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City leadership should be cooperative effort

May 10, 2009|By JONATHAN R. BURRS

Admitting that we face serious fiscal problems, elevating the issue of fiscal responsibility, using honest numbers, and not perpetuating budget myths are four of the 12 principles for fiscal responsibility identified in the 2008 U.S. Budget Watch Project by the Committee for a Responsible Federal Budget. While this nonprofit organization focuses on the federal budget, the principles of fiscal responsibility can be applied to government at any level.

Fiscal responsibility is comprised of several components and can best be described as wisely managing financial resources, preparing for the future, avoiding debt and maintaining a budget wherein the expenditures incurred during a given period are matched (or exceeded) by revenues.

Clearly, Hagerstown Mayor Bob Bruchey and I share different views on what fiscal responsibility is with regard to past council decisions and, more recently, a proposed new water bill tax or fee to an already underserved and overtaxed citizenry. Furthermore, the manner in which Mayor Bruchey downplays tapping the general fund reserves for $300,000 in his editorial of April 29, (Bruchey: What fiscal responsibility means to me) without justification, overlooking serious flaws in the Springsted wage study recommendations, in addition to his prioritization and support for spending $455,000 on a half block of sidewalk on South Potomac Street, as well as other questionable decisions collectively costing taxpayers millions, in my opinion represents blatant fiscal irresponsibility.

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A little more than three years ago, I began paying closer attention to local issues and even attempted to get more involved with local government by providing input I felt would be valuable to the mayor and council on issues like the aforementioned. As a result of this involvement, my research efforts lead me to projects such as Maryland's Rural Broadband Initiative, as well as several successful revitalization projects in other parts of the country, projects that I am certain would be helpful to Hagerstown and Washington County in building a sustainable economy and simultaneously managing the growth our community continues to experience.

The Jackson Square Revitalization in Jamaica Plain, Mass., was one of the projects I stumbled upon. It was there that I learned that the Boston Redevelopment Authority required developers to implement a vision forged by more than 800 residents, which addressed issues such as: affordable housing, small-scale commercial development, and a state-of-the-art youth and family center among other things.

Hagerstown, much like the Jamaica Plain community, is home to many residents with good ideas who would love to be more involved with helping our community succeed. Two local residents, Jamie Taylor and Anthony Campello, with whom I have had the pleasure of becoming better acquainted through the exchange of ideas at various online community forums, represent the exact community involvement Hagerstown needs and deserves. It is ideas from citizens like Jamie and Tony, along with researching the efforts of the 800-plus residents who crafted the Jackson Square Revitalization Project that helped inspire my idea of creating a Mayoral Advisory Think Tank. The think tank would encourage more community participation and empower interested residents with a much-needed voice in city matters.

The Rural Broadband Communication Bill (SB753) was signed in May 2006, to bring access to fiber optic lines to all of the counties on the Eastern Shore, as well as both Southern and Western Maryland. The project was originally slated for completion in three phases: 1. Lay fiber-optic cables from Wallop's Island in Virginia up Maryland's Eastern Shore to the Chesapeake Bay Bridge. 2. Extend broadband access to Southern Maryland. 3. Install fibers from Bay Bridge to Western Maryland.

The importance of the completion of this project is immeasurable, as it directly impacts affordable broadband services for small businesses in rural areas where service is limited and expensive. It also affects the area's attractiveness for large businesses considering relocation. In 2008, Phase III of this project was in jeopardy due to lack of funding resulting from poor state oversight of the other phases and a 2007 announcement by the governor to advance $2 million to continue installation of this project from Salisbury to the Bay Bridge. This news went completely undetected by city officials, despite the direct impact to our area.

As mayor, I will give a voice to the people and be an even stronger voice for the people. I will build strong relationships with businesses, community members, county, state and federal leaders. I remain committed to staying informed on issues affecting the city either directly or indirectly, and will, in turn, relay that information to the public I serve. On May 19, make a change for the better, and write in Burrs for mayor.

Jonathan R. Burrs is a write-in candidate for mayor of Hagerstown.

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