A holiday miracle and some angry feedback from readers

November 30, 2005|by BOB MAGINNIS

They say this is the season for miracles and on Friday, one happened right here at The Herald-Mail.

It wasn't accompanied by a flash of light or a thunderclap, but it was an amazing occurrence nonetheless.

After reading my Thanksgiving Day column about the anonymous small-business man who handed me $2,000 to give away to letter-writers, a gentleman came to our offices.

They called me up to the front desk and the man, whom I've never met, gave me a $100 bill and asked me to add it to the total.

If you missed the Nov. 24 column, the idea was to write a letter describing, in 100 words or less, how you would use $100 to make a better Christmas for someone in need.


Courtesy of our anonymous donor, winners will also receive a copy of "Daily Readings from 'Your Best Life Now'" by Joel Osteen, pastor of a large church in Houston, Texas.

The deadline for letters is Tuesday, Dec. 6, at 5 p.m. Write to: A Better Christmas, c/o Editorial Page Editor, The Herald-Mail, 100 Summit Ave., Hagerstown, MD 21740.

Thanks to our anonymous donor for inspiring someone else to join in the spirit of the season.

My attempt to broker a peace between those who oppose a new Washington County Hospital and those who favor the idea drew some adverse reaction on Monday.

If you didn't read my Nov. 27 column, I proposed that J. Michael Nye, who leads a group opposed to the plan, sit down with me and hospital officials. If they can convince him their plan is sound, he says he will withdraw his opposition.

He may only be one person, but if the Washington County Board of Zoning Appeals grants an exception to the hospital, Nye could appeal to the courts.

That could take some time, during which the cost of many things could increase, including building materials, medical equipment and borrowing the millions needed to fund the project.

In the column, I noted that Nye is not a perfect person, which ticked off some readers.

John Colson of Hagerstown write to say that "your characterization of Mr. Nye in Sunday's editorial guarantees that any statement or proposal he makes will be ignored, derided or denounced as the mutterings of a malcontent."

Colson said I need to be an equal-opportunity critic, taking on hospital CEO James Hamill as well.

"How soon will we read your editorial of Mr. Hamill's ... reneging on the promise to not build a high-rise at Robinwood? Of his arrogance in ignoring zoning procedures? Of his high-handed dismissal of traffic congestion and construction issues? Of his contempt in dealing with the neighborhood's concerns? Of his conceit in turning a blind eye to water/sewage issues?" Colson wrote.

He added, "These are all issues and adjectives that easily could be applied to Mr. Hamill, but we don't see them in your pages."

Another writer, who declined to be quoted in this column, said I had abused my position as an editor of The Herald-Mail and that if I could not keep my personal bias out of the newspaper, perhaps I should get another job.

Like Colson, this writer said that I should have criticized Hamill as well as Nye.

After these two broadsides, I e-mailed Nye to see if he felt my column went over the line.

His reply, in part, was: "I'm not offended and understand and applaud what you're attempting to do."

Obviously, I did not make my intent clear to everyone and for that I apologize. Let me try again.

Because of the zoning law, anyone who testified in opposition before the Board of Zoning Appeals can file an appeal if they don't like the BZA decision.

Nye testified and based on numerous conversations with him, he strongly believes he is correct - that the project is unaffordable and road upgrades will not be done prior to the opening of the new hospital.

Nye's position may be unreasonable - and I want to hear his entire explanation and hospital officials' reply before I form my opinion on that - but he has the power to throw a wrench into this project.

Years ago, when the hospital built its parking deck on Antietam Street, there was an elderly woman who refused to sell her home for the project. The hospital negotiated, but she wouldn't budge and officials ended up altering their plans for the deck.

Nye is like that woman - one person who has the power to hold up the new hospital, unless he's convinced that he's wrong.

If hospital officials meet with Nye and me and fail to convince him but do convince me, I will write that. I hope those who favor this project will try to persuade hospital officials that making an effort to deal with this now is in the community's best interests.

Bob Maginnis is editorial page editor of The Herald-Mail newspapers.

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