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Team has one goal in mind: Better city government

April 03, 2005|by Art Callaham

Recently, in writing and verbally, several people have accused the Friends of Hagerstown Political Action Committee of attempting to "buy seats" on the City Council, and of "hand picking" a slate of candidates.

They have characterized the Friends of Hagerstown as "outsiders" and suggested that support of alternative candidates is motivated by a desire to "increase their own personal wealth." Even a current City Council member got into the act by warning a candidate that "the PAC will come after you" if you lose the election.

These accusations are drivel at best, falsehoods at worst, and an insult to many who sincerely strive for the improvement of our community.

Therefore, who and what are the Friends of Hagerstown? First, let me deal with who. The Friends of Hagerstown is made up of dozens of citizens who have committed financial support for a change in city government. To date, the PAC has raised more than $40,000. Current contributions range from $10 to $4,000 and include $100 contributors, $300 contributors, $500, $1,000 and $2,500 contributors. The financial supporters include sales professionals, administrators, health care professionals, teachers, lawyers, business owners, developers, builders, retired people, young people and almost any category you can name.

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The contributors are a diverse group of city and county residents, but what they all share in common is a sincere desire for good government for its citizens and to see the city of Hagerstown prosper.

In addition to those who have given financial support are literally hundreds of other people who make phone calls, wave signs, write campaign material, knock on doors and press the Friends of Hagerstown's agenda. In addition, the candidates on the "Vision for Hagerstown" team are personally raising money, recruiting supporters, making phone calls, writing campaign material, knocking on doors, and pressing their own personal agendas.

Now, what do the Friends of Hagerstown stand for? The overall objective of this movement is to elect a group of candidates for mayor and Hagerstown City Council that will give the city good government. Yes, you may read into that statement that many citizens believe that the current mayor and city council provide the city with less than good government.

Under the objective of good government, the Friends of Hagerstown support the following specific goals: 1. Holding the line on the city's property tax rate. 2. Improving cooperation and communications between the city, county and state governments. 3. Better health care for the community. 4. An aggressive annexation policy to allow the city to grow in both geography, population and tax base. 5. Fixing the sewer problems, including making the system redundant, to prevent spills into Antietam Creek.

Each of these goals speaks to issues that have been on the table for the current city administration for all or the better part of the last four years. Property tax rates have increased every year, along with fees for city services. Communications and cooperation, particularly between the city and the county, are at all time lows.

Bickering and foot-dragging continue in the health care arena. Little annexation has occurred and the sewer system remains broken and under a state-imposed consent order. Council meetings are frequently characterized by a lack of civility and common courtesy and are increasingly used for election campaigning. This is not good government.

The Friends of Hagerstown believe that the Vision for Hagerstown team - Dick Trump for mayor, and City Council candidates Ruth Anne Callaham, Pastor Haru Carter, Scott Hesse, Dan Kennedy and Tory VanReenen will bring good government to Hagerstown and have adopted, in more specific statements, the goals discussed above.

Therefore, the Friends of Hagerstown have committed themselves to aggressively support the team's candidacy.

The Friends of Hagerstown is not a secret organization of developers seeking to "go after" anyone. The Friends of Hagerstown is a group of concerned citizens willing to support a team of candidates that will bring good government to the City of Hagerstown.




Art Callaham is a financial contributor to the Friends of Hagerstown and a resident of the City of Hagerstown.

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