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Op-ed

Don't give up on Baltimore, Preakness

There's been talk about moving the Preakness Stakes from Pimlico, which is in my district and has been home to the second leg of The Triple Crown for 140 years, to Laurel. I get it. Pimlico needs work to bring its facility up to par with Laurel Raceway. Laurel is closer to Washington and would attract people from that market who don't otherwise care enough about the event to drive the extra 30 minutes or so to Pimlico. Baltimore? Laurel? Either way, the race stays in Maryland, so what's the big deal, right?

Actually, it's a huge deal. In fact, the whole idea is an example of everything that's wrong with how we've come to view the problems facing all our nation's great cities. It's all about money nowadays, about the easiest, least expensive, shortest term solution — regardless of the consequences to our people, which aren't as easy to quantify.

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In the past few weeks, the negative publicity our city has received has been devastating. The relentless headlines threaten to eclipse the many wonderful things about Baltimore that so many of our people have worked so hard to accomplish and that our neighborhoods have fought every day to preserve.

There was a moment after the riots and looting when people took to their streets to help clean up the mess. That's Baltimore. We're all in this together and we're going to continue to do whatever we can to make our city an even better place to live and work.

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And then some well-meaning, I'm sure very smart, people got the bright idea to move the Preakness. Who cares about the impact on Baltimore employment and income? Who cares about how we're viewed by a nation of vacationers, conventioneers and companies who might actually want to move here and hire our unemployed? It's only a horse race. What difference does it make if we move it to Laurel or anywhere else outside the city?

The answer is, it makes all the difference in the world. It's not just a business decision. It's personal. The Preakness isn't just a Maryland race. It's a Baltimore race, a Pimlico tradition that brings jobs and income and favorable publicity the city needs.

Here's an idea: Let's have the vision to solve a difficult problem instead of opting for the less expensive, easier solution regardless of whom it hurts. This city is my home. I've been here forever and on the City Council for District 5 almost as long. For the many wonderful things I've seen in Baltimore over the years, for the great and enduring contribution Baltimore has made to our state and country and for the extraordinary people who took to the streets to clean up their beloved, somewhat flawed and occasionally difficult city — for all that and more, we should extend every effort, whatever it takes to keep the Preakness in Baltimore. To do otherwise demonstrates a lack of initiative, a lack of creativity and vision — and a lack of respect for the good people of this great city.

To let the Preakness, its jobs, its income and the attention in brings to Baltimore slip away down the road for some technical business reasons is not how we do things. That's not how we solve our problems. And that kind of thinking is not what made us great.

I for one plan on doing everything I can to make sure my family and friends will be enjoying next year's race, and the one after that and after that at an even more spectacular Pimlico where the Preakness belongs. See you all there.

Rochelle "Rikki" Spector is a Baltimore City councilwoman For District 5. Her email is Rochelle.Spector@baltimorecity.gov.


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