Mark Uncapher, is serving as President of the Montgomery County Republican Club. Mark is a long-time party activist who previously served as the Chairman of the Montgomery County Republican Central Committee.
Chilly Silence Greets Wes Moore’s Orioles Deal –
What began as a feel-good announcement for the Governor in September may turn into a legislative battle in the coming General Assembly session
At the end of September, not only did the Orioles defeat the Red Sox to clinch the AL East for the first time since 2014, but after the third inning, the Orioles announced on their video board that the team and the Maryland Stadium Authority had reached a new 30-year lease to keep the team in Baltimore.
“Earlier today, the Orioles, Governor Wes Moore and the State of Maryland, and the Maryland Stadium Authority agreed to a deal that will keep the Orioles in Baltimore and at Camden Yards for at least the next 30 years!!” [i]
Turns out the details do not match the announcement. Governor Moore Orioles Chairman and CEO John Angelos merely reached a non-binding agreement.
Since the announcement, the political response has been muted. As the Baltimore Sun reports:
“There hasn’t been so much as a chirp since from leading state Democrats, particularly those who may have to grapple in the next General Assembly session with a proposal to make additional funds available to the team.”
Top Maryland Democrats, including Treasurer Dereck Davis, Comptroller Brooke Lierman, Senate President Bill Ferguson, and House Speaker Adrienne Jones all declined requests from the Baltimore Sun to comment on the “deal.”[ii]
Even more awkward for the Governor, his communication aide Matthew Verghese emailed a request for public “statements of support” for the Moore-Angelos deal and the “progress being made to keep the Orioles and boost Baltimore.”[iii]
Such requests for supportive comments for high-profile political announcements, essentially creating a favorable Greek chorus, is a standard public relations technique. Leaking such a request to the press when positive quotes are not forthcoming is highly unusual. Even more, a leak to the Maryland Democratic Party’s house organ, the Baltimore Sun, is an even more unusual development.
At least three issues have emerged afterward from Wes Moore’s announcement.
First, legislative leaders had expected a long-term lease to be in place by the end of this year. The Governor’s announced “Memorandum of Understanding” is not binding and leaves important terms up in the air or in the legalese of the agreement “subject to parameters to be agreed upon.”
As Brian Sears in Maryland Matters commented: “A long-term agreement to keep the Baltimore Orioles in Camden Yards is not a finalized lease — yet.”[iv]
Second, the Angelos-Moore deal anticipates going beyond the $600 million already authorized by the legislature. Under a 2022 law, the stadium authority can borrow up to $1.2 billion to pay for stadium improvements — $600 million each for the Orioles and Ravens. Legislative leaders have said previously that they do not envision the General Assembly going further to make more resources available. The Angelos-Moore deal significantly sweetens the terms for the Orioles, giving them an extra $100 million for a “safety and repair fund” over 99 years.
Third, as Governor Hogan’s Maryland Stadium Authority Chairman Tom Kelsopointed out in an op-ed: “Among numerous issues that need scrutiny In the Memorandum of Understanding touted by Gov. Wes Moore, and Orioles Chairman and CEO John Angelos, is this: The responsibility for building and maintaining Oriole Park will shift to the Orioles. In simple terms, this means that the MSA will issue bonds and the Orioles will conduct all construction, which will, among other issues this presents, circumvent the MSA’s procurement system.”[v]
Let that last point sink in. The Angelos-Moore deal turns over public money to the Orioles but removes all spending from public procurement protections. Also, while the deal provides that Black-, women- and veteran-owned small businesses will be able to participate in stadium contracts, the actual specific percentage for this is never spelled out.
What began as a feel-good announcement for the Governor in September may turn into a legislative battle in the coming General Assembly session.