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The sky is not falling on City of Hagerstown

October 02, 2005|By Kristin Aleshire

After debating with myself for some time over whether to respond to Tom Immer's incessant inaccuracies, I decided that some corrections were in order. That's not because I wish to engage in some contest with him, but because a misinformed public is worse than an uninformed public, a base which Immer appears to depend on. Of the past three letters, Immer has increasingly demanded that those who choose to run for and hold public office acknowledge what he sees as their follies. Though he believes he has all the answers to local government's problems, he doesn't actually ever implement such knowledge that may better the community he has so easily and endlessly pointed a finger at over the past 20 years.

Letter No. 1, written just after the election, called the public appalling for its voter turnout and said he was shocked that the voters returned to office three members that sold out the city to the county. He must have slept through the last four years of legal challenges to annexation policy. He leads the public to believe that runaway growth is a farce because census shows only a six-person-per-year growth rate in the city over the past 20 years. He fails to mention the fact that rising growth will increase the city population by more than 10,000 people over the next decade. I guess he expects us to pretend that isn't happening. He claims that excess sewer capacity went to county growth, failing to state the fact that inflow and infiltration (I&I) problems are the main cause of loss of capacity or that the city reversed such policies and increased funds to reduce I&I. He complains that we have failed to claim our fair share of growth around our borders and in the next breath calls annexation a no-win for the city.

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In Letter No. 2, written after his review of the budget summary, the Cliff's Notes of a much larger document he obviously skipped, he proclaims that said document was predicting the sky would fall and nothing short of abolishing the city would save us. Immer contends that the average city employee makes too much money, knowing that even with such current salaries, most city workers could not afford a home in the better neighborhoods. Then he accuses the city of ignoring this doomsday warning by hiring 11 positions on the taxpayers' dime. He fails to mention that most, if not all, of those positions are funded by fees on new development that did not exist before this council took office.

He points to the 9.4 percent spending increase in the budget, but conveniently fails to elaborate on where the funds are generated from or where the money is spent just as he arbitrarily assumes and expects the public to believe that the $4.93 million in expenses above revenue assumes there is no revenue to account for it.

Letter 3 was written just after I accused Immer in a public session of misrepresenting the budget summary to the public in Letter 2.

However, it is plain that the budget message did not include a representation of "dereliction," "loss of any hope," or "lack of accomplishment" as Immer would have you believe. Rather, it provided guidance, as it should, to those things we should be actively pursuing to resolve as public servants. This takes actual participation from those willing to step forward, rather than "watchdogs for life" such as Immer who continually complain from the sidelines. I deny the manner in which you claim to represent such opinions as fact. So don't be flattered by my response. It won't happen again.

Kristin Aleshire is a member of Hagerstown City Council.

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