Posted by: Ann Corcoran | July 24, 2012

Bicycling hobbyists vow to make rail-trail an election year issue

Here we go again.  I would rather be writing this morning about something other than the cry baby bike people who aren’t going to get their new bike trail in Washington County,  but I want to keep an archive of all the Washington County Rail Trail doings for future reference, so here we go again.

The US is in an economic melt down, Maryland is broke, people are unemployed, Washington County is facing a budget crisis as pensions must be paid, the Muslim Brotherhood has the Middle East by the throat and these bicycling people want some new tax payer funded scenery through which to ride their bikes—-give me a break!

Here is the latest.  Dick Cushwa, private citizen and biker-in-chief,  has for months (years?) been quietly working behind the scenes to get the 24-mile bike trail well underway before anyone notified the approximately 800 landowners whose homes and farms would be impacted.  Apparently he, or someone, told the County Commissioners that the 20-year-old objection to the trail had died down.  At a public hearing on June 21, the Commissioners learned otherwise.

So, on July 10th, when faced with a take-it-or-leave-it offer from the State of Maryland for a $100,000 “gift” (O’Malley has a money tree!) to study the trail (did the head of the Public Works Department arrange the state offer and did he then tell the Commissioners it must be decided immediately?), and after a brief discussion, the Commissioners voted unanimously to stop any further planning of the trail.

Now, Cushwa says in a letter to the editor that the vote was “illegal” because it wasn’t announced in advance.  So tell me why that is any different then not announcing for months and months to property owners that this project was getting further and further down the pipeline!   And, I can assure readers that Cushwa’s friends at the Herald Mail knew in advance that there might be a vote on July 10—why else did they hold Bill Moroney’s good letter until after the vote and why else did biking advocate Rowland write his urination column for the day before the vote.  Are we to believe that the H/M didn’t give Cushwa a heads up?

An aside:  In a discussion with Commissioner Ruth Anne Callaham on the evening of June 21, I made this point about good government:  if someone has an idea about a project that affects the citizens of the county, government must be transparent from the beginning.  All facts must be laid on the table for all to see—from the beginning!  Then and only then can a fair public debate follow, and whichever side makes the most persuasive argument wins.  Too often government, in concert with a special interest, attempts to get something past the citizens (and landowners in this case) and it enrages the voters.   So, it is interesting to note now that the shoe is on the other foot—Cushwa is enraged because he says he was kept in the dark. By the way, the Commissioners and the City of Hagerstown are doing the same secrecy c*** with the stadium plan, but I digress.

Here is Cushwa in that letter to the editor on Sunday, July 22:

Your July 10 vote to kill the Civil War Railroad Trail, with no notice to the public and even before the report on the June 21 public meeting was available on the county’s website, is astounding and a real slap in the face of the many trail supporters. I question how this vote can be legal when there was nothing about it on the published agenda.

Hey,  Mr. Cushwa, we question whether all of your middleman dealings between government agencies and possibly even the railroad (CSX) were legal.  If not illegal at least unethical. (see below).*

Cushwa again to the Herald Mail:  We’ll be back with a new Board of County Commissioners in 2014 who will give us our new bike path!

This trail will be a great benefit to Washington County and its citizens when a future Board of County Commissioners decides to go forward with it. Hopefully, this will be in two years. We will not go away.

Just to keep our archives up to date, on July 17th, the Herald Mail actually (surprisingly) editorialized in support of the Commissioners unanimous NO vote, here.  But, Commissioner Callaham (sort of) keeps the door open here.

* Readers, while Cushwa cries foul, consider the following e-mail message.  Remember the landowners were not notified of the plan until mid-May 2012.

E-mail from Richard Cushwa (private citizen) to Michael Jackson (MDOT, Director of Bicycle and Pedestrian Access)

Date: October 29, 2011 (seven months before notification sent to landowners)

(partial text, emphasis mine)

Michael,

You’ll be very interested to hear that Steve Carr [Trails planner for MD Dept. of Natural Resources] and I drove the route of the proposed Weverton-Roxbury rail trail last Thursday.

Steve is very interested in seeing it move forward…. The City and County are both on board.

Joe Kroboth, County Director of Public Works, said he wants it before he retires.

So folks, you see what I mean about stinking rotten crony government!  No wonder there is so little faith in elected officials who apparently allowed a private citizen from a special interest group, Cushwa, and a county employee to shepherd the multi-million dollar project!  In future, if you, Commissioners, have a grandiose plan that uses taxpayer money (what doesn’t!) or personally affects the property rights of your citizens it’s best to put the facts out for everyone to see from the beginning!

Cushwa says this is an issue for the 2014 elections in Washington County.  O.K.

Trail archive is here.


Responses

  1. I have a question.

    How does Dick Cushwa know how many e-mails the commissioners received in favor of, and against, the rail trail? Is that public information, and if so, where does one go to get it?

    • Greg, yes it is public information. Check the Commissioners website. I’m not sure all of them are available there (never checked), but someone with “Taxpayers and Home Owners for Common Sense” did a MD Public Information Act Request and got them earlier (and I believe a new bunch recently).

      But, last I checked we don’t make all of our public decisions based on numbers of e-mails received esp. when the numbers are padded by people from places like Indiana and in the case of proponents early-on they had each husband and wife write in separately. Or, my favorite was that a group like Save Historic Antietam Foundation (Tom Clemons) sent one letter, then Clemons sent another under his own name only—counted as two letters (LOL!).

      Talk to me one day privately about MD PIA requests.


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