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No one is more aware of this county's issues

February 15, 2008|By JOHN P. DONOGHUE

I have served our community for nearly 20 years. In that time, I have built relationships with neighborhood activists, business leaders, health-care providers, educators and local officials. It is my duty to understand Hagerstown's needs and provide for them when I go to Annapolis.

I know our County Commissioners are concerned about cuts in state aid; our library director would like to continue the progress in our library system; our School Board members must have the resources to educate our children and our sheriff needs to expand the detention center. The City of Hagerstown would like more than $400,000 for parks and Hagerstown Community College needs to upgrade its facilities to accommodate enrollment. The business community emphasizes the importance of transportation upgrades.

I know this, not because I sit in meetings in Annapolis, but because I have long-standing relationships here in Hagers-town that help me do my job in the House of Delegates.

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Some have said I do not understand local needs because I cannot attend every Washington County delegation meeting. At these meetings, local officials come to request state permission to change local laws.

Our local officials know best how to run the city and county and I do not consider it my role to micromanage local government. I believe they should be directly accountable to you, not to lawmakers in Annapolis.

Perhaps to the chagrin of my critics, there are times when I am the only member of our delegation who can advocate for our priorities. When the Board of Public Works met to consider school construction requests for this year, for instance, I was the only delegate from Washington County to join local school leaders to appeal for support.

I would never suggest that this means my colleagues are less interested in our schools than I, because I know our constituents expect us to work together and we all cannot be everywhere at once.

Finally, I would like to address The Herald-Mail's coverage of my relationship with Del. Chris Shank. Del. Shank and I often find ourselves on opposite sides of an issue, but we share a commitment to the people of Washington County and the State of Maryland. We approach our service in different ways, which should not minimize the contributions we make, but it can create the appearance of conflict where none exists.

Del. Shank is a dedicated and hardworking lawmaker. He is also a passionate advocate for partisan politics and tends to practice a more confrontational style of politics than most in Annapolis. From time to time, this can make it difficult for him to be effective in a legislature where his party is outnumbered by a three-to-one margin. That makes it more critical for the Washington County delegation to cooperate on local issues. I, for one, am committed to working with the senators and delegates from our region to protect our needs.

This session, I will continue my work on issues that affect all Marylanders by introducing bills on health-care access, physician reimbursement and pharmacy issues.

I will work with my friend, state Sen. Don Munson, on issues involving the City of Hagerstown State Fire Marshals and Police Department. I will seek funding for local projects such as the Maryland Theatre, the Community Free Clinic, Barbara Ingram School for the Arts, the Washington County Museum, Discovery Station and continue to fight for school funding.

Perhaps most importantly, I will work to build bridges with the governor and lawmakers from around the state - regardless of ideology or political affiliation - to make sure Washington County's interests are well-served in the General Assembly.

John P. Donoghue is a Washington County delegate.

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