Some thoughts on Tuesday afternoon in Annapolis at the House Appropriations Committee. The boosters’ best performer on the day was Del Karen Young – fluent, enthusiastic and apparently convinced that this project will be “transformative.” Most of the rest of the team were less compelling. Maybe I’ve heard them too often, difficult to pay attention… Karen Young’s weakness is that in order to make her case more compelling she fabricates things. Examples: (1) she over-claimed about local support for the project saying it was about 85%, also that all the elected officials are on board. She set herself up for Randy Cohen’s lobbyist Bruce Bereano to thunder: “They didn’t tell you that the Frederick County delegation voted against this bill….” (2) she claimed that they have a fully-worked out segregation of the accounts of the private hotel and the public conference center. You have to think Del Young is imagining that.
The whole rationale for attaching meeting space to the hotel is to make joint use of overhead facilities like kitchens, dining areas, bathrooms, reception area, to make joint use of supplies and to have the same staff cover both. How can the accounts be segregated when conferences and events are booked with rooms and meals packaged jointly along with use of the conference rooms? It is common practice to give away conference room usage to get block bookings of rooms and meals.
How can they segregate the two as separate businesses. If it is worked out: where is the document laying out how it is to be done? We should follow up on this.
Our side’s most powerful point against HB1474 was made by Bereano again: Maryland Stadium Authority in HB1474 is being asked to get into supporting one private business against others. It has never in the past done this. Where does it have the authority in law to do this?
None of the booster team had any comeback on that.
Also I thought the whole context of the day’s hearings weighed a bit against Frederick’s hotel boondoggle and the $31m. Before they got to us the afternoon session had the state budget director speaking to the mechanisms for coping with a statewide spending trend higher than the revenue trend, and the provisions to exempt areas of spending from automatic cuts. That with questions and discussion was over an hour. It made the point powerfully: state resources are stretched to the limit.
Then the session was dominated by bill after bill to get small additions to a variety of affordable housing, drug rehab, mental health, youth employment counseling services. This took over four hours. I am accused of having dozed off during some of this. Rebuilding my strength for the battle to come.
And then came an effort led by Jan Gardner and Fred county officials to get some extra money for Frederick High School to cover cost over-runs.
Coming after all this was the Frederick boosters’ happy talk about our upscale hotel that needed $31m that would be so “transformative” etc. It seemed bizarre and incongruous. You’d put a gym, a spa, business center, and slick conference rooms for the corporate set in Frederick ahead of extra counselors for kids with drug problems and suicidal issues, for financial counseling for people threatened with foreclosure and homelessness etc etc. No $s for Frederick’s high school? Where the hell are your priorities? I wish in retrospect I’d spoken to that, but the old brain only clicked onto the point standing chatting in the lobby after it was all over. I suspect however many of the House appropriators cottoned onto the incongruity of the hotel boosters pitch without it being spelled out explicitly for them.
Another word about the day. I was impressed in informal interactions in the lobbies and in the committee hearing room by how warm, friendly and approachable, and apparently interested were the delegates and staffers. Of both parties. I came away feeling better about our system of representative government. Del Krimm though she knew my opposition to her bill was warm and cordial in a minute or so of one on one conversation before the hearing. On the City side Richard Griffin went out of his way to come over and say hello to myself and a couple of other Againsts.
The funniest moment of the day for me was mid-afternoon when Jane W touched me saying: “Are you alright?” I was sitting jammed tightly between her and Nicholas B and she had received a text message from a friend watching proceedings on live video. The message there on her cellphone told her “the guy next to you has fallen asleep.” She squeezed my arm to check I hadn’t quietly died. PSam 2016-03-09