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Council should interview mayoral applicants on TV

February 10, 2006

As this is being written, eight people have applied to replace Richard "Dick" Trump as mayor of Hagerstown.

While anyone who keeps up with the city's affairs knows former Mayor Robert Bruchey II and former council member Carol Moller, the other six are political unknowns.

But just because Bharat Patel, Edward F. Hood II, Jeffrey M. Coney, Ann Holtzman, Thomas Immer and Patrick "Dean" Holik are not household names doesn't mean that the citizens shouldn't get a chance to see and hear them.

We recommend that the council hear from the applicants during an open, televised session of the council.

There is a precedent for this. When previous councils replaced members who had either died or left office for other reasons, applicants for the post spoke at a public session on at least one occasion.

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During that session, we remember Lewis Metzner, now a member of the council, chiding elected officials about the manner in which they had handled labor negotiations with city police. It was an inspiring statement from a man who would join the council in October 1994.

Some of the applicants who are a mystery to many now might also have something inspiring to say. Like Metzner, one or more of the applicants might be willing to be candid with the council, even at the risk of not getting the seat.

Because council meetings are now televised, even citizens who don't attend the meeting could hear from the applicants and make their own judgments as to who might best fill the mayor's post.

We urge the council to agree to do this and to be professional and businesslike while they're doing it.

Since the election, not all of Hagerstown's elected officials have wrapped themselves in glory. Trump least of all, because he asked volunteers to work for him and citizens to give him their votes, then quit, saying he couldn't get along with the council. A serious illness or catastrophic event we could excuse, but not this.

And then there is the council. We have seen backbiting, personal agendas and one member's bland acceptance of the acting police chief's assertion that when it comes to the law, council members somehow merit special treatment.

But recognizing that things have gone wrong does not mean that we have given up the hope that this council might do great things. Its members are hard working and, though we sometimes disagree with them, in most cases they have the citizens' best interests in mind.

Part of the council's responsibility is to represent the city in a way that citizens can be proud of and to assure any prospective investor watching the meeting that this is a professional outfit worth doing business with.

To that end, we urge citizens to treat what has happened as a nightmare that has interrupted the tranquility of the community.

We recommend that citizens forgive those who have behaved badly, but hold them accountable for their future behavior. Whether the nightmare continues or becomes a dream with a happy ending now depends on all of the members of the council and the person whom they name as mayor.

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