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Mayor won't admit truth about Grand Prix

Auto RacingLocal GovernmentStephanie Rawlings-Blake

In her recent commentary in The Sun, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake tries obfuscation to explain her sophomoric push for the Grand Prix, instead of admitting the truth — that it has been a financial flop, was a huge waste of taxpayer funds and tied the city in knots for a month each year ("Rawlings-Blake: No regrets on the Grand Prix," Sept. 16).

The excuse promulgated by City Hall that a "scheduling problem" caused the cancellation of the race is laughable, especially since Mayor Rawlings-Blake actually signed an agreement with the race promoter to hold the weekend open for next five years. Of course, any adult Baltimore citizen knows how desperate she is for anything that will generate income and put her in the spotlight to further her political ambitions. The sad truth of the matter is that Baltimore is just one of the half-dozen cities around the country that found out the same thing — that Grand Prix races don't make money. The yearly economic analysis by city consultants so grossly overstated the economic impact of the race that it was just another comical factor. It's obvious that if the race had generated anywhere near the $30 million or so that was promised by the mayor, the "scheduling problem" would have been cleared up in short order. The promoters, hoteliers and restaurateurs would be screaming at the top of their lungs at the injustice of a cancellation. Instead, we hear a telltale silence.

Anyone who lives downtown knows that the past two years of the Grand Prix have been a resounding flop with significantly less attendance than the first year (which was also a flop). In both years, the stands have been largely vacant of race-goers with the exception of the final race on the final day and the promoters have not been able to get a primary sponsor. This means that income to the race promoters is not a pretty picture and is likely to have resulted in consecutive losses for all three years. Hotel occupancy rates were just marginally higher than normal, and many restaurants which were not right on the race course suffered mightily.

The waste of millions of taxpayer dollars in construction costs and city services, the losses inflicted upon taxpayers by the fraud of the promoters of the initial race, and the shrinking attendance — all in all, this was not a going proposition. But then there was also the obfuscation. Ms. Rawlings-Blake's failure to admit the obvious truth of this highly visible public fiasco is just another sign of the mayor's immaturity. In hindsight, maybe we have ourselves to thank for this kind of management since Ms. Rawlings-Blake was elected by less than a 5 percent voter turnout.

Gary Moyer, Baltimore

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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