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08 Big tomatoes, Little League champs and downtown

August 05, 2008

Odds and ends from a columnist's notebook:

· Today is Aug. 5, which brings us closer to The Herald-Mail's big tomato contest.

If you have an enormous tomato, bring it to the Hagerstown City Market at 10 a.m. on Saturday, Aug. 30.

The biggest tomato (by weight) wins $50, the second biggest $25 and the third pace winner, $10. Prizes will be awarded in cash the day of the event.

The only restriction is that on the day of the contest, entries must be in edible condition. No overripe, oozing specimens, please.

The contest is a promotion for the Garden Blog, which is updated every Saturday on The Herald-Mail Web site.

If you haven't read it yet, go to www.herald-mail.com, click on "opinion" and then on "blogs." Mine is the one with the picture that looks like an angry Moses coming down from the mountain.

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Hope to see lots of folks - and their entries - at the market at the end of this month.

· Last week the Washington County Commissioners agreed to help the Federal Little League, whose 11-12 All-Stars recently won the Maryland State Tournament title and were moving on the Mid-Atlantic Regionals. On Sunday, the team won 11-4 over the Capital City League of Washington, D.C.

The only sour note came when the commissioners started second-guessing their decision to give the team $10,000 to offset expenses.

Commissioners Presdient John Barr said he'd had some phone calls that caused him to question his decision to support the grant.

Commissioner Terry Baker said his vote had been to give the team money for future expenses, not to replace money already spent.

Commissioner William Wivell voted against the cash, saying other Little League teams had not received money.

Commissioner Kristen Aleshire, who was out of the room when the vote was taken, said he didn't have a "huge issue" with the decision, but said there had been no discussion on the process.

Allow me to put this matter into perspective:

· This is the first Washington County team to win the Maryland State Tournament in 18 years.

· If the commissioners want to make a more stringent policy, perhaps they could specify that only Maryland State Tournament winners would be eligible for help.

That would assure those concerned about fiscal responsibility that Little League winners wouldn't put the county treasury in jeopardy.

The commissioners have used hotel-motel tax money to assist youth sports previously. In April 2002, the commissioners awarded $10,000 to the Hagerstown Soccer Club for site improvements to the H.B. Mellott Soccer Complex.

· The county' fiscal 2009 budget is $338.3 million and the amount of hotel/motel tax revenue that went to municipalities this year was $300,000.

The bottom line: This is a lot of baloney over a small amount of money. If somebody's going to vote against the commissioners for spending a few bucks to help a youth sports team contending for a championship, then I feel sorry for them.

It was no surprise that Hagerstown Councilwoman Kelly A. Cromer was cleared by an ethics panel of a complaint related to a traffic stop.

It was a "he said, she said" affair from the start and without more convincing evidence than the panel had available, it would be tough to determine what happened with any certainty.

It would he heartening if citizens outraged by this situation could get as irate when members of the council spend their time trying to micromanage city departments, while ignoring important policy matters.

Like what? Like finding a way to jump-start the project to bring more residents with disposable income to live in the downtown area.

With gasoline costs near $4 a gallon, downtown ought to be sold as a place where residents can walk to a variety of attractions. It's also served by public transportation, so if you want to go to the mall without firing up the gas guzzler, it's easy.

In Easton, Md., a family trying to sell their house is throwing in a Prius hybrid auto as part of the deal. No, the city couldn't afford that, but how about a one-year bus pass for everyone who buys a home for an owner-occupied dwelling?

My advice to the council: Stop concentrating on trivia and start working on the big-picture items.

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

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