A contest: What should we do in '04?

December 31, 2003|by BOB MAGINNIS

This is that time of year when many of us resolve to do things differently during the coming year. We promise ourselves we will eat less, exercise more and try not to let the pressures of everyday life keep us from seeing friends and family.

We haven't run a letter-writing contest in a while and so I thought I might ask people to share their New Year's resolutions.

But then I thought of a better idea - asking readers to think about some New Year's resolutions for The Herald-Mail's editorial page.

What are we doing now that we could do better in 2004? What should we quit doing altogether? What new feature might make this page more interesting?


Answer that question in 50 words or less and send it to New Year's contest, c/o Editorial Editor, The Herald-Mail, 100 Summit Ave., Hagerstown, Md., 21740, or e-mail to

(If you use e-mail, please put "To the editor" in the subject line.)

Entries are due Monday, Jan. 5, at 5 p.m. and the winner will be printed on Wednesday, Jan. 7. The prize will be $25 in cash or a donation in that amount to your favorite charity. Since the money comes out of my pocket, my decision will be final. All ideas will get serious consideration, however.

After seeing a recent profile of President John F. Kennedy on cable, my wife purchased a copy of his book, "Profiles in Courage," which takes a look at eight U.S. senators, including John Quincy Adams and Daniel Webster, who stood against the tide of popular opinion to do what they felt was right.

I expected the book to be a history lesson, but what I didn't expect was its extended introduction, in which JFK talks about, among other things, the art of compromise and its value in promoting progress.

Given the developments of the last few years in Washington County - the annexation lawsuits, among others - compromise seems almost like a lost art here. I recommend the book to all local office-holders, who can get a paperback copy through for less than $10.

Speaking of compromise, Hagerstown and Washington County officials have a lot of talking to do when the new year begins.

First, there's annexation policy. Even though a judge ruled that the city must provide service without any promise of annexation in those areas covered by previous agreements, he said that outside those agreed-upon service areas, the city is free to impose conditions before it hooks anyone up.

That means that if an industry decides to locate in an area where an annexation agreement could legally be enforced, a future council might just decide not to waive that requirement, even though the current one has.

Couldn't happen, you say? Making that assumption wouldn't be prudent planning for economic development.

City and the county officials also need to talk over tax differential and items like a county contribution to the parking deck needed for developer Don Bowman's project on Hagerstown's South Potomac Street. Borrowing money for this project will only get more expensive as the economy recovers and interest rates increase, which means there's no time to waste.

In a story that ran in The (Baltimore) Sun Dec. 26, Maryland Senate President Thomas V. "Mike" Miller said he is nearly certain to push through a rule change that would make it harder to filibuster a bill in an attempt to keep it from passing.

It now takes 32 of the Senate's 47 members - two-thirds - to break a filibuster. Miller wants to change that to three-fifths, or 29 votes.

That's the way the U.S. Senate has worked since 1975, Miller told The Sun, adding that with a 90-day session, two or three filibusters could bring business to a grinding halt.

Then Miller got to the heart of the matter, saying that Sen. Alex Mooney, R-Frederick, had issued a fund-raising letter in which he threatened to lead many filibusters to force Democrats to cast unpopular votes.

In Mooney, the Democrats are getting a payback for years of squelching their GOP foes. Before Miller follows through with this, he and Senate Democrats ought to consider whether they really want to cast Mooney as the champion of all the "little guys" struggling to get their views heard.

If you visit Lerner Enterprises Web site - one of the firm's many featured projects is the Corporate Office Centre At Tysons II, described as a 5 million-square-foot mixed-used development across the street from Tysons Corner Center in Fairfax County, Va.

I mention this because a group from the PenMar Development Corp., the group seeking to revitalize the old Fort Ritchie Army base, is negotiating with Lerner to become "master developer" there.

Lerner's exclusive deal to negotiate an agreement to handle all development at the old base expires tonight, but PenMar board members say they're going to keep on talking. I hope so. This is the biggest fish that I'm aware that's given PenMar a nibble. The mystery, as I've written previously, is why Lerner is interested in such a (relatively) small project.

Bob Maginnis is Opinion Page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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