Hotel an election issue — Afzali  and Giangrande highlight opposition to tax-$s

Kathi Afzali the Republican candidate challenging Jan Gardner for County Executive is contrasting her stance on the downtown hotel with those of her two rivals in the November 6 election. A chart in a recent email flyer contrasts her stance against taxpayer money going to the hotel with the support for taxpayer dollars  by incumbent Jan Gardner (Democrat) and Earl Robbins, the independent candidate. Afzali’s flyer presents the issue as: “Corporate Welfare: Giving $30 million in taxpayer money to a private developer to build a hotel in downtown Frederick.” The chart (see lower in this report) shows with a red ‘X’ that Afzali opposes government money whereas Gardner and Robbins with green ticks support ‘corporate welfare.’

Gardner was an outspoken supporter of tax money for the City-sponsored hotel — at least through to last spring. The County was originally recruited to support the project with the

Jan Gardner

City promise that an integral part of the hotel project would be 600-car Parking Deck 6 that the hotel and county employees could share. But that turned out to be a bait-&-switch. When Maryland Stadium Authority support lagged and a much-higher-than-expected cost estimate was produced of the project in January 2016 (Forella Group report) the City’s hotel advisory committee quietly dumped the parking deck. 

Nevertheless Gardner was instrumental in pushing through the County Council 67% increase in the County hotel tax in order to back the boondoggle — although it was a close vote on party lines except for Bud Otis siding with the Democrats. The County lost its say in

Kathy Afzali

the project early this year when the City HAC was abolished by Mayor O’Connor and replaced by the Plamondon-led Hotel Group.

Independent senate candidate Earl Robbins of course supports the hotel project. He was the second and longest chairman of the HAC from March 2012 following the departure of the first chairman Mark Gaver — subsequently revealed as living high off bank money he obtained by submitting fraudulent accounts. At a cost to lenders of some $50 million the first HAC chair was probably the largest Frederick conman in history.

Frederick News Post reports Giangrande against tax-$s for hotel

The Frederick News-Post reports that in the Senate District 3 contest Republican Craig Giangrande challenger to Ron Young is also firmly opposed to taxpayer money for the hotel. It should be built just like any other commercial undertaking, Giangrande says, without government money.

Craig Giangrande

FNP quotes him: “Absent clear, convincing evidence of public benefit, I don’t support public funds being used for private enterprise. In this case I don’t see such evidence, so I would not support the state providing millions of dollars to the deal.”

Giangrande also opposes County moves to support the hotel — notably the County’s August 2016 hike in the hotel tax from 3 to 5 percent on behalf of the hotel owner, and the use of tax-increment financing by the county and city for the project. 

He is quoted further: “TIFs (tax-increment financings) should be used sparingly, if at all. Under a TIF, for an extended period, the city would forgo taxes generated by the improvements done to this parcel, citing that it was sitting vacant and providing little taxes to the town anyway. This pre-supposes that this particular parcel has little marketable real estate value moving forward, which is not the case at all. The completion of the Carroll Creek project immediately adjacent has elevated that parcel to prime real estate. All this in a city with a downtown commercial and restaurant scene which is thriving.”

Senator Ron Young is quoted by the FNP as predicting that Governor Larry Hogan will continue to oppose state support for the Frederick hotel. Young claims it “will more than pay for itself.” The sitting senator espouses the theory of canal-loving Martians as the downtown hotel’s main patrons, rather than humans who in the absence of the downtown hotel would stay at other hotels in the Frederick area with little net increase in visitors, hotel and tax revenues.

Young said the project “will definitely be threatened if I am not re-elected.” The other senator representing Frederick County, Michael Hough (Republican) opposes taxpayer funding for the hotel.

Democratic Party principles put major stress on social justice and focussing taxpayer money on the needy and on established public services such as health and education. Their support for a hotel classed as “upper, upscale,” and directed to attracting the patronage of business people seems to be a departure from those principles.  PSam 2018/10/24

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