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George Michael: It will never be enough

February 03, 2012|By GEORGE MICHAEL

Is it really the goal of the Plan Maryland initiative to wage “war” on our part of the state as well as on Southern Maryland and the Eastern Shore? Or do we believe the testimony last week of Maryland Planning Secretary Richard Hall that Plan Maryland is simply “a coordination plan for existing state programs?”

With officials of the O'Malley administration in charge, there is good reason for those of us in Western Maryland to be concerned. Liberal elites like our governor pride themselves on knowing what is best for the “little people.” Big government proponents are driven to bring control over citizens’ lives in myriad ways that they like to pass off as “planning.”

One of the shocking laws proposed last year and likely coming up for a vote in one form or another this year is limits on new septic systems in our state. At first, I found it hard to believe that such a measure was even proposed.  But then, I remembered, I live in Maryland.  

We are also facing a 100, 200 or 300 percent increase in the flush tax. Pick a number. It will never be enough. If the fee is only doubled this year, expect it to come up again.

In addition, we have the recent law requiring that new homes in Maryland must include a sprinkler system unless counties decide to opt out. Currently, the law does not allow anyone to be exempt for modular, pre-fab homes. If allowed to stand as is, we can expect the law to be expanded to make sure no one can opt out. Obviously, our officials do not believe that builders and homeowners can be trusted to decide on their own if the extra costs of sprinklers is worth it. 

The typical strategy of the O'Malley administration is to pass a law with limited application, ensuring less opposition. But once it’s done, it opens the door for ongoing expansion and application of the law. After all, our pompous state officials know what is best for everyone.

Granted, none of these specific laws is directly the by-product of Plan Maryland. But the same administration that is boasting of the plan’s merits is the same political segment supporting all of the new initiatives. It is part of their DNA. 

Last week, The Herald-Mail published a story about the $95 million dollar railroad and freight facility being built in Greencastle by Norfolk Southern. This facility will generate new jobs for Franklin County, allowing perhaps 650 trucks a day to drop off and pick up containerized freight for trains. Good job, Franklin County. Good jobs for Franklin County.

I suppose some residents in Washington County will work at the new facility and our truck stops and restaurants will benefit from the increased truck traffic on I-81. But we will never know what might have been if the facility were built in Washington County. Surely, it would have added a nice slice to our county’s tax base. 

And it begs the question: Does our big government and its strict planning initiatives drive off such companies? Do we really want jobs in Maryland as we say we do?

Gov. O’Malley likes to brag that we have only a 6.7 percent unemployment rate in Maryland, well below the national average. He likes to take credit for it. All the federal employees in the counties surrounding Washington, D.C., are the real reason we look so good. And never mind what it is costing taxpayers to fund this bloated bureaucracy.  

Wasn’t Hagerstown a big railroad town at one time? Why did Norfolk Southern decide to build its new intermodal facility nearby in Pennsylvania instead of in Maryland?

While our county has some great features and great people, would leaders of companies like this say to themselves, “Maryland is just the place I want to live?”

“I will be glad to move into the designated high-density, urban growth zones. I will pay the extra costs for my home sprinkler system. I will happily pay the flush tax. I will be glad to pay the new 38.5-cents-a-gallon gas tax.

“I don’t mind the inflated property values and property taxes associated with the tight zoning requirements with fewer home choices available, because I just love the business outlook of the Maryland governor and the Plan Maryland officials.”

I think not.

Our governor has presidential ambitions, and his initiatives are meant to shore up his “green movement” credentials. It’s left the rest of us feeling blue.

George Michael, who lives in Williamsport, is a former principal of Grace Academy. His email address is gfmichael46@gmail.com.

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