Last year, as we fondly recall, our all-Republican Loudoun Board of Supervisors had no sooner finished their very fraught deliberations over the next year’s budget — during which they demonstrated their great fiscal rectitude by whacking out small grants to non-profit community-based organizations — than they started doling out very generous gifts to their friends, totally outside of the budget process.
So while the Loudoun Symphony, the Master Gardeners program, and many other volunteer programs lost their small funding amid much hand-wringing over the tough need to set tough priorities and make tough spending choices, a couple of months later, without any discussion or notice, the Board turned around and laid a cool $50,000 on the Babe Ruth World Series, a pet project of big local GOP honcho Dale Polen Myers.
Youth baseball is a perfectly fine thing, but it was unclear why a single weeklong event was deemed worthy of such a fat grant at the very same time local cultural and community organizations that serve the community year round and/or bring in visitors year round were being axed on budgetary grounds. The argument, such as it was, for this act of munificence was that hosting one of the dozen “world series” that the Florida-based Babe Ruth outfit stages each year would bring in such a “return on investment” to Loudoun’s hotels that it would be such an economic boon to the county as to justify spending $50,000 of public funds to pay the “fee” that the local organizers must fork over to the Florida-based Babe Ruth organization for the privilege. It is a requirement of the statute allowing hotel tax funds to be used to give such grants that the events they fund produce demonstrable numbers of overnight stays, thus helping the hotel business.
The only trouble is that the “overnight stays,” according to an appeal just sent out by Visit Loudoun, are going to be in private homes: “HOST FAMILIES NEEDED FOR BABE RUTH WORLD SERIES AUGUST 15TH-25TH” reads the notice. Yes, that’s right: the 130 boys coming to play in the “world series” will all be put up by local area families. A little detail we guess Chairman Scott York (R, then I, now R) and the Board forgot to mention last year in their indignant defense of dropping 50 gees on their buddy. (For its part, Visit Loudoun told the Board “it is difficult to place exact figures on a return on investment” for the Babe Ruth event.)
The larger problem is that the whole transit-occupancy tax fund is, under this Board, increasingly becoming a political slush fund to reward their well-connected friends, including a Christian musical evangelizing event, while at the same time they steer longstanding funding away from organizations and events that this Board obviously believes are the work of evil godless elitist Democrats, such as museums, gardens, the arts, and any music other than “Christian rock.”