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Time to demand a local, living wage

September 17, 2005

To the editor:

Recent whining from local Washington Countians about rising property values pricing local working people out of the home-buying market is counterproductive and obscures real reasons for local working people's inability to compete in today's markets, be it for housing or jobs.

First, education. When I first moved here to Washington County in the 1990s, I learned that only 10 percent of the parents of school-age children had college degrees.

This is absolutely unacceptable. The local refrain of "teacher got nothing to teach me I need to know; I know it already" must end. We must insist upon respect for education and support funding for quality public education as our local government's No. 1 priority.

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To set an example, as adults in this community we should take advantage of the resources of our own local community college and re-enroll to upgrade our own education and job skills instead of whining about outsiders having all the good jobs and money to out compete us. No one is too old to go back to school for skills upgrades; I was 35 when I started at my local community college and 42 when I graduated from University of Maryland.

Secondly, put an end to the talk by our County Commissioners of requiring "work force housing" from subdivision developers in their development plans. We do not need any more "Noland Villages." Better that the developers be required to pay scale wages for their labor and working people will for the first time earn the same pay checks as those who go "down the road" and workers will be able to afford to buy and build their own homes, thank you very much, Greg Snook.

In conclusion, my suggestion is to stop whining and take the following proactive steps:

1. Support public education and insist on fully funding our schools as our best hope for our children's future competitiveness.

2. Demand living wages be paid by employers in Washington County. They can afford it and have taken advantage of local labor, forcing a generation of men and women to go down the road for fair wages.

3. Support our unions and work for and vote for Democrat candidates at all levels of government. It is time to put an end to do-nothing, business as usual Republicans who are only too happy to take advantage of public apathy to gut education funding.

Until recently, our own local school board requests were routinely and severely trimmed. More recently, the governor cut funding for higher education, resulting in the University of Maryland raising tuition that prevents working families' children from attending. And President Bush cut back Pell Grants and student loan programs, further erasing an opportunity for worker families to experience the American Dream.

So Washington County, are you going to sit and whine and curse the dark, or light a candle and get to work?

Tom Niederberger
Boonsboro

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