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A wish list for the city

September 02, 2005

During a goal-setting meeting on Tuesday, the Hagerstown City Council worked on developing a wish list of items to improve life in the municipality.

Many good ideas were discussed, but most of them - a new subdivision ordinance and a check of employee compensation - involve the nuts and bolts of city government.

Let us suggest that some other items that should be on that list or that some that are there now have a higher priority They include:

- Finding a way to avoid raising city property taxes again. When the council passed a 1.9 percent increase in 2004, it was the fourth jump in four years.

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No increase was passed this year, but with property assessments soaring, tax bills went up anyway.

The city cannot reasonably expect to attract residents or businesses unless it finds ways to cut costs, either through greater efficiency or consolidating services with the county government. It must be a priority.

- Work with groups such as Destination Hagerstown to find a "destination attraction" for downtown. Building market-rate housing or renovating rundown properties in downtown to attract people with disposable income is one key, but without foot traffic, downtown won't thrive.

With gasoline prices rising, people from the metropolitan areas will be looking for activities they can drive to in a day. Downtown needs to fulfill that need.

- With all the renovation going on, lower-income city residents are going to be pushed out of their dwellings, as rental properties are converted to owner-occupied homes or upgraded into more pricey apartments. Solutions for the working poor should be part of the city's planning efforts.

- Craft a better relationship with the county government. So far, the so-called 2-plus-2 committee, consisting of two county commissioners and two council members, has improved relationships, but aside from the county contribution to South Potomac Street parking deck, not much else.

City officials need to convince their county counterparts that additional cooperation is not only beneficial, but essential.

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