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A platform for moving Hagerstown ahead

February 01, 2009|By DAVID GYSBERTS

Why I am running for mayor of Hagerstown:

1. Vision and Leadership: The job of the mayor is to put forth a vision of a prosperous Hagerstown with a high quality of life for all citizens. The job of the mayor is to also set the agenda, to prioritize and to bring people to the table to get things done.

This includes getting the votes needed from City Council members to take effective actions on city priorities. This also requires getting stakeholder feedback from all members of the community. The job also entails having courageous conversations to make the necessary changes to create a 21st century Hagerstown.

2. Poverty and economic development: The City of Hagerstown, according to 2000 Census data, has a poverty rate of over 18 percent, the second highest in Maryland behind Baltimore for municipalities of more than 20,000 people.

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In order to address the underlying problem with redevelopment of downtown and the overall economic health of Hagerstown, we must address this poverty rate. Many of the folks on fixed incomes who live in subsidized housing are in a high concentration in the downtown area.

Unless and until the city creates land-use structures that allow mixed-use properties in certain areas and works with landowners and developers in the old urban core to make these things a reality, we will continue to see small businesses and restaurants come and go due to a lack of economic diversity among residents in the downtown area.

The city has begun this process through the comprehensive plan, but now we need elected leaders who will understand and implement the recommended policies effectively.

3. "One Hagerstown:" I have noticed over time, having grown up here and having a family with roots in Hagerstown that stretch back at least four generations, that many of the city's current problems regarding growth are because the city and county have not been equal partners in serving the interests of all the citizens of greater Hagerstown, nor have they had equal standards for urban development over the years.

City-county relations always seem to be negative, or icy at best, at least according to reports and as evidenced by lawsuits in the past. For decades, failure to annex properties that obtained urban services such as water and sewer has led to irrational city borders, lopsided fee and tax structures and poor planning mistakes around the periphery of "old" Hagerstown.

This poor planning and lack of cooperation and collaboration has led to deterioration in the quality of life for residents inside and outside the current city's borders. For instance, all of us could point to the places that lack adequate pedestrian access and major intersections with chronic traffic problems. I pledge to work cooperatively with county leaders to resolve these issues and more to create "One Hagerstown."

4. Good Government: These things I have mentioned are just a few of the issues that are important to me and that compel me to run for the highest elected office in the city. There are many great things already happening in Hagerstown. I pledge to build upon our strengths in order to address those areas in which we can improve and to bring good governance to the city.

I promise to change and improve the tone and image of city government. I believe, as Thoreau said, "that which governs best governs least." I do not believe only government can solve our current challenges. So I look forward to meeting the many residents and business owners of Hagerstown as I campaign throughout the city. I look forward to learning from them, listening to what is important to them and leading to put the best interests of the city and its citizens first.

I believe I have the knowledge, skills, abilities and commitment to take on these challenges and to get the job done.

David Gysberts is a candidate for mayor of Hagerstown.

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