Letters to the Editor - May 12

May 11, 2012

Candidate apologizes for statements made in error

To the editor:

I would like to formally apologize to Mrs. Cindy Kauffman and her husband, Mayor Skip Kauffman, for incorrectly claiming recently that the mayor had "appointed his wife" to the position of town council. Another town council member brought it to my attention that this was not, in fact, the case. The mayor had removed himself from the voting of the seat that was vacant the year Mrs. Kauffman was appointed.

In addition, in the subsequent election, Mrs. Kauffman was the top vote-getter and won outright. I should have done more due diligence in learning the full facts of the election that year, and it has been a hard and valuable lesson to learn.

I also want to thank Mrs. Kauffman and Mayor Kauffman for being so gracious to me when I apologized in person on election day. I was humbled by their generosity.

I would also like to thank former councilman Rich Hawkins for his kindness and time the night of the election and for his 20-plus years of service to the town of Boonsboro.

I hope I can work to gain the respect of Mayor and Mrs. Kauffman and Boonsboro's governing body as well as the residents of the town of Boonsboro for whom it will be an honor to serve.

Sean Haardt

Christians not 'hiding' but standing on Bible's truth

To the editor:

Leonard Pitts challenged us recently to watch Matthew Vines' presentation "The Gay Debate." As a Christian, I felt I should at least hear the argument.  What I heard was a 21-year-old gay man who wants Christians to believe homosexuality is not sin. 

Through manipulation of scripture and emotional appeal, he tries to make the case the Bible is not saying the caring relationship of a monogamous homosexual union is against Christianity's teachings. Yet, with all of his assertions, his argument falls completely short.

He states Leviticus has become inapplicable to Christians today. It was meant to be rules and customs for Jews from which the New Testament has exempted Christians. He gives examples of food eaten, clothes worn, etc., to show how we largely ignore these teachings. If we do here, shouldn't we as well with homosexuality? He doesn't discuss the many Jews who still follow these customs and rules. That might complicate things.

He looks at Paul's teachings in Romans and states this has to do with customs and idolatry and isn't meant to forbid loving relations of gays today. Don't dwell on the fact that Vines is biased as a gay man with cause to solicit in favor of his own feelings when so many others disagree.

Pitts used the term "slicing and dicing" of Vines' exercise. He certainly did that. Yet, this does not have to do so much with human freedom as Pitts states, but with the justification of sin. Should we be "free" to do whatever we please? Explaining thousands of years of Christian belief is wrong because gays today feel differently does not make homosexuality right and does not mean Christians who disagree are "hiding" in the Bible, but rather standing upon its truth.

Michael J. Dix
Greencastle, Pa.

Baseball died in Hub City when Orioles left

To the editor:

"The economic impact of a minor league team is not sufficient to justify the relatively large public expenditure necessary for a minor league stadium," writes Arthur T. Johnson in "Minor League Baseball and Local Economic Development."

In the book, Johnson examines 15 minor league stadiums (only one of which was examined in the Ripken study) finding that the economic impact of a minor league team is likely to be minimal. Time and time again, he finds minor league baseball stadiums have overpromised and underdelivered on direct economic development benefits.

Let's ignore the success story of Greenville, S.C. (population 1.2 million), which has been touted by this newspaper and look for a minor league baseball stadium case study closer to home.

Johnson writes in the story of the Class A Frederick Keys, "The Carolina League chose to operate in Frederick rather than in Hagerstown because it was a better fit geographically. Frederick [...] promised a larger market area and a new stadium." After years of poor attendance in Hagers-town, the Keys drew more fans than any other Class AA or Class A team during their second year (1991) at Harry Grove Stadium. The primary reason that the Keys have more than 4,200 fans per a game is not due to its stadium — Frederick's demographics are strong with higher incomes and a larger population than Hagerstown. In addition, the stadium is easily visible from the highways and within walking distance of downtown. Still, there is considerable debate that the city loses money operating the ballpark.

In Harrisburg, Pa., Johnson tells the story of a city that used a stadium as part of a waterfront improvement plan, rather than the vision of an "outspoken and, at times, controversial mayor (Robert Young)." The stadium for the Class AA Harrisburg Senators was built in the early 1980s on City Island — land near downtown that "had become an eyesore and was perceived by the public to be crime-ridden." The ballpark achieved success in redeveloping City Island, however, "there is no hard evidence [...] that this has ever been translated into new economic activity for the city," writes Johnson. City leaders argue that "the team is an inappropriate expense for the city" and "the team brings little benefit to city residents, since most of the fans are suburbanites."

The city made national news in 2011 as it "borrowed itself into bankruptcy," according to The Wall Street Journal, "by sinking $45 million into 2009 stadium renovations for a money-losing minor league baseball team that attracted 2,500 fans per game."

I believe baseball died in Hagerstown when the Orioles' affiliation moved to Frederick in 1989.

Economic development officials should aggressively nurture and attract companies and institutions that can best use local resources. We should be championing efforts on logistics such as Greencastle's $95 million Norfolk Southern facility and attract industries which support the Baltimore-Washington-Annapolis area. This is the economic history of Hagerstown before commuter patterns in the 1970s saw Washington County as an alternative place to live. Remember, Hagerstown is within a reasonable commute to Baltimore or D.C. to view a Major League Baseball game and return home the same evening. It will not always be a reasonable and inexpensive daily commute for Baltimore or D.C. workers.

Robert H. Meyers

Were you asked if you wanted a new stadium?

To the editor:

Do the taxpayers want a new baseball stadium? Do the taxpayers want a new baseball stadium in downtown Hagerstown? Most of our elected officials obviously think the answer to both of the above questions is yes.

However, I don't recall any of these elected officials asking me before they answered yes. None of the officials called me on the phone or sent me an email asking if I wanted a new stadium downtown. No one bothered to text me on my cellphone. I don't recall receiving any polls or surveys concerning this in the mail. I wasn't approached on the street by any elected official asking for my input regarding a new stadium downtown.

I'm just curious whether any of you other taxpayers were contacted in any way by your chosen representatives. Perhaps, there was a vote taken and I missed out on it. Maybe some of you also missed it.

But, rest easy, folks. I'm sure that some of our elected reps know exactly what's best for us without even asking.

It doesn't bother me if we build a new stadium and I don't care if it's downtown or wherever. What does bother me is that the mayor and city council, along with three-fifths of our county commissioners, approved spending millions of dollars of funding for a downtown multi-use stadium without even as much as involving us. Once again, we were oblivious to most of our elected officials.

It's a done deal, fellow taxpayers. The downtown multiuse stadium is all but built. Aren't you even just a little perturbed?

George S. Coyle

Loss of baseball would be an economic setback

To the editor:

As a local business owner, I encourage state and local officials to do everything within their power to keep the Hagerstown Suns from leaving our city. Having a minor league baseball team is a tremendous asset to our community. We should not overlook the direct and indirect economic benefits that 60 or 70 home games in a new or renovated stadium would generate. We should not overlook the great benefits that having a team would help our tourism efforts. Fans of the Washington Nationals travel the short distance to Hagerstown to see their "stars of the future" as was evident last year when Stephen Strasburg and Bryce Harper played for the Suns. These fans ate in our restaurants, stayed in our hotels, supported our numerous shopping venues, bought souvenirs, visited our local taverns and spent thousands of dollars in our community.

I am in favor of a project to locate a new multipurpose facility in the downtown area. I believe that this would attract more people to our beautiful downtown and attract new businesses that will ultimately make our downtown a stronger and more vigorous magnet for the entire community. Having both day and night baseball games and other community events in historic downtown Hagerstown will attract restaurants, shops and taverns that hopefully will help to revitalize our slumping economy and create numerous jobs for our citizens. 

Weiss Bros. has done business with the Hagerstown Suns for over 30 years. In addition to being a vendor to the Suns, we have utilized the Suns to market our business, entertain our customers, and have picnics and events for our employees. Our company benefits from business generated from local hotels, restaurants and bars that are supported by Suns fans and players. We benefit when new industry comes to the area to buy our products and services. Having a minor league baseball team and modern facilities for events factor into the decision-making process of major new businesses looking to locate in this area. It gives us an upper hand for our economic development efforts and makes us stand out as one of a select number of communities in the nation that have a major sports attraction.

I feel it would be a tremendous setback to both the economy and quality of life in Washington County and the City of Hagerstown if we were to lose this vital asset to our community.

Richard Weiss, president
Weiss Bros. of Hagerstown Inc.

Public should be involved in stadium decision

To the editor:

We have a new stadium for baseball dilemma it looks like. Hagerstown is sort of forced to do something by the Washington Nationals and the Winchester, Va., community. That is if we want to keep a minor league baseball team playing in our town.

I personally would like to see us find a way to keep the Suns in Hagerstown; but, the problem is how to get it done financially and then whether to greatly improve the current stadium or build a new one. I think in either way it's done, we must find a way to finance the project and the public must be aware of how we will pay for the project.

Also, if a new stadium is going to be built anywhere, those planning should really get ideas from many different sources about where to build it. I've heard many people complain of the idea of building a stadium at the corner of Baltimore Street and Summit Avenue, so again I think a more rigorous study is needed of where to locate a new stadium if it is built.

I think a study of both ideas, improving the current stadium or building a new one, should be presented to the Hagerstown residents along with plans of how to pay for it. Maybe a special committee of qualified people in finance, real estate and sports complexes could be formed to solve this dilemma. Only a suggestion by one city resident, hoping we make the best choice.

Jack Myers

Ripken report needs further examination

To the editor:

Given county concerns with location, city questions about ownership and state responses to funding models, citizens should be aware of what's in the Ripken Report, which seemed endorsed almost before completion with no real opportunity for public comment. This letter sets aside potential city property tax increases, county struggles to fund basic school costs and continual structural state budget deficits, and instead focuses on the report's analysis as spending significant public funds on this project forges ahead.

The report concludes Baltimore Street simply works best. The existing stadium is briefly dismissed. No engineering analysis on construction costs is provided. Potential revenue is generically calculated. Transportation is barely mentioned. Impacts to neighboring properties merely reference severe tax increases.  Comparable "downtown" stadiums, on pages 20-28, indicate the existing stadium location offers much greater similarities in terms of known construction costs, adjacent development potential, public accessibility and neighborhood expectation. In spite of these advantages or those of other locations, analysis typical of project site selection was not conducted. Yet, the report concludes a new stadium could keep the Suns "no matter where it's located."

Pages 12 and 13 are most important. They specify that Suns ownership should get 100 percent of revenue from naming rights, suite rentals, corporate sponsorships, vendor contracts, franchise agreements and nonbaseball events. They'll also have scheduling authority over all stadium activities, but aren't required to maintain a Nationals affiliate. Meanwhile, the city will be solely responsible for 100 percent of the estimated $459,000 annual operations, maintenance and utility costs. This reason, the consultant concludes, is that "minor league teams are professional organizations with expertise" in this field and "public entities are not."

The cost figures seem to work. However, acquisition and demolition costs rest with the city, who'll depend on surcharges and debt. The county portion assumes increased admissions and donating property, and the state's projected to lose about $5 million. Pages 84-86 project net profits within four to six years, and reinforces the necessity of private support, while failing to outline any reason private investment couldn't take on this low risk directly. Recent history of other downtown projects indicate upwards of 30 percent cost overages from concept to construction, supporting the report's warning that "aggressive timelines result in massive cost escalation and overruns."

Cursory evaluations in the report conclude we are "an isolated community with limited entertainment options" to explain the consultant's eagerness for the architectural design contract because "this is a highly specialized industry." City-supported websites infer that if you don't support this project you don't support downtown. Having read the report, the evidence clearly supports Commissioner Barr's statement that "this is not the best location" and Councilman Brubaker's point that "the Suns ownership gaining everything is ridiculous." To avoid likely failure of the cost/benefit model, these two factors must be fully vetted and decisions made based on sound information rather than fear and haste. While some may claim this overanalysis, I tend to think of it as an important part of the job.

Kristin B. Aleshire

Editor's note: Kristin B. Aleshire is a candidate for Hagerstown City Council.

Building stadium in heart of city is right choice

To the editor:

Countless rumors have circulated about the Hagerstown Suns' potential move to Winchester, but let's focus on facts.

Minor league baseball provides many benefits, including an economic lift. There are jobs through stadium construction and many more during the season. Then, there are the players requiring housing, food and entertainment, and the visiting teams needing the same.

On roughly 70 nights each season, fans experience competitive play, share in community identity and pride, recognize up-and-comers, follow their careers and catch glimpses of current major-leaguers who are sent to the minors during recovery from injuries. If the stadium is a multiuse facility, it will be used for events benefiting the community throughout the year with affordable family entertainment.

The Suns need a stadium, so site location is a major consideration. Several have been proposed with positives and negatives. If a stadium is built conveniently off the highway, there would be less traffic. However, if we're to capitalize on potential economic boosts brought by the games, the downtown location is the best option.

Having attended games at the Redskins' FedEx Field, at the Ravens' stadium and at Oriole Park at Camden Yards, there's no comparison. FedEx is outside of D.C. with little around. Fans resort to hauling food and drinks, grills and games for tailgating before events and leave promptly afterward. While Baltimore supporters park in decks to spend their time and money at local establishments for food, drinks and impulse buys.  Building a stadium in the heart of our city, as Baltimore has done, will raise property values and allow visitors to experience what our city has to offer.

If you don't believe me about why we need to keep the Suns here where they belong, just ask Winchester. In the words of Mayor Robert Bruchey, "There are no missed opportunities. If we don't take it, someone else will."

Brenna Bacon Ranieli

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