Monday, September 16, 2013

Disassembling the Mayor's Statement

Today Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake unleashed a commentary on the mercy killing cancellation of the Baltimore Grand Prix. And the Mayor's statement certainly deserves a thorough and merciless fisking.

Three years ago, I declared that the Grand Prix of Baltimore would be a game changer for our city. Now that the race has ended for the foreseeable future, many have asked if I regret that statement. The answer is no.
Well of course it is easy to say that you did not regret a statement for an event you believed in. However, I don't remember the Mayor declaring that the race was going to be a game changer. Mainly because no Mayor can declare anything to be a nything.
My goal in supporting the Grand Prix was to boost Baltimore's tourism industry over a traditionally slow Labor Day weekend and to present a positive image of our city to the world. For three years, the Grand Prix of Baltimore did exactly that.
Really? I obviously know people from around the country to them the Grand Prix of Baltimore didn't even register on their collective consciousness. Why? Because it is a niche sport within a niche sport. NASCAR is the only game in town that when it comes to the Motorsport consciousness of most Americans. On the world stage, Motorsports begin and end with Formula 1. In the eyes of most, this race was a bug on the windshield.
Race On, the race's organizers, positioned the Grand Prix for long-term success, and it is bittersweet to see this event come to an end. The Grand Prix attracted national and international exposure — shining a positive spotlight on Baltimore and broadcasting images of our beautiful harbor and downtown business district to households across the globe.
The Grand Prix race gets minoscule ratings over a holiday weekend when nobody watches TV. Taking that aside, if the race organizers had position the race for "long-term success" it would be safe to say there would be every effort to ensure that the race wasn't cancelled, no?
As mayor, I was happiest when Baltimore residents told me how proud they were to see our city represented on the national and international stage. Relatives whose only impressions of Baltimore had come from shows like "The Wire" called them to say how great Baltimore looked as they watched the race on television. They were excited about visiting our city — and they still are.
Who are these residents? Who are these relatives? I've been hard pressed to find one Baltimorean outside of City Government and the race organizers who were enthusiastic about this.
The debate will continue about the race's impact on our city, and some will ask if Baltimore got enough benefit from hosting the Grand Prix. I believe that we did. Baltimore received a strong economic impact — to the tune of more than $130 million over three years — thanks to the Grand Prix. 
The race also generated additional spending at our downtown hotels, shops and restaurants. Baltimore Race Week — the result of partnerships between Visit Baltimore, Race On and tourism partners throughout the city — offered exciting deals that drove commerce into surrounding neighborhoods and to nearby attractions concerned about the race's impact on their local businesses.
I still have yet to see any economic data that shows the true overall impact of the Grand Prix, but it is easy to deduce that whatever economic impact they Mayor is claiming is certainly playing fast and loose with the numbers and not taking into account the true economic impact of this race. Remember three years ago when traffic was at a standstill for weeks as the roads were reconstructed in order to construct the course? Remember how businesses downtown were basically left on their own as the construction began? How many times did we read stories about restaurants and stores that basically had to shut down in the week leading up to the race due to the traffic and hassle generated by the construction of the course every year. The businesses who the Mayor and other race proponents say would be well positioned to reap the benefits of this race were the very businesses who were left incapable of benefiting from them thanks to the paralysis that descended upon the city during race week.
Oftentimes, I have found that the harshest critics of ambitions like the Grand Prix are the same people who question whether Baltimore can ever do anything big. I just don't think like that. Baltimore can't afford to think like that.
The Mayor seems to think that this pot shot at race critics is a valid criticism. It is not because the premise is flawed. The Mayor believes that critics say Baltimore can't do big things. Nobody said that. Baltimore does big things all the time. Those things tend to be gigantic, taxpayer funded boondoggles that don't benefit the city one bit and usually create hassles, traffic, and costs taxpayers enormous sums of money. In that context, the Grand Prix is just proof that Baltimore always does big things one way: badly.
We did not let pessimism tell us nothing could be done to give our children 21st Century schools. We made the hard choices and secured historic levels of funding that will allow us to undertake $1.1 billion in repairs, renovation and new construction.
Did Martin O'Malley write this? Because it uses the same terminology and the same Pollyanna-ish view of school construction that he does. 
We did not let pessimism tell us nothing could be done about dilapidated buildings in our communities. Through our Vacants to Value program and more aggressive code enforcement, those buildings are being removed at a record pace, and in the process, we are rebuilding long neglected areas of Baltimore.
I'll be the judge of that when I run the Marathon next month, but I can tell you the number of vacant buildings that we run past along the Marathon courses certainly does not give that positive a view of the city. 
We have not let pessimism tell us our city can do nothing about its long-term structural deficit. We continue to focus on a 10-year plan for financial solvency that balances our budgets while protecting vital city services for current and future city residents.
Except nothing is being done about this. It seems like every time that we turn around the City Government is coming forward with a new cockamamie government program, accompanied by another cockamamie tax increase that stifles economic development and makes it harder and harder for job creation to take place in the city. And when that fails, the Mayor and her General Assembly partners are trying to get the minimum wage increased in order to make it doubly hard for folks who need jobs in Baltimore City to get those jobs.
And we will not let pessimism tell us that more cannot be done to fight crime in our communities and keep our families safe. More can be done, and working together, we will meet that challenge as well.
Well that part is right Madame Mayor. More can be done to fight crime, because from what I can tell you office isn't exactly do a lot in this area in order to make Baltimore seem less like The Wire and more like a livable city that can attract jobs and can attract and retain middle-class families to serve as a functioning economic and tax base.
I do not believe in giving in to pessimism about our city when I see so clearly all of Baltimore's potential right in front of me. But in order to maximize that potential, we have to fight for it — whether that means working for better schools, cleaner communities and safer streets, or through other opportunities like the Grand Prix that generate positive exposure for our city.
Man if you think that a car race is just as important as providing a world class education for Baltimore students your priorities are seriously misguided.
Baltimore is now in a strong position to compete for future events and conventions, which will contribute to the growth of our economy and local tourism. The Grand Prix helped to solidify Baltimore as a sought-after destination — an accomplishment we all should take pride in.
Once again, not remotely accurate. As was noted during the announcement that Otakon would be leaving Baltimore after 2016, conventions and events are booked years into the future. I highly doubt a car race nobody paid attention to had any impact on that decision-making.
Baltimore took a chance with the Grand Prix, and we won while it lasted. There will be many more opportunities ahead for Baltimore to make big choices about our future and test the limits of what was thought possible for our city. 
I am humbled by the opportunity to serve as your mayor, and as long as I'm blessed to serve, I will always push to make sure our city is thinking big about both the challenges and the opportunities we face. We may not always agree on every issue, but let us never allow pessimism to cause us to question what is possible for our city. 
Together, we can make the tough choices necessary to move every community in Baltimore forward.
What an unbelievable piece  written by a Mayor who is clearly not in touch wit the drastic reality of the situation facing her city.
The Baltimore Grand Prix was a colossal boondoggle that costs the city millions of dollars both in taxpayer dollars and lost productivity. The fact that the Mayor took time away from her day to focus not on the situation with city schools, with the dilapidating infrastructure, with vacant houses, and a skyrocketing crime rate in order to write an editorial defending a car race that nobody wanted in the first place shows how radically out of touch Stephanie Rawlings-Blake is with the gravity of the situation that her city faces and shows that she is totally incapable of leading the city to the level of prosperity that residents and our state need in order to succeed.

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