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Local leaders must follow judge's lead

December 05, 2002

Washington County Circuit Judge Fred Wright's Tuesday statement that took the county commissioners to task for their lawsuit against the City of Hagerstown was no surprise.

Judge Wright is a man of principle who has served the community for decades, not only on the bench, but in support of worthy groups that assist those in need. However, his decision to speak out prompts the question: Where has everybody else been?

Wright's statement came as he was officiating at the swearing-in cermeony for the new board of commissioners, whom he urged to govern in the spirit of cooperation and not of blame. When considering the interests of the county, do not exclude Hagerstown and its residents, he said.

Like an Old Testament prophet, Wright called Washington County a "self-gratifying community" where a "blame someone else, take you to court" mentality prevails.

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He then suggested that it was up to the leaders of the community to set the tone and urged them to "act for the community interests of all and not the few."

Can anyone disagree with such statements? Probably not, but many will be tempted not to get involved. Instead, groups like the Greater Hagerstown Committee and the Hagerstown/Washington County Chamber of Commerce should publicly endorse Wright's remarks.

Doing that may be difficult, but continuing this dispute will not only prevent future cooperation on projects to cut both governments' costs, but it will also tell potential new businesses that this is a community that doesn't have its act together.

That's the wrong message to send. Those who care about this county should push to get the two sets of elected officials to the table. Once there a mediator can help them reach an agreement that neither side will view as perfect, but which both sides can live with.

To accomplish that, we urge elected officials to decide what's essential and not insist that every issue be solved at once. After the first one is done, the next will be much easier.

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