Plans are now well afoot to use tax money and Maryland Stadium Authority public bonding to build a new conference center and hotel in downtown Frederick. I have no opinion (nor is it really my business) whether such a conference center and hotel deserve to get built, but if they do, they should stand on their own feet financially and not draw on taxpayers or their guarantees:
* I think the (R) majority of the county’s delegation in Annapolis are wise not to support a hike in the county’s hotel tax — paid by innkeepers and their customers county-wide, from New Market to Middletown to Emmitsburg — intended to channel funds to a conference center that would disproportionately benefit one downtown hotel.
* A public-sector Maryland Stadium Authority is not a proper function of government to begin with and letting it get into funding conference centers and the like makes everything worse. If the calamitous money pit that is the Baltimore Hilton convention center is not enough to give this sort of public bond-backed project a bad name in our state, what ever will? Just say no to MSA.
* Preservationists are up in arms about the project’s possible impact on one of Frederick’s chief tourism, lifestyle, and relocation selling points, its nationally famed, beautifully human-scale historic district. Without prejudging this debate, I would just note that in other cities, publicly funded trophy projects have badly hurt historic downtowns, leading to regret later.
If private demand for conference services is not sufficient to call forth private financing on the scale desired, maybe that should be a flashing amber light about the project as currently conceived.