Paying the Piper, Again

Sigh. After blowing over a hundred million dollars on Strathmore and the Black Rock Center, the county is now seeking to further subsidize the wealthy by paying out taxpayer dollars to establish (surprise!) another arts center in the county. This time, the issue is bringing the Birchmere to Silver Spring.

The Birchmere, in Alexandria, is a concert hall / nightclub which brings in some high-profile folk and rock acts. A lobbying group called “Silver Spring Forward” is urging the county and state to pay the Birchmere to open a second location in Silver Spring in property owned by the Lee Development Group. Pay careful attention to the money flow here.

Governor O’Malley has earmarked $2 million in the 2008 state budget for this project. (Just as an aside: if even Congress is now recognizing that earmarks are just pork barrel projects, when will the Maryland General Assembly finally start getting embarrassed?) Montgomery County has agreed to set aside another $4 million in county subsidies for the project. In exchange for these funds, the Lee Development Group would turn over the land to the county, and the county would provide other concessions to Lee. Sounds like a winner for everyone, except the taxpayers, of course. The Allied Civic Group, an umbrella organization for several county civic associations, also supports the project.

Tickets for concerts at the Birchmere now run in the $40-60 range. I’ve seen concerts advertised there that I would have liked to attend, but simply couldn’t afford.

My guess is that people who attend those concerts have some significant disposable income. If enough people want to have nearby concerts, then a branch of Birchmere should be profitable in Silver Spring. Locals who want to spend $50-60 for a concert would have a great place to go. But taxpayers shouldn’t be forced to subsidize wealthier concert-goers.

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3 Comments on “Paying the Piper, Again”

  1. Ron Says:

    The old folkies were rebels against precisely this kind of behavior, weren’t they? Ahhh, the irony!

  2. GDU61 Says:

    Is this a done deal? Or can this be stopped somehow?

    -GDU

  3. Zinzindor Says:

    It looks like a done deal, but it supposedly depends on an assessment from the Economic Development folks. I’ll post more on that.


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