The Grand Prix is in our rear view mirror, and fans from New York to Georgia seem to have had a good time. The downtown hotels and a few Inner Harbor restaurants got a two-day bump. The city's mayor declared that she gave "Baltimore the opportunity to shine" ("A jubilant finish line for the Grand Prix," Sept. 5). But before declaring victory, lets ask a few questions about the real impact of this event.
What opportunities were lost as City Hall became a headquarters for race promotion? The Grand Prix cost not only millions of dollars for roads but also required thousands of hours of city resources for planning and support. For months, city officials have been pre-occupied and have put numerous neighborhood projects on the back burner as the Grand Prix took priority.
Hundreds of police and fire personnel dedicated thousands of hours to the race — successfully protecting race visitors but ignoring our citizens. Transportation, public works, all city agencies had to pitch in to make the race a success, even though we are perpetually told that these agencies are strapped for resources to solve Baltimore's problems.
How is life better for those of us who live in the city after Labor Day? How many Baltimoreans have new, full-time jobs as result of the race? How many companies have set up shop year-round in Baltimore? How many new recreation centers or park improvements do we have? Are our schools better? Are our streets safer? Are our taxes lower or our tax collection better? Are our streets and alleys cleaner? Is the quality of life for the average Baltimorean better today than it was last Friday?
Tourist weekends, no matter how successful for the Inner Harbor, are not a reasonable development strategy for Baltimore's future. We should ask our officials to focus on fixing problems and generating strategies that will make real, long-term improvements in the everyday life of citizens. Our future is in economic policies that will make Baltimore a place where businesses want to locate and people want to live.
Throwing a party is nice, but it doesn't fix the plumbing. I suspect that today many of our Grand Prix visitors are thinking the same thing I am: Baltimore is a nice place for a party, but is there any reason to live there? Let's hope City Hall can figure out an answer to that question. If not, we can all come back to visit on race day from our new homes in the suburbs.
Mac Nachlas, Baltimore