That Aberdeen and Havre de Grace are to receive $170,000 in Community Legacy Program grants from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development seems like a positive development on first glance.
A closer look, however, reveals a bit of state government spending that is discretionary, at best, in a time when the state government is moving in the direction of jacking up taxes on gasoline and any number of other things.
The City of Aberdeen is to receive $50,000 which is to be used to help pay for improvements to the facades of businesses in the downtown district. That is to say, public money is to be used to help the owners of buildings improve the look of those buildings.
It's hard to imagine this is a vital function of either the state or city governments. Sure, it would be nice to have modern, up-to-date building facades in the business district, but isn't that really the responsibility of the owners of these private properties?
The spending plan in the City of Havre de Grace isn't any better: $100,000 is slated to be used for a gateway beautification project for the area regarded as the Hatem Bridge gateway to the city. It's a nice idea, but wouldn't it be cheaper — not to mention better for civic pride — to organize a group of volunteers to take on a community service beautification project?
Also in Havre de Grace, a "living fence" is proposed for the area of the water treatment plant on St. John Street at a cost of $20,000. It remains to be seen what the difference between a "living fence" and a hedge is, and a hedge that costs $20,000 ought to be more than pretty darn nice. It ought to be able to trim itself each spring.
Much of what government does is necessary and perfectly rational, but when it embarks upon projects like these, it raises questions about the competence and judgment of those we've trusted with our tax money. This goes double at a time when there's serious talk about more tax money coming out of our pockets.