Would sale renew old supertrack debate?

Blogging Maryland Politics

April 06, 2009

It's been a busy week in Maryland politics, with the General Assembly session heating up and more news about the possible sale of the state's thoroughbred tracks. Here are some highlights from The Baltimore Sun's Maryland Politics blog, along with selected comments from readers:

Shopping center magnate Carl Verstandig plans to bid on Pimlico Race Course and Laurel Park and wants to redevelop them into retail centers. His preference, he says, is to raze Pimlico, and he doesn't seem all that enamored of keeping Laurel running, either. Horse racing? He doesn't really care. And in the heresy of all heresies, he seems not all that concerned about what happens to the Preakness.

This has sparked some quick outrage.

"Any proposals that lead to Baltimore City losing the Preakness should be off the table," City Council President Stephanie C. Rawlings-Blake said in an e-mail Friday. "Prospective bidders for the track need to understand that any plan that would effectively take the Preakness away from Baltimore City will meet significant resistance from the Baltimore City Council."

The state is also taking a stake in this, with Senate President Thomas V. Mike Miller saying the legislature, governor and attorney general's office are all fully engaged in keeping the race in Maryland. But if not at Pimlico, where? Would this just renew the old debate over the state building a supertrack downtown?

Andrew A. Green

Blog reader Jo writes: "A new supertrack downtown near Camden is the best idea.

1. It would be accessible by current public transit, future public transit (Red Line) and I-95.

2. Put slots in the facility. Horse racing by day, walk to Camden for a night game or to the harbor for dinner.

3. Have more concerts during the summer, compete with other facilities.

4. Close Laurel and Pimlico, concentrate on one super track backed by location and slots."

But commenter Cheap Jim thinks differently: "Build another racetrack? People don't go to the ones that already exist."

Speed cameras passed the Senate on Thursday, after failing, after passing. The final vote of 27-20 in favor of the cameras shows that four votes changed from Wednesday night's vote against them. Those who switched: Mike Miller, Ulysses Currie, Bobby Zirkin and Nancy King. All are Democrats. It would be fascinating to learn what happened Wednesday night, and what happened between then and Thursday morning. My guess: It's less than meets the eye, and more a comedy of errors than some sort of grand strategy.

David Nitkin

Response to the speed camera bill from blog readers was overwhelmingly negative. Reader E. Jones wrote, "This state does not care about its citizens, but only revenue. Piggyback taxes, emission test [taxes], large increases in driver's license renewal & car registration. Now, they will have cameras on ever corner, road, & highway so that it can cause bottlenecks, stress, delays, which will add to the public's already high stress due to the economy. What poor timing."

But a few, like commenter Karl, cheered the decision. "If you are involved in road construction or have children who attend school you should be glad speed cameras passed. If you break the law and drive like jerks, pay up. I love red light cameras also. Being hit broadside by a red-light running fool is not fun. If people knew how to drive we would not need such laws."

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