The Collision of Flash and Substance
Blair Lee, as usual, makes a very common-sense argument against the new arena in Baltimore by reminding readers:
When Baltimore goes, hat in hand, to Annapolis or Capitol Hill we hear about the city’s terrible murder rate, unemployment rate, property tax rate, test scores and tax base. We hear about abandoned housing, population decline, drug addiction and the concentration of poor people. Baltimore will sink into the Patapsco without huge infusions of state and federal aid they say.
But when Baltimore politicians run for re-election or seek statewide office we hear about Harbor Place, gleaming waterfront condos, new biotech centers, skyrocketing housing prices, rising test scores, property tax cuts and the return of the middle class.
It must be difficult for city politicians to keep their stories straight lest they forget and give the wrong speech to the wrong audience.
As I have been saying for a long time, there are a number of problems that the city of Baltimore has before tackling the issue of a new sports arena. Schools are and remain a disaster. The population is continuing to decline. The drug culture continues to run roughshod through the poorest parts of town. Crime remains high for a city of its size. These are all concerns that state and city leaders should be focused on.
But, of course, dealing with serious issues such as education and crime control aren’t as flash and aren’t as sexy as a brand spanking new arena and other construction boondoggles:
Baltimore loves construction projects whether they make sense or not, especially if state taxpayers foot the bill. We poured millions into the Columbus Center and various city museums that went bust. Likewise, the $600 million light rail system is a loser and the millions we spent on the Hippodrome Theater simply put the Morris Mechanic Theater out of business. Then there are the state-financed Ravens and Orioles Stadiums, terrible business deals for the state but “must-haves” for the city. But at least the two stadiums have tenants.
That’s the kind of thing that gets positive press from the tv stations and constant genuflection from Dan Rodricks. Arenas are flash, but not nearly as positive as dealing with the issues that immediately impact every man, woman, and child living in the city of Baltimore and yes, the surrounding suburbs.
As Lee points out, the city is still suffering the consequences of O’Malley’s Folly from his term as Mayor of Balitmore, insisting on a taxpayer funded Hilton hotel in downtown despite the complete lack of need for it, despite the avoidance of the market to determine a need for the construction of such a hotel, and despite the clear example that Myrtle Beach, Sacramento, and St. Louis gave for the city leaders long before the commencement of construction here.
The moral of the story, as usual, is that Maryland Democrats have issues finding appropriate things to spend money on.
All of which makes this video that much more infuriating.
Take a look at the record. Sadly, the day that Martin O’Malley puts the people first as opposed to his political career will be the first day that he actually does that. If O’Malley put people first, there would be no new hotel in Baltimore, nor would there be higher taxes or even a hint that a penny of taxpayer dollars would be directed to help fund construction of this new arena. Unfortunately, O’Malley as well as leadership in Baltimore looks prepared to make the same mistakes again…