Somebody has to stand up for the city

February 11, 2003|by TIM ROWLAND

According to a story in The Herald-Mail, Washington County Del. Chris Shank "took the city (of Hagerstown) to task" last week for failing to settle a lawsuit with the Washington County Commissioners.

Um, Chris? I don't know how to break this to you, but it is the County Commissioners who are suing the City of Hagerstown, not the other way around.

What in the world are you scolding the city for? They're the ones getting beaten up here.

So much for standing up for the little guy. You get the sense that if Shank saw a car hit a pedestrian, knocking him 50 feet through the air, Shank would berate the pedestrian for leaving the scene of an accident.

Hard to blame Chris, really. He represents the county and he's giving the county good representation - in the sense that O.J. got good representation from Robert Shapiro.


Of course, this begs the question: Isn't Hagerstown represented by anyone in Annapolis who can stand up and raise holy Les Miserables in the city's defense?

Hmm, let's see, I'm thumbing through my Maryland Manual here. Ah yes, here it is: Donoghue, John. Democrat. District 2 1/3. Elected 1990, member of House leadership.

Phone's ringing in his office now. Strange - no answer. Anyone heard from him lately? I'm getting worried.

We may have to send in Hans Blix to verify his existence. Maybe we can record a snippet of phone conversation as evidence: "Delegate Alibabba! The inspectors are coming. Hide Mr. Donoghue in Syria with the quickness of many camels!"

As we speak, the City of Hagerstown is getting reamed on several fronts with such blatant unfairness that you would think its delegate would be standing on his desk screaming bloody murder.

Paul Muldowney and Bob Bruchey both ran against Donoghue with the same complaint: Donoghue isn't standing up for the city's interests with anything approaching vigor.

Perchance they have a point. We all know Muldowney and Bruchey. Can anyone believe for an instant either man would have sat calmly behind his bench as Commissioner Bill Wivell had the incredible chutzpah to testify last week that the county was treating the city in a "fair and equitable" fashion?

Wivell is the luckiest person in the world that Muldowney and Bruchey didn't win, because if he'd said something that crazy in front of either one of them, he'd be looking at his lungs hanging from the chandelier.

Look, I don't even know why I feel the need to defend the city. I'm not particularly proud if it; it's just an underdog sort of thing.

And the county has all the wealth and all the cards right now. Its tax base is increasing. It can talk of such level-headed concepts as building convention centers and tunneling highways underneath airport runways.

And they've hit on a great plan: Herd all the new county housing right outside city lines. That way the county gets the tax money, but the city has to provide for sewer, water and emergency services. What's not to like?

Then, when the City Council members want to annex these communities to get a little tax revenue to pay for the sewers and water and emergency services, the county sues them.

The county also gets all the hotel-motel tax, even though half the hotels are within city lines. The county wants a new property transfer tax, but it doesn't want to give the city any of the revenue generated by houses sold inside the city.

And the delegation, and especially Donoghue and Sen. Don Munson (who represents the city, too), doesn't see anything wrong with all this? Even more curious, nothing would help Washington County more than a vibrant Hagerstown.

But then when you're busy burrowing under runways or filing bills requiring drivers to (duh) be cautious of ambulances, sometimes you are too preoccupied to see the obvious.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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