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Nigh, Cromer don't back bus

October 11, 2005|by TIM ROWLAND

Commentary

There was a story some years back about a baseball team in which everybody hated everybody else, to the point they couldn't stand to spend any off-field time together. When the charter plane would arrive at the airport, the standard phrase was, "28 players, 28 cabs."

The only way the Hagerstown Council's magical mystery tour of the city by charter bus could have been any better is if they had six vehicles instead of just two.

Council members Penny Nigh and Kelly Cromer refused to go on the bus ride - a tour of spots that will be upcoming issues on the council's agenda - out of protest because of the cost: $684.

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It is understandable why the city had to charter a private motor coach. You look at the County Commuter buses and they are always jampacked, so obviously there was no room. And the council kids couldn't have taken a school bus because it might have accidentally dropped them off at Salem Avenue Elementary.

But why in the world would they even want to take the bus tour to begin with? I mean, this puts the council in grave danger of actually being grossly informed about an issue and having a firsthand knowledge of a situation before they discuss it. I don't think any of us addicted to Channel 6 want that.

More knowledge? Pooh. Who needs more knowledge?

So Nigh and Cromer grumpily tagged along behind the bus in their own car, keeping in touch with the main contingent by cell phone.

I will spot them this: There were probably other, cheaper methods of transportation that could have and should have been employed. And trailing along behind the coach like a couple of cubs tagging behind momma bear was an effective form of protest, because it got everyone's attention and made the front page. If a protest is what this was.

But girls, girls, girls, I have to rain on this little pajama party a little bit, because everyone knows the history. Yes, half the people will believe you were seriously riled about the exorbitant cost of $684. And if your main goal as community leader is to get a "You go girl!" or two in You Said It, then fine, mission accomplished.

(As a pre-emptive strike, let me just say to all you wags who will be tempted to call You Said It and say "Tim, great column; you go girl," I will not be amused.)

But to the other half of the population, it will look like this: You couldn't stand to condone, even implicitly, an idea that was supported by Mayor Dick Trump.

"We'll show him, we'll take our own ride; that will teach him a lesson for dancing with our dates."

Look, this is the price for being surly with the mayor at every turn. Maybe you genuinely were "disgusted" by the price of the bus, but to a lot of people, this is just going to look like sour grapes.

And you can't think the other council members are too happy about being upstaged like this. Councilman Kristin Aleshire, for one, seemed dubious that the price was the reason for the tag-team tour. He said the argument over cost or transportation mode never came up.

Besides, this $684 seems rather cheap. Last time I was at the pump, that's roughly what it cost to fill up my four-wheel drive pickup. And if it breaks your budget, all you have to do to pay for it is to raise city taxes. And I say that with the full faith and conviction of a man who no longer lives in the city of Hagerstown.

By moving, it appeared clear to me that I would no longer be subject to tax-raising whims of city councils.

Wrong.

The council recently announced it was substantially raising the fees on running water (where I grew up in West Virginia this would have been known as a "luxury tax") for people who live in the county but use city water.

Crafty lot, the council.

They know they can double our water costs, but we are powerless to do anything about it because we can't vote in city elections.

Unfortunately, I am not in a position to argue about this, because those just outside city lines have been getting a break for years by having (cheaper) city water and (cheaper) county sewer.

The second reason I can't complain is that I have just finished arguing that basically it was OK to spend tax money to charter a tour bus.

So now that I think about it, I am of the opinion that the council should have toured the city on roller skates.

Kelly and Penny? My sincere apologies. You go girls!




Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist.

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