust" their status.

To read the full study, acccess their Web site

Another reader who identified himself as a union member said I should blast the retirement benefits granted to Jack Welch, the former CEO of General Electric. In March, USA Today reported that Welch was paid $16.2 million last year, owns GE stock worth $894 million and stock options worth $250 million.

Why should he get a pension, my readers asked, that pays him more in a month than the average worker makes in a year, especially when so many GE workers have been laid off?

It's not fair, but when I was researching this, it seemed that every time I found a report of an impending GE layoff, the company's stock price rose, which usually makes shareholders happy.

Welch is just a symptom of the larger problem. This is not an original thought with me, but our national obsession with the stock market has produced an economy focused on short-term gains as opposed to long-term prosperity.

And if you're focused on the short term, what's easier to do to boost stock prices than throwing employees out the door? The problem, as companies found in the merger mania of the 1980s and '90s, is that companies were laying off so many middle managers that there weren't enough people with cash left to buy what they were selling.

If it's any consolation, USA Today also reported that Welch's wife is divorcing him and suing him for half his assets. If he loses, he'll still be a very rich man, but a rich man whose personal life becomes very public.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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