Letters to the Editor - Dec. 18

December 16, 2011

Pedestrian plaza could revitalize downtown

To the editor:

In recent months, there have been several thoughtful letters to the editor regarding the revitalization of Hagerstown's downtown. As a concerned city resident, I have long been attracted to the idea of creating a pedestrian plaza downtown as one of the means to this needed revitalization.

It is not without such a pedestrian space that cities like Baltimore, Frederick and even New York City have helped their cities remain attractive to the populace. In New York City, at Times Square, the city government has created a rather sizable pedestrian plaza for a few blocks around that area. Closer to home, for those of us who have enjoyed the Inner Harbor in Baltimore, it is not too many decades ago that that harbor area was very unattractive and uninviting. Creating a pedestrian plaza has made that area beautiful, and it remains an attractive space for tourists, residents, boaters and businesses.

Frederick is the closest Western Maryland city that has created a welcoming pedestrian place that has helped do wonders for the Frederick community.

In Europe, small and large cities have done the same thing to different degrees. Copenhagen has a wonderful pedestrian area. They have closed main streets and redeveloped them into an incredible walking/shopping/entertainment/business/ residential and food/beverage area. The "Straget" is very long, wide and beautiful.

The same is true in the small Bavarian town of Bad Reichenall, Germany. If my memory serves me, it is perhaps three blocks long and very nice, featuring a water course, fountains, benches and trees/greenery, and inviting illumination at night. Such pedestrian plazas are in many, many hundreds-of-years-old towns and cities throughout Europe.

I would like to ask Hagerstown's leaders to offer county residents and tourists alike a vibrant "city for the people" as a vision, and create a strategic plan that will help realize that vision. Hagerstown has some very historic buildings featuring attractive architectural design, but I am afraid it is sorely unappreciated by most people. With the developing of a wide, accessible, attractive pedestrian area, I think downtown will begin to revive.

I realize this is just one element of the total revitalization, but I think it would be a huge step in the right direction.

Torben Aarsand


Give the gift of blood this holiday season

To the editor:

The holidays are about memories, reliving old ones and making new.

Think back to your childhood. Can you recall receiving what you thought was the perfect gift? You might still have it or it might be long gone. Although it's a happy memory, was it the perfect gift?

Ask a cancer survivor or a trauma victim to describe the perfect gift, and many would tell you the perfect gift doesn't come in a box. It's a lifesaving blood donation.

Blood is often needed for traumas, heart surgeries, joint-replacement surgeries, organ transplants, premature babies, leukemia, cancer treatments and much more. Since there is no substitute for human blood, these patients rely on volunteer blood donors to provide the blood products they need to survive.

When you donate blood, you give the perfect gift — another hug, another laugh, another smile, another chance — to someone in need of blood.

Think outside the box this holiday season. The perfect gift is at your nearest American Red Cross blood drive or blood donation center. And, unlike the latest fashion trend, video game or golf club, the perfect gift costs nothing but an hour of your time.

Give the perfect gift and help a family member, friend or someone you've never met unwrap a lifetime of memories.

For more information or to make an appointment to donate, visit or call 1-800-RED CROSS.

John A. Hagins, chief executive officer

American Red Cross, Greater Alleghenies Blood Services Region

Garagiola has supported state tax hikes

To the editor:

I want to thank state Sen. Chris Shank for echoing in his Nov. 9 letter some of the points I have been making about the record of my state senator and congressional opponent Robert Garagiola. But Shank leaves out details.

In 2008, Garagiola led the opposition to my Ficker Charter Amendment, which required all nine votes of the Montgomery County Council for the council to increase property tax revenues more than the rate of inflation. The Ficker Amendment passed countywide and in District 15, where Garagiola and I live, by a 56 percent to 44 percent margin.

In the 2007 special session, after I testified in Annapolis against the 20 percent increase in the state sales tax, Garagiola was the deciding vote in a 24-23 state Senate vote approving the 20 percent sales tax hike, the 18 percent corporate tax increase, the 20 percent car tax hike, and a new computer tax and higher state income tax.

In 2008, Garagiola led the effort to repeal the computer tax he had voted for and to replace it with a (2007-08 combined) 52.6 percent increase in the top state income tax bracket.

Then, in 2010, Garagiola's campaign piece mentioned only his opposition to the computer tax, not the fact that he had previously voted for it. Nor did he mention his opposition to the successful Ficker Amendment nor his support for sales, corporate, car and income tax increases.

Garagiola was indeed, as Shank says, the prime sponsor, earlier this year, of a 10 cents-per-gallon tax gas hike bill. But he was also the lead sponsor of legislation creating the Blue Ribbon Transportation Commission which issued a report calling for a 15 cents/indexed for inflation gas tax hike. There was no dissenting or minority opinion in the report. And Garagiola had himself appointed as one of only two legislative members of the commission.

I agree the Transportation Trust Fund, if we stop raiding it, needs more funds. But get the money from the existing local government speed cameras on state roads, new slots revenue, the new alcohol tax and by increasing the 5.8 percent of the state sales tax revenues that goes to transportation.

Robin Ficker

Boyds, Md.

Love and grace are gifts from God

To the editor:

NOEL — Night Of Everlasting Love!

This is the night when God sent His son down to Earth with this love. The star in the East shone down to a lowly manger where the baby Jesus lay. Our Lord and Savior came to show us how to love and live, and then gave His life, a sacrifice for our redemption. This love and grace is a gift from God, if only we just accept it.

I can't imagine living in a world without Christmas, Easter, Valentine's Day and Thanksgiving. These events are here because our Lord came to Earth with this spirit that is in us, that makes us want to celebrate our Christian way of life with family, friends and exchanging greetings with cards and gifts.

Now, of course, not all people are Christians, so they wouldn't miss it maybe, because they never experienced it like we have all our lives. However, some people may enjoy these events as holidays, not realizing the real meaning behind it. This is sad, but I think it could be possibly true if they don't believe in Jesus. The Holy Spirit that Jesus left with us to live within us is proof that the everlasting love will never die.

This is the love I am writing about today.

Jack Myers


Inmates' work with dogs is a labor of love

To the editor:

The Hagerstown prisons have gone to the dogs, literally. Dogs are being housed, trained, and shown love and care, some for the first time in their lives, here at Roxury Correctional Institution.

I watch them outside my window, and I see the intensive therapy given to the poor animals that have been used, abused and abandoned. People can truly be cruel, but isn't it nice that those who once were labeled the "bad guys" are now turning themselves around and helping the helpless dogs.

I hope others feel as I do and give kudos to the administration and those inmates involved for making use of inmate labor for such time-consuming work, a labor of love.

Rocky Hines

RCI, No. 176-059

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