Mr Governor: we wish to draw to your attention a scandalous effort by a minority of Frederick County delegates to fund a Frederick conference center boondoggle through parliamentary trickery. Bills to enable the Maryland Stadium Authority to fund a Downtown Conference Facility in Frederick (HB1474, SB1038) were introduced and advanced in the proper way to the Appropriations and Finance committees respectively. Each committee held hearings, taking written and spoken testimony on March 8 and March 22. Those committees each made the independent decision that the Frederick project was not fit for state funding, and no move was made to advance either bill further. The enabling legislation was in effect shelved for this year at least. Meanwhile the minority of County delegates schemed to bypass regular General Assembly processes by sneaking the same money into the budget conference bill.
This makes a mockery of established General Assembly review procedures for state spending, so we ask you to use your influence and statutory powers to stop this.
The reasons you should object to this item:
1. Such deceitful parliamentary maneuvers bypassing fiscal review are unacceptable
2. The project has not yet been reviewed by key City agencies including the Planning Commission and the Historic Preservation Commission and is nowhere near ready for funding, since those independent city agencies are likely to scale it back
3. The project is wasteful having been valued at $36 million while costing twice that.
4. The state funding and underwriting of losses for one hotel operator is unfair to established hotels, especially those investing in meeting space with their own resources
5. Conference facilities sponsored by state agencies generally are chronic lossmakers – think Rocky Gap Hotel, Chesapeake Bay Conference Center, Ocean City Convention Center, Baltimore Convention Center, in Maryland, nearby Lancaster County Convention Center PA and scores more further afield
6. Consultant studies conducted by the City and the Stadium Authority suggest the financial prospects of the hotel side of this project are marginal, but they ignore completely the finances of the associated conference facility which is proposed for state funding and City guarantees
7. Promoters of this project in the City have managed to garner some political support based on the lie that taxpayers are not at risk, yet the detailed wording of the bill states that the City will assume responsibility for all operating expenses including losses
8. The frantic effort by promoters to gain state funding at this point constitutes unacceptable state interference in City level decision-making. By injecting a state funding agency into the process it will pre-empt review of the project under City code for historic preservation and traffic impacts.
PS: This report details the parliamentary bypass in question: