Drawings of our misses could fill a gallery

December 08, 2012|By TIM ROWLAND

Well, at least city and county government this year have provided its citizens with some really nice drawings. These are sketches of what might have been if we had any decent leadership in place, but instead will just become so much artistic residue representing failure instead of progress.

Architectural renderings of the proposed senior center and ballpark gave a tantalizing view of what might have been — two serious, modern projects that would have benefited diverse demographics and once again gotten the attention of outside capital looking for a place to park itself as the economy rebounds this spring.

But neither is likely to be built. No construction jobs, no spin-off businesses, no buzz among developers that they better place their chips on Hagerstown and Washington County, because that’s where progress is taking place.

What will happen with the Suns is anyone’s guess, but should the team leave, no one can blame the franchise. Hagerstown might not have been the owners’ first choice, but they did give us a shot.

And please don’t blame this fictional $15 million pot at the end of the rainbow for failing to materialize. It probably never existed, or if it did exist it was scared off by the results of the past city election.

But we have known for 15 years that we would need a new stadium if pro ball were to continue here, and we have had ample time, opportunity and finances to build it. The real tragedy of this ethereal $15 million is that it will allow current and past office holders to escape blame — they can call out a ghost and accuse it of killing baseball in Hagerstown.

How perfect. Our state and local governments need more of these — nonexistent scapegoats that can be pointed to for our lack of progress, so our local leaders can continue to wander along with their hands over their eyes and ears as time passes us by.

Maybe this missing $15 million is also the reason we won’t have a sparkling, comprehensive new senior center to serve our growing elder population. Maybe it wasn’t our local lawmakers at all who cost us this project by mouthing off against leadership in Annapolis, causing the offended parties to delay funding, at which point the whole project began to crumble.

Perhaps the missing $15 million is why our population is disproportionately aging in the first place. Maybe it has nothing to do with young, vibrant people seeing a dull, listless county and deciding to take their talents elsewhere. If only we had that $15 million they might have stayed, started new companies and moved into upscale condos downtown.

And if we had that $15 million we wouldn’t vote out the office holders who at least try to initiate some excitement, while voting in candidates who promise to work for jobs and instead waste all their time trying to chase down gays and Latino college students.

It’s the $15 million’s fault, no doubt, that we implement a half-baked recycling program and then label it a rousing success — ignoring the reality that it is forcing more recyclables into the landfill.

It is the $15 million’s logic that speed cameras will reduce the need for manpower, and then uses speed camera revenue to hire additional manpower.

It was the $15 million that tore down the old hospital with no clue what to put in its place. The $15 million is responsible for the revolving door among carriers at the airport; it fell for a bogus plan to turn the old Potomac Edison building into a university; and turned a cold shoulder to what is now a highly successful Civil War Medical Museum functioning in Frederick.

The $15 million failed to build a bridge over the Antietam to provide adequate access to Hagerstown Community College and the new hospital; squandered Fort Ritchie; tore down the historic roundhouse; lost every major new economic development project to West Virginia and Pennsylvannia; can’t get the time of day from the state to widen Interstate 81; abandoned a promising rail-trail project; and botched the Robinwood bypass — although we got some nice drawings out of that one, too.

Matter of fact, we ought to start an art gallery featuring all the nice architectural renderings of these splendid projects that never materialize. There, we could chuckle warmly at decades worth of futility that has turned the one-time jewel of Western Maryland into a spot that people drive through at high speeds with their windows rolled up.

But now, at least, we have something we can blame it on.

Tim Rowland is a Herald-Mail columnist. His email address is

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