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How come tax dollars are supporting luxury facilities for ‘visiting celebrities’ but not-even-adequate facilities for us taxpayers? As the annual local budget battle proceeds, just before the (hopefully eventual) consideration of the Adequate Public Facilities Ordinance revisions, I find myself near outrage over several items recently brought to light in the HoCo Times.

Allow me to weave these items together to help you understand my incredulity. As a voice (seemingly in the wilderness) trying to bring attention to the inadequacies and inequities that detract from the quality of life in the Route One Corridor I was super pleased to see Fatimah Waseem’s comprehensive article “As residents wait, visions for Route 1 languish“ (HoCo Times, Thursday, April 13, 2017) as the front page story.  Finally! An article telling it like it is, was, and always has been along Route One. An article to be clipped and preserved. (Except I could only read it on-line, since my paid subscription once again failed to be delivered.)

It was greatly disappointing then that the Sunday Sun 4/16/17 Howard section felt the chief librarian’s move back to Berkley was far more compelling than the Route One tale of woe (and she therefore was the feature article.)  Really?  Did someone in HoCo “get to them” to NOT share our Rt. 1 shame with a larger audience?  That predictable lack of attention to Route One both creates and perpetuates its issues.

But here is the related something that REALLY has had me pulling my hair. It began more than a week ago, when a small picture with caption on page 17 of the 4/6/17 Howard County Times caught my attention on several levels. Bear with me on a little background.  I had awakened that Thursday to the disappointing realization that I would be unable to speak at the Council’s session on the capital budget that evening. Once again I faced the obstacle of not being able to drive after dark. I had really hoped to be able to speak in support of the study for a swimming pool at the North Laurel Community Center. The NLC Center was more than 20 years in the making, but was completed sans the promised pool.  Four plus years later, still no pool.

The private consulting firm which helps the Department of Recreation and Parks develop its five-year plans recently concluded that a county of Howard’s size should have at least three public swimming facilities.  Currently there is only one, the Roger Carter Center in Ellicott City. This is “a far piece” from North Laurel. While a closer facility exists in PG County, a non-resident fee makes this an expensive alternative.  More distant Columbia Association indoor heated swim facilities offering aqua aerobics for Seniors are prohibitively costly to non-residents.

The benefits of aqua therapy for seniors is very well documented. Therefore I’ve been thankful that the administration has responded to the pleas for a year-round pool from the many senior citizens who frequent NLCC.  Together with other senior citizens from the area I had dramatically lobbied for this pool for therapeutic purposes in prior years–including testifying in a swimsuit cover up that illustrated a daisy dukes-style outfit on a much more well endowed body than my own……… ANYTHING to get attention for the health needs of Seniors.   While the pool completion is still several years off, we cling to the hope of “seeing it in our lifetime”.

Imagine my fury then that Thursday morning when I read the photo caption on page 17.  Imagine learning that the Merriweather Post Pavilion “newly renovated backstage” includes “a pool being constructed for the performers and their families.”    Really? Really the only way we can attract acts to Merriweather is by providing them with a swimming pool for their exclusive use? Are performers somehow more deserving than those of us who have been longtime residents and taxpayers? I’m sure most of these celebrities probably have pools of their own. And surely if their families cannot be without one while they’re on the road, the ones in hotels should be adequate. Or are free ‘luxury accommodations’ also part of MPP’s package to entice performers?  Are our politicians even aware of what they are funding????

From this week’s HoCo Times article on the 2017 State legislative session I was able to confirm that indeed such frills are coming at taxpayers’ expense—in the form of $8 million from the State and another $4 million from Howard County to ‘revitalize MPP’.

I remain totally befuddled by how MPP supporters seem to get everything imaginable to keep MPP profits growing. They and the politicians who support them would have us believe that MPP is a critical economic engine for Howard County. However a detailed financial analysis which can be found on the Howard County Citizen Association website indicates otherwise. http://howardcountyhcca.org/wp-content/uploads/2016/12/HCCA-MPP-Letter-to-Delegates-19-October-2016.pdf .  Attachment 6 points out that when one deducts the cost to taxpayers of providing police coverage for all events, the actual revenue is insignificant compared to taxpayers’ support for revitalization.  The annual benefit to the County from the Pavilion (Admission Tax minus Police Cost) is only $327, 017.  If you include the taxes received from hotel stays and restaurant meals that still only comes to $936,857.

I’d sure have liked to see the most recent $12 million in taxpayer dollars go into Revitalization of Route One —the blighted, other alleged economic engine of the County. (I suspect the blighted village centers would have welcomed some of this cash also.)  Somehow money designated for Route 1 revitalization always seems to be reduced, year after year.

I tried to look for an upside in the MPP story.  I thought, “Well at least the State legislature unanimously voted to lower the sound level at MPP back to its 2013 cap.”  This was in response to HCCA’s successful campaign on behalf of citizens impacted by the volume and vibrations from concerts.  But alas……the opening of the concert season has jangled the nerves –and furnishings—of those well beyond immediate proximity.  While the lowered sound levels don’t go into effect until June 1 county taxpayers are already being told by HC police that they will NOT stop a concert for exceeding the cap.  Without enforcement, and attention to the effect of bass notes, it’s looking to be another miserable summer for taxpayers……..

We don’t hear Merriweather along the Route One Corridor….but maybe they’d like to open their pool for use by Seniors from this part of the County on non-concert days……….just to say “thank you for your sacrifice.”  Or maybe our politicians will finally stop providing almost $1 million in free Police and EMS services to MPP each concert season.  Oh sorry, it must be today’s heat making me delirious.

Let your outrage be known. Demand greater support of quality of life for taxpayers, rather than taxpayer financial support of business venues—and meet me on the high road,

Susan