2020 is officially here and that means it is time to look back at the best and worst of last year. On the national level, the “best of” includes Ravens quarterback Lamar Jackson who emerged as a star in the NFL and is the front runner to be named the league’s Most Valuable Player, and Avengers: Endgame, the summer blockbuster to end all blockbusters. The “worst of" category includes the overwhelming box office dud Cats, and the Game of Thrones series finale that left fans feeling as if a dagger had been stabbed into their chests. Locally, let us take a look at those in Carroll County that deserve some cheers and some that deserve jeers for 2019.
Cheers: The Holidays in Manchester
On Saturday, Dec. 21, I was pleasantly surprised to see the local fire department bring Jolly Old Saint Nick by my house, riding atop a fire truck. Kudos to the Manchester Volunteer Fire Department for having Santa Claus greet families all the way out in Melrose, Wentz, Ebbvale, and Deep Run — small rural communities outside of the town’s municipal boundary lines. Another special shoutout to the folks who live on McCurley Drive in Manchester for putting on their annual “McCurley Magical Christmas Lights” showcase. For fans of the Christmas light displays on 34th street in Hampden, this neighborhood collaboration is a local holiday must-see.
Jeers: Comcast’s Xfinity Service
This past fall, billionaire telecommunications conglomerate Comcast closed its only customer service center in Carroll County, leaving locals with the option to drive out to Owings Mills or Frederick, or use the Xfinity smartphone app or website for support. In September, a Comcast representative went before our Board of County Commissioners and told them that despite the closing of the service center, Comcast was improving its Xfinity service in Carroll County in other ways. Never to disappoint, Comcast dropped coal in customers’ stockings in December and notified us that the Turner Classic Movies (TCM) channel would no longer be a part of the basic cable channel lineup. Instead, I’ll have to buy the “Sports & Entertainment package” if I want to continue watching classic films because TCM clearly should be bundled with the NFL Redzone, MLB Network, ESPN Goal Line channels. For 2020, Comcast should steal its new corporate motto from one of TCM’s most popular films, “Gone with the Wind”: “Frankly, my dear, I don’t give a damn.”
Cheers: Liquor Board
Credit is due to the county’s Board of License Commissioners, more commonly referred to as the Liquor Board. After hearing from business owners and law enforcement, the Board recommended that Carroll County increase the bar closing time from 1 a.m. to 2 a.m., and Carroll County’s Delegation will introduce a local bill in Annapolis this legislative session authorizing the change. Every county that surrounds Carroll already has a 2 a.m. closing time, which puts Carroll’s bars and taverns at a disadvantage and results in intoxicated drivers sprinting for the county line on any given night. Previous incarnations of the Liquor Board appeared to want to keep Carroll County in the dark ages, but the current Board listened to the community and made a decision based on logic and reason.
Jeers: Locals making Carroll look bad
It is a bad look for our wonderful county when sick individuals make national headlines for doing horrible things. We had a guy just outside of New Windsor formally charged in the beginning of the year for killing his wife’s grandmother. Then we had the Hampstead couple charged with over one hundred counts each of aggravated animal cruelty after their house on Black Rock Road was raided in April revealing 27 dead dogs. Next, we had the West Middle School teacher, who also taught me at North Carroll High School, sentenced in July to 22 years in federal prison for producing child pornography. Last but not least, we had a Taneytown resident allegedly drive his truck directly into City Hall over and over again, all because the City had cut his water service off. Let’s all agree to get our acts together and only make positive headlines in 2020.
Cheers: Carroll’s Veteran Services
The county government’s Veteran Services Program continues to be recognized as a model for other counties to emulate. Under this program, the county serves more than 800 veterans each year and has helped secure over $17 million in benefits for Carroll veterans since the program began in October 2013. The program provides veterans with multiple services including free transportation to U.S. Department of Veteran Affairs medical sites, case management services, emergency housing for homeless veterans, and much more. Most recently, the Maryland Association of Counties awarded our Veteran Services Program with the 2019 Academy of Excellence in Local Governance County Innovation Award.
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Hope springs eternal that in 2020 there will be news worth celebrating, and fewer stories that deserve two thumbs down. Thankfully, there are more people in Carroll who want to do the right thing and will help shine a positive light on our county as we start this new decade. Happy New Year!