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Letters to the Editor - May 16

May 16, 2012

Public funding for stadium will have negative impact

To the editor:

I must admit that I was totally surprised by the Board of County Commissioners 3-2 vote in support of taxpayer funding of a new baseball stadium. It would appear that the issue of taxpayer funding of a new stadium is really quite simple — taxpayer funding is either justified as a component of parks and recreation or it is justified as an economic development project.

If funded as a county park, then it would seem appropriate to fund the project using Program Open Space (POS) money provided by the State of Maryland.

If, instead, the project is justifiable as an economic development project, then appropriate economic development incentive formulas have been in place for years that could have been applied. These formulas generally take into account the number of jobs being saved or created, average wage, and investment being made, and develop a payback in terms of the number of years in which the county investment would be returned. For the project in question, it has been reported that 100 to 120, mainly part-time seasonal jobs would be saved/created. Assuming the jobs being created approximate 50 to 60 full-time equivalents, an investment of $33 million, or $660,000 per job, seems rather excessive. It also is unlikely that the project would have a payback of a short duration, as the direct investment produced is not one that creates an assessable base. It also appears that the average wage being paid would not justify taxpayer funding of this project under economic development guidelines.

The opportunity cost of selecting a project with such low return over other more-deserving projects will have negative, detrimental impacts upon Washington County for years to come. When those other, more lucrative projects do present themselves, Washington County will instead be strapped with a $400,000 annual payment for a project that creates 100 part-time, minimum-wage jobs. The present value of a $400,000 annuity in perpetuity using a discount rate of 3 percent equates to $13.3 million. Adding this amount to the $1 million value of the Baltimore Street facility creates a combined county taxpayer commitment of $14.3 million. Imagine the investment and employment base that could be attracted to, and retained in, this county with a $14 million economic development fund. After all, with an unemployment rate remaining in excess of 8 percent, the eighth highest in the state, it would seem that our elected officials would be more focused on the real needs of their constituents — jobs.

My thanks to Commissioners Baker and Cline for their approach to this project and their resolve to seek answers to the many questions that remain prior to committing $14 million of taxpayer funding. The large funding commitment of general fund money at a time when the county claims to be unable to fund even its own employee pay raises is simply unjustifiable, and apparently is being provided simply for the love of the sport. In such a case, NASCAR fans, “start your engines!”

Bill Wivell
Smithsburg



Where are the parents in the schools?

To the editor:

Can you recall a Little League baseball season in which parents declined to sit in the stands and watch their children compete? Do the mothers and fathers bite their tongues when the umpires make poor calls at home plate? Are there no volunteers out on the field during games or during practice sessions?

Parents have always been a part of Little League baseball and other extracurricular activities. Are they obligated to be present, voice their concerns, and offer assistance at such events? Of course not. They choose to support their sons and daughters by getting involved. My question is this: Why are so few parents choosing to take an active role in their children’s education?

Elementary and middle school classrooms have undergone significant changes since many parents were in school. Students are learning and interacting in ways that most parents cannot even begin to imagine. Technology, interactive lessons, and collaborative assignments are but a few resources that men and women might not have experienced when they were children. Of course, progress opens the door for new challenges, too. Standardized testing drives many schoolwide initiatives while sacrificing others. Students are beginning to assume that their test scores are more important than the actual learning experience itself. So, what does this have to do with parents?

Now, more than ever, parents need to recognize that school is more than just a community of teachers and students. When parents fail to attend open houses, join the PTA, observe their children’s classes, e-mail teachers, speak to their children about school on a daily basis, and stay informed about what is really happening inside school walls, they are sending a negative message to their sons and daughters. In the simplest of terms, they are saying that school is not important.

Children are, without a doubt, the future of America. I challenge more parents to make an effort to participate in as many aspects of their children’s education as possible. Parents have the privilege of working with professionals who teach their children the skills for success. Parents also have the responsibility of ensuring that their schools are safe and conducive to learning. It is the duty of all parents to see that nothing stands in the way of their children’s education. When they see something fundamentally wrong taking place, they need to speak up. When they have a suggestion, they need to share it. And, when they can offer assistance, they need to be present. 

There are a million excuses for parents to distance themselves from their children’s schools. However, children need to know that parents value education. The last time I checked, a wicked curveball deserved less attention than academic achievement. Now is the time for parents to go back to school — literally.    

Steven P. Hutzell
Hagerstown
         


Life is not fair, Mr. President

To the editor:

“That’s not fair.”

Google those words and you get 42,000,000 hits.

Someone needs to educate President Obama that life is not fair. To me, he sounds like a 6-year-old whining, “that’s not fair!” Please grow up, Mr. President.

We don’t need four more years of a petulant child trying to “level the playing field” through “fairness.”
 
Jane B. Davis
Hagerstown

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