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Some dates to remember, if local politics is your thing

November 28, 2007|By BOB MAGINNIS

Odds and ends from a columnist's notebook:

· Next Monday, Dec. 3, is the deadline to file for a seat on the Washington County Board of Education. As this is written, only two candidates, Meredith Fouche and Russell Williams, have filed.

There are four open seats on the School Board and the incumbent members up for election include: Roxanne Ober, Bernadette Wagner, Wayne Ridenour and Donna Brightman, who was appointed to fill out the term of W. Edward Forrest.

If no other candidates file in this nonpartisan race - and assuming none of the incumbents file - there will not be a contest.

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I hope that's not the case. As I said in my Oct. 10 column, uncontested races are not good. Contested races force the incumbents to defend their records and newcomers to state how they would be better than those already in office.

This year, as we did with the contests for Washington County State's Attorney and the Washington County Sheriff, we're asking the candidates to do online chats with our readers.

The first is on Tuesday, Dec. 4 at noon, with Meredith Fouche of Sharpsburg, the first candidate to file. To participate, go to www.herald-mail.com and click on "chat" between noon and 1 p.m.

Or you may e-mail your questions in advance to onlinechat@herald-mail.com.

One question I'm sure will be asked, or certainly should be, is:

Are you satisfied with how the school system handled a recent bus incident involving a 5-year-old who was dropped off two miles from his home?

The secrecy surrounding this incident is only possible because this is a rural area. Can you imagine the Montgomery County, Md., school system announcing that it would not reveal exactly what happened if such a thing took place there? Me neither.

· Another date interested citizens should put on their calendars is Wednesday, Dec. 12.

That's when the Washington County delegation to the Maryland General Assembly is scheduled to speak to a breakfast meeting of the Hagerstown-Washington County Chamber of Commerce at the Plaza Hotel near Valley Mall.

I say "scheduled" because none of the members of the delegation attended the post-legislative forum held May 15. Del. Richard Weldon, R-Frderick/Washington, had planned to be there, but got caught in traffic.

The delegation faces some tough issues in the 2008 session. Made up mostly of members of the (minority) Republican Party, delegation members have to craft a strategy for getting what the area needs in term of school-construction and transportation funds without abandoning their GOP principles.

And the delegation's only Democrat, John Donoghue, should explain what would happen if House Speaker Michael Busch came back to him and asked him to once again introduce his bill on teacher pensions.

Introduced in the special session at Busch's request, Donoghue's bill would have added millions to Washington County's budget. Donoghue said afterward the bill was only introduced for discussion purposes.

As state Sen. Don Munson explained, the bigger counties have run teacher salaries up to the point where smaller counties can't compete. They can do this in part because the state picks up the entire "employer's share" of pension costs.

Donoghue's bill contained a formula under which the richer counties would pay more, but even if this county's proposed share were cut in half, that would still be quite a chunk of change. I look forward to Del. Donoghue's explanation of what he believes will happen in the 2008 session. For tickets to the event, call the Chamber at 301-739-2015.

· The special session called this fall by Maryland Gov. Martin O'Malley supposedly solved the state's so-called "structural deficit" of $1.5 billion, but it would surprise me greatly if there isn't some clean-up work to do in the regular session.

I have to believe local aid is still in jeopardy, as well as tip-jar gambling. On the latter, there's just too much money going through the system for the state not to stay interested. I would suggest that before the next bill is introduced, the county's gaming commission and the charities that benefit launch an education effort.

In that way, the next time someone such as Del. Shane Pendergrass, D-Howard, crafts a bill to grab some local tip-jar cash, her colleagues will have some understanding of why it's a bad idea.

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

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