Tuesday, November 15, 2011

Race relations

The Beatles had that song "Please Please Me" with the interesting lyric, "I don't wanna sound complaining, but you know there's always rain in my heart..."  Well, I don't wanna sound complaining either, but this Baltimore Grand Prix still bothers me.

A couple of years ago, some promoters dreamed up the idea of turning the streets of downtown Baltimore into a race course.  They envisioned cars rolling around over a hundred miles an hour on streets where the average motorist is lucky to travel a mile in a hundred hours. 

And they sold the city on the idea, told the city that untold millions would pour into the town coffers, and businesspeople would be doing big business all weekend long, and all the businesses that did support operations for the race would benefit as well.

So, the race was held this past Labor Day weekend, and everyone basked in the glow of success as cable tv came to town to cover something besides murders.  People strained their elbows, patting themselves on the back for all the race had done in the names of culture and commerce.
The basking slowed down shortly after the roar of the engines and the smell of exhaust wafted away. When the accountants were finished totaling up everything, it seemed more apparent that the boom was really a bust.  The promoters of the race are known as Baltimore Racing Development.  They owe the city a million and a half US dollars, and they supposed to pay $470,000 on a loan from the Maryland Stadium Authority, and they owe money to several small companies, such as a female-owned cement firm that supplied several hundred thousand dollars' worth of concrete for the race structures and is still awaiting payment.

All this does not even mention the hundreds of trees, some of them forty-some years old, which got the Paul Bunyan treatment just so people could sit downtown in rented bleachers seats and watch cars go by really fast.

I don't get it; I didn't get it when they came up with the idea and I still don't see the appeal.  But if you're going to tie up the center of the city for weeks before and after the race, and use city police and fire and parking and other municipal services, and contract with private firms for services and goods, you should really pay up soon, especially since they are planning Grand Prix II for next September.

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