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Hagerstown citizens need to vote in today's primary

March 08, 2005

In the past, The Herald-Mail has written get-out-the-vote editorials that spoke about citizens' civic duty and the sacrifices made by past generations to preserve this precious right.

Those are still true, and good reasons to vote in today's Hagerstown primary election. But there are others as well, reasons which may persuade voters to cast ballots.

After years of effort, the University System of Maryland was persuaded to locate a campus in downtown Hagerstown. This is important because of the prestige it brings to the city, but also because it provides educational opportunities that local people desperately need.

City officials have a large part to play in this effort. They must persuade students coming to the campus that downtown is not only safe, but also that there are amenities - shopping, dining and other services - for students who have an hour between classes.

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Bringing in the right mix of businesses is one key, but so is making sure that those who invest have good business plans and enough capital. Otherwise, as so many before them, these would-be entrepreneurs will close up shop, sadder but wiser, in a few months' time.

Beyond downtown, the city faces issues related to the operation of its utilities. The state of Maryland recently levied a fine related to the discharge of partially treated sewage into the Antietam Creek.

This occurred not once, but repeatedly over several years. It's imperative that the city's elected officials ensure that the plan for correcting the problem be carried out in a professional manner.

Also, in February the City Light Department revealed that because its base rate - the cost for electronic transmission - hadn't been changed in 30 years, the department had a $116,321 operating loss. If you're selling a product for less than it costs, it follows that you're going to lose money. Such things shouldn't happen.

Finally, because of rising property values, the city government will have more money to spend than it has had in several years. But whether or not it will be spent wisely depends on who is nominated today.

In the 2001 city primary, only 11.6 percent - 1,802 of the 15,454 registered voters - went to the polls. Hagerstown can do better than that today, if citizens remember that it's not only their civic duty to vote, but that it may affect the quality of their lives as well.

The polls are open from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. If you're confused about your registration, or where your polling place is, you may call the Washington County Elections Board office at 240-313-2050.

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