Teen births, an invite to write and a gentle lady's passing

February 14, 2007|by BOB MAGINNIS

Odds and ends from a columnist's notebook:

If a young person you know has an interest in video, still photography or graphics, there is still time for them to compete for more than $5,000 in a prizes in a contest sponsored by the Washington County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Task Force.

The contest is open to Washington County residents aged 13 to 21 and is designed to promote the theme "Sex Has Consequences."

You can produce a print ad, a 30-second video or a 10-minute short film.

First-place winners in each category will receive $1,000 apiece, second-place winners $500 and third-place winners, $250.

The deadline for entries is March 23. For more on the contest rules and directions to a Web site with winners for similar contests elsewhere, go to


Over the past several years, I have interviewed teen mothers, health officials and others working on this problem and have come to this conclusion: This is not just a personal problem, but a community issue.

Caring for the children of teen mothers costs the taxpayers money and not just when children are in the infant stage. Such children are more likely to be neglected and abused, to engage in substance abuse and have encounters with the justice system.

All of these cost taxpayers money. Without intervention, the culture that believes that giving birth at age 16 or younger is OK will thrive, as will the culture of poverty such behavior reinforces.

A high teen-pregnancy rate is not a statistic Washington County needs on a state report when new companies come calling. Nor are those new job-providers likely to find the educated workers they need if young mothers fail to go on to college and raise children for whom higher education is a foreign concept.

The task force running the contest said it might take five years to change the local culture. I hope the community treats that as a figure to beat.

By the time you read this, the fate of Hagerstown's Tusing Warehouse should be sealed. If not, city residents need to ask why it has taken years to get this old warehouse back onto the tax rolls. In fact, they should ask that question anyway.

Maybe it's time to revive Mayor Robert Bruchey's idea of bringing in a development specialist who would be paid only on commission, so if nothing happened, then that person wouldn't get paid.

During the recent meeting between the Hagerstown City Council and the Washington County Commissioners, Commissioner James Kercheval extolled the value to the so-called 2-plus-2 sessions, in which two members of the council and two commissioners meet to discuss local issues.

Aside from any other benefit, Kercheval said the sessions have the value of allowing the participants to tell each other what happened since their last meeting.

And then he said, as opposed to what you read in the newspaper.

We extend again to Commissioner Kercheval and other elected officials an invitation to write letters describing important matters of which they feel citizens should be made aware.

I and many others were saddened to read of the passing of Margaret Callas, wife of former state delegate Peter Callas. This former educator was a gentle and charming lady who endured years of illness without complaint and always made people feel she was genuinely happy to see them. She will be missed.

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

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