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A misinformed public is worse than an uninformed

October 22, 2005

To the editor:

Mr. Aleshire is certainly right about one thing, a misinformed public is worse than an uninformed or worse yet an under-informed public. The information I use to produce my letters and articles basically come from two documents published over the years by our city government except where I feel a comparison with other jurisdictions is necessary; then I use the Internet to get that information. Those Hagerstown documents are titled the city's "Comprehensive Annual Financial Report" and the "City Administrator's Budget Message". These documents take months to produce and if I have misinformed the public then maybe Mr. Metzner, Mr. Aleshire and Ms Nigh should look into the accuracy of those documents or provide such additional information that is not being generally provided to the public.

The 2004 "Comprehensive Annual Financial Report" is a book of about 100 pages chock full of useful information. It is the audited documentation of the city's income, expenses, assets and liabilities such as the unfunded pension liability that grew from approximately $4.8 million in 2000 to almost $19 million as of 7/1/2003. I don't know why the 2004 financial report did not update this very big liability through the date of the report which takes about 6 months after the close of the fiscal year to complete. This document also discloses that the city has also committed to make this unfunded liability go away over a period of 23 or 33 years depending on which of the 2 city pension plans are being paid down. During this time the city must also continue to pay at least $6 million in employee benefits each year, every year. A free copy of this report can be had at City Hall by any interested city citizen.

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Aleshire claims that the "Budget Message" is a summary of a much larger document that he says I obviously skipped. This document is 29 pages long for the 2005-2006 fiscal year and is not anywhere identified as a summary of the expected revenue and expenses of the city. It would be much too boring to quote the document to refute Aleshire's recent rant published by this paper on 10/02/2005. BUDGET SUMMARY?? Where in the "City Administrator's Budget Message" are those perusing it directed to other information necessary to properly interpret it? I direct Aleshire's attention to that portion of the document entitled "THREATS THAT CANNOT BE OVERLOOKED" and specifically the statements made there and direct any interested city citizen to go to the City's Website and view the document for themselves or get a free copy down at City Hall. You can also view both of the above documents at the government room of the public library. You can draw your own conclusions from these documents.

I have never claimed to have all of the answers to the city's problems as Aleshire avers. I do believe that I have merely pointed out that the light at the end of the tunnel could be the oncoming train that the past several administrations have ignored. The present administration seems to be more interested in fighting amongst themselves than solving any problems. That is why I have suggested dissolving the city charter instead of the alternative of becoming an independent city and making the county tax go away if such a remedy even exists in Maryland as it does in Virginia.. The city would also receive all of the other taxes such as the income tax generated that the city must beg the county to share with it.

Aleshire identifies the last three letters/articles that I wrote to point out what I felt was terribly wrong and that the immediately past and the present administrations were providing misinformation by failing to fully inform the public The only defense I have to that charge is that if I have misinformed anyone it is because the documents provided by the city itself contained that misinformation.

The voter participation in the elections was appalling. I did not call the public appalling just the voter turnout. I was truly shocked that Aleshire, Lew Metzner and Penny Nigh were reelected. Aleshire then goes on to argue that they did not sell out to the county and cites four years of litigation over the city's annexation policy as the proof. Litigation against a public corporation is usually the result of a poorly written or a badly implemented policy, done correctly there is nothing to litigate. If you will recall the county maintained that the city had gone back on the annexation agreement reached years earlier and I recall that the court at least partially agreed with the county. The city's own census figures show that I am correct in saying the growth over the last 20 years has averaged 6 persons per year in the city, which unlike Aleshire's projection of 10,000 over the next 10 years, is a real number not a guesstimate. Remember the city's enthusiastic guesstimates for the paper plant and ice rink that never did pan out.

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