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City did some things right with its $800 holiday party

June 14, 2007|by TIM ROWLAND


Looking over the Hagerstown City Council's Christmas party menu, I'm thinking they probably could have made do without the fruit tray.

That would have saved the taxpayers $75 bones.

You know how fruit trays go. You eat a dozen Bries with honey and toasted almonds, eight Swedish meatballs and half a log of that pancetta roll - and then you poke a toothpick into one measly cube of melon because "I'm watching what I eat."

Then they stuff the fruit tray into the office fridge and haul it out the next day all wilted and stuff, when even the fruit flies won't touch it, and sit it on the file cabinet where the only takers are in the tech department working on the theory that maybe honeydew can cure hangovers.


Some have criticized the council's $800 Christmas party - exposed in a Herald-Mail report earlier this month - as a waste of taxpayers' dollars. But not me.

It's only a waste if it didn't get eaten. The starving city council members in Calcutta would be glad to have it. And further, I applaud the city for not ordering a vegetable tray. Vegetable trays really tick me off for some reason.

At least fruit is easy to chew. To my mind, there's a fine line between a vegetable tray and a compost heap. Worse, there's always one miserable person at the office party who insists on nibbling only on the raw broccoli and carrot sticks just, I suspect, to try to make themselves feel superior.

This side of a woodchuck, who eats raw celery because they want to? Especially with all the other good stuff hanging around - in the city's case, shrimp, crab puffs, crab balls and asparagus wrapped in smoked turkey.

And to paraphrase Bart Simpson, "Eat around the asparagus, dad, it's just empty vitamins."

The party was held at a nice downtown restaurant. I know it's nice because my friend Beth and I ate there not long ago where, me being me, I felt compelled to get involved in a long, philosophical discussion with the waitress over the distinction between a crab puff and a crab ball. I don't exactly remember what the difference is, but it seemed important at the time that I know.

But this brings up a bigger point and another reason I congratulate the city on the party: It may be the only known case of this council overtly supporting a downtown business in the past 2 1/2 years.

Hey, one step at a time.

Which begs the question, does the council know that this particular establishment serves martinis and wine and beer and - oh, never mind.

But personally, as a taxpayer, I don't mind chipping in. It's Christmas for council members and their staff, too, and heaven knows it's a job I wouldn't do for all the crab balls in Dundalk.

What offends me is that I - one of the great champions of the City of Hagerstown - wasn't invited. That doesn't make sense. They can't be worried about ethics. I'm a columnist. We columnists have the same opinion of ethics that a luna moth might have of a lawn chair.

And every time the city has a blood drive, I get notified, sure as the dickens. I don't go, but I get notified. So if there's a party, I'd at least like the option of turning it down.

But the council may want to keep its own office party in mind the next time it raises such a stink over spending a couple of Benjamins just so a community-service organization can buy a few stinkin' Rice Krispie squares and Hi-C. You can't be criticizing taxpayer-funded refreshments for the Building Communities racial harmony group when your own mouth is filled with shrimp cocktail.

So here's an idea that's totally nuts: This Christmas, forget the $800 - spend $1,800 and invite people such as Mike Deming, Don Bowman, people who are supporting the arts, schools and race relations and are actually working for the betterment of downtown - you know, the ones who aren't looking to shoot down every idea that comes along.

They're worth a crab puff or two. But if they go for the cumber and ranch, I'm out of the deal.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. He can be reached at 301-733-5131, ext. 2324 or via e-mail at You can listen to his podcast, The Rowland Rant, on

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