Update October 14th: Mayor and Council election in three weeks will likely determine the future of the stadium plan, here. Also, project would require $10 million in state funds.
Last night the Mayor and Council of Hagerstown held the first public “hearing” for a project that has had the city buzzing for months. Some would call it a dog and pony show as the Mayor and his fellow promoters in the Hagerstown ruling class had prepared well with a video presentation, glossy handouts, and displays with maps and diagrams of the city and the proposed venue for the heart of downtown.
For me there is only one issue and I had a discussion with one of the ‘red shirts’ (project supporters all wore red shirts with the slogan “got game?” on the front) in the hallway afterward. He identified himself as a Republican who said we (Hagerstown) must get our piece of the taxpayer pie. Oh, he didn’t say it that crudely, but he did say the Democrats run this state and they are taking it all and we needed to get our share. I said that is what is wrong with the state and the Nation—someone, somewhere, has to start saying NO! that isn’t right.
In a nutshell: If private investors aren’t willing to take the risk and build this supposed gold mine of a project, then why are the taxpayers being told we must take the risk? Is this the role of government? I don’t think so!
I’m not going to say much now, it struck me that this was a done deal. Well sort of—at least it is in the minds of the Mayor and Council! However, they don’t have any significant private investment, no completed environmental studies, no lease with the Suns, and no guarantee that O’Malley and the boys running Annapolis are going to pony-up any serious money.
In the meantime, as they hold out the promise of big bucks to the owners of the blighted neighborhood properties that would be demolished if the stadium project proceeds, there is no incentive for anyone to fix up the deteriorating buildings. If the project is never built the city will have decayed even further by the time the squabbling is over. And, by the way, who are the owners of the properties that would be acquired? The Herald Mail is identifying owners of properties in some recent county government acquisition projects (after the fact); how about a little investigation first this time!
It will be interesting to see if the voters of Hagerstown vote out this Mayor and Council next month. The elections will speak louder than any public hearing that few heard.
Here is the Herald Mail story this morning; reporter CJ Lovelace says 80 attended (the cavernous room had been set up for hundreds and hundreds). I would have guessed around 100. Those not in attendance was more interesting than those who were there. I thought that the elected officials who will have a say about how much taxpayer money is spent would have been there to listen to members of the public.
Admittedly I could have missed someone in the back of the room, but I didn’t see any County Commissioner or any Maryland Delegate or our State Senator, or hardly any movers and shakers in the Republican Party. There were a few Tea Party leaders, but not all of them. And, I didn’t see leading promoters of the project, the Hagerstown insiders, other than in the video promo we saw at the outset of the meeting. (please correct me if I’m wrong and you were in the back of the room).
So where was everyone?
For new readers, all of our previous posts that mention the Hagerstown stadium are here. When I get a few minutes I’ll make a new category just on the stadium because I think the topic will be instructive as time goes on.