Spending tax dollars for fun and (someone’s) profit

Those paragons of fiscal rectitude, the all-Republican Loudoun Board of Supervisors, may be Scrooges when it comes to schools, arts and culture, or protecting Loudoun’s heritage and scenic values, but they certainly know how to throw the taxpayer’s money around when it comes to anything they can plausibly or even implausibly claim is boosting economic activity in the county.

It’s a great fig-leaf for lavishing $50,000 grants on well-connected Loudoun Republican Party apparatchiks, securing $80 million loans for major campaign contributors’ commercial development projects, and even — how convenient — picking up the tab so that Chairman Scott York (R-At Large, frequently) could spend a total of a month and a half traveling abroad last year on no fewer than five official junkets to Germany, England, and Taiwan.

Last spring, the county blew $20,000 on a cut-and-paste “consultant’s” report that while offering no real analysis and only the most superficially thrown together bunch of mostly irrelevant facts that a bright middle-school student could have taken off the internet (did you know that Leesburg is the 34th largest city within Virginia, Maryland, Pennsylvania, and DC?) concluded to the amazement of students of government everywhere exactly what the government agency that commissioned the report (Visit Loudoun) wanted it to conclude: that the county should spend more money on sports facilities, and expand the Visit Loudoun staff, with the aim of “Increasing Tourism through Sports,” the foregone-conclusion title of the study.

Tomorrow the agency is putting on a dog and pony show at a local hotel where the report’s author will beat the drum more for the great cause of sports at taxpayer expense, a cause dear to the hearts of this Republican Board, especially when it promises to put money in the hands of major campaign contributors, all the better if it is funded by the such dodges as “special taxing districts” or subsidized by waiving sales taxes on selected events (one recommendation of the report).

Among the report’s incredibly insightful findings are that “facility quality” includes “whether the fields are in good condition” and whether there are “adequate bathroom facilities.” The authors also note (they frequently invoke their “professional judgment” as the basis for these profound conclusions) that “Dulles International Airport is within 20 miles of all key sports facilities within Loudoun County.”

You can’t say we didn’t get our money’s worth on this one.

The authors — while cautioning that to actually come up with any real numbers that mean anything one would have to hire a “professional consulting firm and/or university expert who are versed in the subjective peculiarities associated with impact studies” to examine each specific sports event and “such studies for singular events can range in price from $5,000 to $50,000 depending upon the scope and complexity of the project” — nonetheless offered their “professional judgment” that Visit Loudoun ought to spend $100,000–150,000 a year expanding its staff to promote sports events and that the county should “seriously consider” building a $12 million indoor sports facility to “compete” with what it acknowledges are a “plethora of competing facilities within an hour’s drive of Loudoun County.” Makes sense to us.

And of course, it is the merest coincidence that the author of this “study” just happens to be a “professional consulting firm and/or university expert.”

In the upcoming annual budget deliberations, we will no doubt be hearing a great deal again about what constitutes a “core function of government,” with lots of clucking and tsk-tsking about $500 budget items for arts and cultural events. It will be interesting to see if the $20 grand that gets blithely dropped on content-free consultants’ studies or the $150 grand that’s being proposed to build up the sports politburo dear to this Board’s heart even get mentioned.

for a pdf of the profound $20,000 “Increasing Tourism through Sports” study, click here: IncreasingTourismthroughSports

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