Cumberland Times-News

Opinion

December 19, 2012

Be involved

Edwards urges local leaders to speak up

State Sen. George Edwards gave some sound advice last week when he urged local community leaders to speak out loud and clear on state issues that affect Western Maryland.

“We all need to work together. ...  You need to tell these people when you disagree and why,” Edwards said. His comments were made at the Allegany County Chamber of Commerce’s annual prelegislative breakfast. He was referring to the need to let the Maryland General Assembly know when the interests of Western Maryland differ from those in other parts of the state.

He commented that the state chamber of commerce sometimes takes positions that are at odds with local chambers and the needs of Western Maryland. If a state chamber leader testifies in Annapolis, legislators may not realize there’s a diversity of views within the chamber. “The Baltimore/Washington corridor runs this state,” Edwards said. “You’ve got to be involved and you’ve got to speak up, which helps us,” Edwards said.

Fighting for equity has always been a challenge for rural counties. But over the last year, the rural counties have stepped up efforts to band together and vote in a bloc to counter the power plays of Baltimore City and suburban Washington counties. A newly-formed rural coalition is now comprised of Allegany, Caroline, Carroll, Cecil, Dorchester, Frederick, Kent, Somerset, Washington and Wicomico counties, representing 939,980 rural Maryland residents.

While the coalition promises to have a major impact on decisions made in Annapolis, the man-in-the-street still needs to make his voice heard. When General Assembly members convene their 90-day legislative session Jan. 9, citizens would do well to closely follow legislative bills and issues and let their elected officials know their opinions. A new General Assembly website (http://mgaleg.maryland.gov,)  just launched this month, will make it easier than ever to track bills and see how legislators vote.

A phone call, letter or email from a constituent just might help sway a legislator’s vote. If the silent majority continues to stay silent, then we get the government we deserve.

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