Time for a statistic to keep track of the city's economic development subsidies

August 18, 2011

While I am sure that the vast majority of Baltimore residents will be happy with a Grand Prix result of $2 million a year in direct tax benefits to the city or a full $70 million in economic impact ("The Road to a Grand Prix," Aug. 14), there is always the slippery slope of how much is projected to win the votes and backers needed for an event and the eventual result.

Since my tax dollars supported the $7.75 million in road improvements, I would like to know how many city residents received the jobs which repaved the roads or erected the fences for the Grand Prix and if they were they paid a living wage. I concede that it is definitely possible that workers at Harborplace restaurants and at the downtown hotels will receive extra shifts and maybe some overtime pay for that weekend. I know that the hotels and some restaurants, owned by out-of-town chains, will have extra income as well. I want to know if any new, permanent, jobs were created for this event.

I want to know if the claims of the $70 million in economic impact are in fact realized. In an article in the Daily Reporter of Greenfield, Ind. (near the home of the Grand Prix), a UMBC professor who specializes in sports economics is quoted as saying that evidence from similar events around the country shows that they are "oversold and way under-delivered." (http://www.greenfieldreporter.com/view/story/c044ca85999f412e91d32924363ef58e/MD--Baltimore-Grand-Prix/ )

It is time for the citizens of Baltimore to demand and receive accountability for our economic development subsidies: let's have a subsidy-stat. I recommend that the results be posted on the city website. What is the actual income which accrued to Baltimore residents and companies, or to out-of- town hotel owners, to big investors? Did we collect that promised $2 million in tax revenue? Did the race organizers write the check, as promised, for the annual fee and for the police, firefighters and other services ($750,000 for the first year)?

The Sun article points out that they had to get a loan from the Maryland Economic Development Corp. to make their $500,000 payment to the Maryland Stadium Authority which in turn the Indiana newspaper said has spent $1.5 million to rehabilitate the parking lot which will be used as pit row. What did we receive in exchange for our $7.75 million in tax dollars spent on road improvements or for the mature trees which were cut down so out-of-towners could have a better view of a race (I know they promised some saplings, but was it a fair exchange?) Did the neighborhoods surrounding the race area that received $100,000 for streetscape and clean up efforts feel that they were adequately compensated? I want these stats so I can better evaluate if we are sacrificing our city for the long term in not having a visionary economic development strategy from which we can all benefit.

Betty Robinson, Baltimore

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