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The Coalition That Kept The Preakness In Baltimore

 County Executive Barry Glassman and Delegate Tony Bridges
Provided by Baltimore Metropolitan Council
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County Executive Barry Glassman and Delegate Tony Bridges

Delegate Tony Bridges, who represents Baltimore City in Maryland's General Assembly, and Harford County Executive Barry Glassman talk about the future of the Preakness, the decision to keep it at Pimlico Race Course, and what that means for both Baltimore City and Harford County.

The podcast is produced by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, the council of local governments serving central Maryland, with assistance from WYPR.

Transcript

Tom Hall: Welcome to the Chesapeake Connect Podcast, I'm Tom Hall. Chesapeake Connect is an annual learning trip that brings together leaders from around Baltimore to explore best practices and programs in a peer region. It's organized by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, the Council of Governments serving greater Baltimore. The council has organized trips to Cleveland, New Orleans and Nashville in recent years.

Today on the Chesapeake Connect Podcast, we're talking about the Preakness. Last year, it was announced that the Preakness would be staying at Pimlico in Northwest Baltimore City. This after a push to move the second leg of the Triple Crown to Laurel. Well, that push failed. Today on the Chesapeake Connect Podcast, we're discussing the coalition that mobilized to keep the Preakness here in Baltimore and find out why the Preakness matters both for Baltimore City and Harford County.

I'm joined by Harford County Executive Barry Glassman. He's serving his second term as Harford County Executive. Prior to that, he served for 15 years in the Maryland General Assembly as both a delegate and a senator. County Executive Glassman is currently the vice chair of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council and he has served on the board since 2015. He participated in the 2018 and the 2019 Chesapeake Connect programs. County Executive Barry Glassman, welcome to the podcast. Good to talk to you.

Barry Glassman: Thanks, Tom. It's always good to be with you.

Tom Hall: I'm also joined by Delegate Tony Bridges. Delegate Bridges represents Baltimore City's 41st District in the Maryland House of Delegates. It's his first term. Prior to his time as an elected official delegate, Bridges served as chief of staff to both the Maryland Transit Administration and the governor's Office of Community Initiatives. Delegate Bridges was appointed to the board of the Baltimore Metropolitan Council in 2019, and he attended the 2019 Chesapeake Connect trip to Nashville. So Delegate Bridges, thank you as well for joining us here on the Chesapeake Connect Podcast.

Tony Bridges: Thank you, Tom, I appreciate the opportunity to be on air with you and with the county executive.

Tom Hall: So, Delegate, let's start with you. You represent Park Heights, which is where the Preakness, of course, is run every year at the Pimlico Race Track. Talk about the history of the effort to move the Preakness from Baltimore. I mean, things really came to a head right before the 2020 General Assembly session. What was at stake if the race were, in fact, to be moved away from Baltimore?

Tony Bridges: Yeah, that's a really good question and thank you for that. You know, I not only represent that area of the city, but I grew up in the park community, probably a few short blocks from where Pimlico is actually located. And for us, you know, just in the greater context of just thinking about Park Heights, that's about seventeen hundred acres of an area that really has seen, you know, it's been underserved for a long time and it looked to continue in that direction if Pimlico Race Course actually decided to relocate. And so for the community as well as elected officials, there was a lot at stake . Actually, the city had started a process to actually reinvigorate Park Heights and try to bring some life to the community by taking at least sixty five acres of the community and redeveloping it for commercial as well as residential development, which was huge for the Parks community. So if you think about it, that. Sixty five acres, that's, you know, is a major part of the Park Heights community. And if you think about Pimlico Race course, it's about 70 acres that if Pimlico Race Course actually left and we no longer had the Preakness as 70 acres of vacant land in an area where we're talking about is traditionally been underserved. And, you know, you've got a lot of dilapidated housing. And at this point or at this time, we were the city actually had acquired the sixty five acres that was in the process of demolishing that land.

So if Preakness moves, you have 70 acres of vacant land and about sixty five acres of vacant land, basically two blocks away from each other. And in our minds and the community minds, that just was was not acceptable. And so something had to be done to preserve not just the Preakness, but also make sure that the Preakness or anything that happened with Pimlico Race course was going to be woven into the fabric of the community and any redevelopment that was going to happen in the community. So it was really just something that we wouldn't allow happen and needed to be done in order to make sure that we reinvigorated the Park Heights community on both sides of Pimlico Race Course.

Tom Hall: And County Executive Glassman, I mean, as Delegate Bridges's just said, Pimlico's extremely important to his district in Park Heights. But, you know, a lot of folks, I bet, look at this from the outside and they say, well, it's just a one day event, you know. So why was the fate of the Preakness such an important issue for you as Harford County Executive?

Barry Glassman: Yeah, Tom, as Delegate Bridges indicated, not only important for his community, but I'm sure when I showed up at a lot of the hearings that folks will probably like, you know, why is County Executive Glassman here? But after spending a good time in the legislature and as you know, I grew up in Harford County farming community, and although I was my father and I were sheep farmers by trade, the horse industry was quite significant, not only in Harford County, but many of the suburban counties that ring or are close to the Pimlico location. In fact, when I when I testified, I always reminded everyone that really deputed testimony was the last Maryland bred horse to win the Preakness. And of course, he came from Harford County and he was banned down there that morning as a long shot to win the Preakness.

So thoroughbred horse breeding has been so important in the economic structure of Maryland. I think sometimes a lot of folks forget that it really is an economic powerhouse. We know at our last estimates that we have we really generate about seventy eight million dollars in tax revenue, close to thirty thousand jobs, sixteen thousand horse farms. And so it spreads out from grain to feed the fencing. All those jobs that are associated with the breeding operations, the training operations are are important. They happen every day of the year, not only during Preakness week, but also during the racing schedule during the rest of the year.

Tom Hall: And while racing at Pimlico may be a one day event, but horses don't eat just one day a week, that's for sure, or one day of the year. So Delegate Bridges, the race is going to stay here in Baltimore, but the deal that made that happen actually goes far beyond just keeping the second leg of the Triple Crown here in Baltimore. So tell us about that deal and what else it entails.

Tony Bridges: Yeah, it was, you know, something that we were really hoping to get through as the pandemic was beginning to unfold. And so, you know, it was it was really crucial for us to get everything involved in there that we needed, especially for the community. And so for me, it was important to keep Pimlico there, but it was even more important to make sure that whatever stayed became part of the community. And so the creative solutions that we sort of came up with was to make sure that as the track was redeveloped, there were also going to be some parcels of the land that are associated with the track that could also be used for redevelopment for the community. So there's approximately , I believe, 40 acres outside of the track that will be used to create like private development deals so that you can do more than just have land at the property. That land could actually be redeveloped.

In addition, Sinai Hospital is pretty close to where the track is located. Sinai Hospital is going to do an expansion. And so as they expand, their expansion will be part of what we do with Pimlico Race course moving forward. In addition to that, the racecourse is actually going to be more of a park because, as you mentioned, Preakness is one day out of the year. And so what do you do with Pimlico Race course the other 364 days out of the year? Well, in the way that the Preakness or Pimlico is going to be redeveloped, it'll actually be open and accessible for the community to use more of a public park than just an area where people travel and see a pretty race course through out the year. And so to facilitate facility will be more of a park so that, you know, there's sort of this, I would say invisible barrier sometimes between northern Park Heights and southern Park Heights based on where Pimlico Race Course is located by having more of a park setting really opens it up so that there's no real barrier between the northern part and the southern part of Park Heights.

So it really allows for the communities to come together, have private development. And the way that the legislation was set up is something called Park Heights Renaissance, which is really the redevelopment tool for the parks community that will get additional funding to continue the redevelopment, sort of a quasi city agency. So it's more of a redevelopment partner and the city doesn't have to do everything on its own. So there was a lot that was put into this legislation to make sure that the economic development for the entire community was really felt right.

Tom Hall: And County Executive Glassman. It's not just this legislation isn't just about Park Heights. It's not just about redeveloping Pimlico. Talk about what the legislation does to help the horse racing industry across the state, not just in Harford County even, but in other jurisdictions.

Barry Glassman: Well, you know, as far as the horse breeding and Marilyn was a little bit slow to come to the gaming industry and slots and so forth, since the Maryland bred account has been reestablished and reinvigorated, Maryland breeding operations are kind of back on the mend and growing as we see the numbers increase. So it will provide a venue for meets in addition to Laurel, but it provides a place where breeders and trainers can send their horses. And also, I think it's important that the horse industry also and many Maryland counties in the region as a regional approach, we do economic a lot development a lot in our counties and do redevelopment.

But when we think about the Pimlico Bill and what was accomplished, it really was partially about redeveloping the Park Heights area and Pimlico. And when dealing with this, these kind of opportunities do not come along very often. And it is very difficult to transform and uplift communities when you think about opening them up, redeveloping, providing housing, jobs. And I think without that centerpiece, it would have been a missed opportunity for a generation for that area. So, you know, they talk about this building being a long shot, and I always tied it back to deputed testimony, being a long shot. But for the community, for Park Heights , Baltimore and the region, I think losing. The race there at Preakness, the historical significance of that and the community really would have been a missed opportunity for a long time. And so that, I think, is just part of the story that we're saving the race, but also giving that whole area a chance at rebirth

Tom Hall: And Delegate Bridges. You talked about the long term benefits that this legislation creates for your district. You know, the physical home of Pimlico and how that's going to be transformed. Partners like Sinai Hospital and and others going to be utilizing this space. This is your first term in elected office in the General Assembly. What did this experience teach you about coalition building and, you know, coming to consensus about a major piece of legislation like this?

Tony Bridges: Yeah, it taught me a lot, I'll say that, you know, coalition building isn't just making sure that the people in the community you're representing are on board, but it's also, you know, and just thinking about the General Assembly, there are one hundred and forty one members of the General Assembly. You've got the House side. You've got the Senate side. You've got to have a majority of folks that are on your side to make sure that this legislation passes, and so as much as people use the phrase of sausage making, this really was a sausage, sausage making type of activity where we had to come together and really talk about, you know, how everyone benefits, not just Baltimore City, not just Prince George's County, not just Harvard, like how does everyone get benefit out of this? And so some going back and forth to figure out what's best, not just for the city, but for the rest of the state.

And at the same time, just thinking back to the community like this was a huge economic engine and sort of an underground economic engine for the Parks community. I mean, you've got folks that basically around the time of Preakness use that as an opportunity to really make money, whether it's, you know, parking cars on their lawn at 20, 40 dollars a car or, you know, back in my town, we used to, you know, take coolers into the the Preakness. And so you have individuals like myself who at a younger age would like take those coolers from folks that needed to walk to the Preakness to make sure that, you know, we got paid to take their cooler for them. And so, you know, there was a lot to be lost. And so bringing that up, you know, and talking to individuals about what gets lost if the Preakness gets lost in the community helped us to really build that coalition around the community to make sure that they understood what was going to be lost and bringing them to Annapolis to be advocates for the legislation, I think was also key to bringing everybody else on board. So it was a lot to happen in that 90 days to make sure that this legislation actually passed.

Tom Hall: And Barry Glassman, Tony Bridges as a delegate comes to this through the prism of a legislator, as you mentioned. One hundred and forty one members of the General Assembly in your position as the county executive, seems to me that bipartisanship and regional cooperation are very easy to talk about, but a lot harder to make happen in actuality. But it does seem to me that the effort to keep the Preakness here in Baltimore is a really tangible example of doing that. So talk about what it took to bring people together across the political and jurisdictional lines to make this legislation happen from your perspective as an executive?

Barry Glassman: Well, one of the first things and I have I think we have to mention Alan Rifkin and some of the folks that worked. You know, from my prior experience in the House and the Senate, I can remember the battles that the horsemen, the breeders and owners and the track owners, we could never get them, hardly on the same page on a number of racing bills and gaming bills over the year. So I have to say, was nothing short of a miracle also to get those three sometimes competing and ideologically different entities together in this. And I kind of thought early on, too, if they can get together in the industry for this proposal, then even Barry Glassman as a Republican county executive can get involved. And of course, with the big eight counties, I'm the only Republican, but we talk each week. We all deal with planning and economic development. And I know personally, as a County Executive, you kind of begin to appreciate regionalism and how working together to solve problems can really work and that, you know, you can set aside the partisan differences you may have, particularly when it comes to economic development and job creation. And so I think it was pretty easy.

And I have to say, really, my learning more about the BMC serving in the Big Eight, of course, president of the president of the Maryland Association of Counties, it gave me a better appreciation of the things that we have to do to look outside our own jurisdiction for the state and for a place like Baltimore City, which is a regional hub for Maryland. So I have to get my hats off to to those organizations also for teaching me a lot about regionalism and and what we've got to do to solve some of these bigger issues.

Tom Hall: Yeah. And County Executive, I wonder, I would assume that because you were in the legislature for 15 years prior to your election as County Executive in Harford County, that that experience, you know, helped inform your approach to advocating for this bill. I mean, you've got the perspective of both the legislative and the executive positions, I would imagine that helps. Do you think that that's the case?

Barry Glassman: It did help and it doesn't hurt when you can walk into the Senate hearing or House hearing and and see folks that you served with and with the new speaker and the Senate president and a lot of folks over the years that I've worked with, particularly even it's funny, I really spent a lot of time in the legislature on agricultural preservation, both land preservation and making sure agricultural and agriculture can survive as a business. So most horse farms are in preservation and land preservation. And so tying in that planning aspect with the other suburban counties is important, too. We all we all kind of have that in common. Each of us have great land preservation programs to some degree that have horse and agricultural operations. So you look for those commonalities to bring you together. And then each of us has our own experience to to bring to the legislature

Tom Hall: And Delegate Bridges, obviously, the legislation and the ultimate deal to keep the Preakness here in Baltimore were crafted in late 2019 . But the bill actually passed right during the early days of the pandemic. So COVID-19 has just affected everybody's lives in a million different ways. I wonder, what was that like? How close did it come to upending the work on this legislation to get Pimlico, you know, routed forever in here in Baltimore? I mean, that had to have been there had been some tense moments, I would imagine.

Tony Bridges: Oh, there were some very tense moments. I think, you know, we were all on pins and needles to make sure that as we were hearing more and more about COVID-19, that we can get this legislation passed in a timely manner by both houses. And so, you know, I got to give a lot of kudos also to the mayor, Mayor Jack Young, Delegate Sandy Rosenberg, who worked on this for a while. It was the new city council president who was a delegate at the time, Nick Mosby. I mean, there were a lot of folks that were working behind the scenes to try and really push this, whether it was on the Senate side or on the House side, just making sure that, you know, everything that we needed to do if we needed to bring folks to Baltimore to actually see the Preakness while we were in session or to see the track to make sure that the committees were well aware of everything that needed to happen. It was a lot of work that happened, you know, leading up to session actually seven down early to make sure that this was a priority and that actually crossed the finish line. So I just got to give a lot of kudos to those other folks that really helped to push this to make it happen.

Tom Hall: Yeah, it's been an extraordinary and unprecedented time for everybody. County Executive Glassman how did COVID -19 affect your work, not just on this legislation, but, you know, in your position as leading Harford County as part of one of the the Big Eight.

Barry Glassman: Well, it has been a year like no other, I can tell you, from from budgeting to to the covid response with testing and, you know, closing down. And the governor issued a lot of executive orders that have to be administered and interpreted at the local level. And so I still speak weekly with the other Big Eight county executives. We we share plans with COVID and talk about particularly how we're going to spend the CARES funding the grant programs to our businesses and communities. And so it has been a trying year, I think probably one of the toughest years I've ever had in public service. Right now we're pushing through the vaccine process and rolling out the vaccinations, whether it mass vax sites or with our local health departments. And we're catching up. We're still in a race against the virus with the variants. And so it really has kind of preoccupied, I think, everything that we kind of had on the map for this year. But we're coming out on the other side.

And right now we're looking at the shot in the arm that the American rescue plan gave us that the President Biden sent to locals and municipalities and the state here in Maryland, which will help us, I think, get to the other side without any tremendous budgetary downfalls in our budgets. And so right now, we're we're at four days a week with our local school system. And our numbers are pretty steady, although a little high still, and, you know, we're we're just hoping that we get a sense of normalcy and get most of our vaccines done by the end of June and get some herd immunity out there. So life may begin to return to somewhat normal by late summer.

Tom Hall: As they say, from your mouth to God's ears. And Delegate Tony Bridges, this year's race, the twenty twenty one Preakness, will actually be the first one with spectators since the Racing and Community Redevelopment Act became law. They're going to allow about 10000 people at the race. You are no longer carting coolers full of drinks for folks. But this year, what what about the event? Are you in particular looking forward to?

Tony Bridges: You know, I'm just really excited that will actually be able to have the event and have spectators that I think, you know, this year has taught us a lot. And I think the speaker of the House was really good at making sure that, you know, we were following the proper protocols, making sure that we have masks and we're spaced out. And I think that with Pimlico and the Preakness, it'll be the same thing. We've learned a lot. But I think between the community and having folks actually on site at the Preakness this year, we are all excited because this is the beginning of really I think that renaissance that people are looking for now that the legislation is passed and we're moving forward and, you know, development can finally happen. It's just amazing that, you know, we've had the kind of year that we've had and we're still moving forward on so many fronts with the redevelopment. So I'm I'm just excited that people will actually be at Pmlico Race Course this year. And I think the community is looking forward to it as well.

Tom Hall: Yeah, I couldn't agree more. I think people really are excited and it's nice to have something to be excited about. County Executive Glassman, how about you? What are you most excited about for this year's Preakness in particular?

Barry Glassman: Well, we're I'm excited that it's back on schedule and that slowly but surely, as we've done here, I think it's a it was a wise decision to get some spectators. It's outside. And gradually as we loosen the protocols, we can do more. But I think it's a good it's a good sign. And when everyone sees those horses out there on Preakness Day, it'll be great. And hey, listen, I also give a plug for the Black Eyed Susan events the day before for breast cancer funds. And we see some of the fillies were on the day before. If you're not able to get a ticket on Preakness Day, I, I always tell folks the day before is is a beautiful day there at the track also.

Tom Hall: Yep. That's a good point. And Delegate Bridges, as we wrap things up here, let's talk about the Chesapeake Connect trips. You went on the Chesapeake Connect trip to Nashville. What are some of the standout moments for you about that experience?

Tony Bridges: It was it was a really interesting experience, but unfortunately, what stands out the most is the fact that it was cut very short and it was during the time when Congressman Elijah Cummings had just passed. And so I think I was down there. Maybe we were both down for probably two days and or maybe a day and a half. And we had to come back to make sure that we were here for the funeral for Congressman Cummings. And I think what stands out the most is probably making sure that we were all on the same page about when we got back or how we got back. And and just the folks that I have an opportunity, which I didn't really have the opportunity before, to just sit and talk with the different county execs, you know, about their counties and how they see Baltimore City and, you know, just building those connections moving forward, which allows me to be able to have conversations more or less about Preakness and other things that are of importance not just to Baltimore City, but to the other counties. And so I really, you know, Chesapeake Connect really helped make that connection for me with those other elected officials on the things that we all want to see happen for the constituents that we serve.

Tom Hall: And County Executive Glassman, you are something of a frequent flyer when it comes to Chesapeake Connect trips. You've been on all three of them. What are the moments from these trips that have stuck out to you and it really helped shape your work as a County Executive?

Barry Glassman: Well, you know, Tom, part of my problem always is to that I'm a policy wonk. So these trips always have not only the ability to go out and visit and actually see what policy, whether it's in New Orleans or Nashville has achieved. But we have some great presentations and actual we look at the policies that were adopted to make these things happen and where in New Orleans we got to visit charter schools and schools that had been rebuilt from Katrina and that were so successful that we look at the possibilities of what that could mean to Baltimore City or other jurisdictions that are struggling. You know, in Nashville, we got to see how they adopted their tourism model. When we think about what we need to do to bring folks back to Maryland, to Baltimore, to the Preakness, what no better example than the booming area of Nashville to actually get to meet with their tourist bureau. I always love every time we have someone in planning and zoning the actual planning of where they want to preserve historic portions of their cities or where they want to build a new thing. So I always almost go just to hear about the planning aspect of it, how they how they map it out, particularly preserving all their heritage, yet growing and bringing in additional folks and jobs. So and we get to share that with business community members, other delegates and senators, some of my fellow County Executives. So it's it's a great opportunity.

Tom Hall: As Harford County Executive Barry Glassman, thanks for your time, sir. I appreciate it and always enjoy talking to you.

Barry Glassman: It's great being with you. Take care and be safe

Tom Hall: And Delegate Tony Bridges, he represents the 41st District in the Maryland House of Delegates. Delegate, always a pleasure as well. Thanks so much.

Tony Bridges: Thank you. I appreciate.

Tom Hall: The Chesapeake Connect Podcast is produced by the Baltimore Metropolitan Council with assistance from WYPR. We'd like you to subscribe to the podcast on whatever podcasting app you use and give us a rating if you're so inclined. It helps other listeners find out about our show. The Baltimore Metropolitan Council works collaboratively with our region's elected executives to identify mutual interests and to develop collaborative strategies and plans and programs that improve our quality of life and economic vitality. BMC member jurisdictions include Baltimore City and Anne Arundel, Baltimore, Carroll, Harford, Howard and Queen Anne's Counties. For more information, please visit baltometro.org. Our producer is Mark Gunnery.

On our next episode of the Chesapeake Connect Podcast we’ll talk about Baltimore’s role in the race to develop and distribute the COVID-19 vaccine, with Tom Sandowski, Vice Chancellor for Economic Development at the University of Maryland, and Dr. Bruce Jarrell, President of the University of Maryland Baltimore. Until then, I’m Tom Hall. Thanks for connecting.

Host, Midday (M-F 12:00-1:00)