Sunday, May 18, 2008

A Picture Worth a Thousand Words

The race is on and here comes Political Payback in the back stretch, with Hubris moving to the inside…

I rarely ever read The Business Monthly, but I happened to pick up this month’s copy and a picture on the front page may have answered a question that I always had about the proposed Maryland horse park. It was a picture of Ken Ulman’s father standing next to a race horse in the winner’s circle. Of course, the picture is not in the article that is online.

Ken Ulman appointed three horse industry hacks, including a “personal representative”, to the Horse Park Task Force that was charged with the task of deciding if Howard County should put a bid in to the State of Maryland to locate the park here. I have always been surprised that Ulman apparently supported the idea of this park. I hate to put people in buckets, but Ulman makes no bones about the fact that he is a liberal democrat, and a redistribution of wealth from all taxpayers to rich taxpayers in the form of a horse park is not something that I would expect a liberal democrat to support. However, the Business Monthly clued me in to the fact that Ulman’s father was a former chairperson for the completely useless Maryland Racing Commission, as well as a racehorse owner. I am sure that other influential democrats (and republicans) are waist deep in the horse industry and are pushing for this park to further their own interests at the expense of everyone else.

Papa Ulman had this to say about the horse industry:

Lou Ulman, a senior principal with the Offit Kurman law firm in Maple Lawn who is also a member of the MRC and a past chair, is among those who have suffered the negative consequences of declining purses in Maryland.

Only three years ago Ulman owned 20 thoroughbred race horses, either outright or in other partnerships. Today, that number has dwindled to nine that are all owned in partnership. Almost all of his horses are located in Maryland, but at least four run in races out of state, where purses are higher.

"It's becoming too expensive to keep them here," Ulman said, "and I believe we will be seeing more horsemen who will simply get out [of Maryland] if they can cut their losses."

That's not the route Ulman wants to take, but the choice might not be his to make.
"I wouldn't get out [of racing] totally," he said. "But there's always the chance that a trainer might move to another state and would take the horses with him."

And the winner is Crooked Politician with Taxpayers coming in last.

Update: the horse park has a website. From there, you can access a .pdf of the Maryland Feasibility Study that is not on the County's website but is referenced in the task force's report.


Anonymous said...

I'd like to see the numbers that say horse owners are wealthy. I know dozens, none of them are wealthy.

Wait, there is one. Just one.

Are the people I know unusual, or is there no proof of this claim?

And on the other side as well, I can think of many healthy activities particularly for children if we had such a place.

Freemarket said...

Horse: $10,000
Boarding fees: $600 per month
Truck and Trailer: $30,000 on the cheap side

Claiming to be middle class:


Wait for it



Anonymous said...

the proposed horse park has nothing to do with racing or the Maryland Racing Commission, rather it is something that the Maryland Horse Industry Board - part of the Department of Agriculture - wants to do. Your vitriolic post suggests that you haven't bother to do any research at all or even read the task force's report, which is on the county council website. Which members, in your view, are "industry hacks"?

Anonymous said...

My horse trailer, a top of the line but older Sundowner was $5,000 and my F250 diesel was $6,700.

One horse was left at my place so he was free. Adopting from Days End is ~1,000.

Not wealthy. Seriously, I don't know a group of wealthy horse owner and even most people who own a share in a TB race horse can spend a few thousand in addition to the horse park not being about racing horses.

The horse park is solidly agricultural, not prestige based.

Freemarket said...

Anon 7:43- add to that the costs of feed and board (or the additional cost of buying more acreage and adding your own fences/barns etc.), shoeing, vet bills, saddles and you made my point. Thanks!

No hobby is worthy of government subsidy, and at the end of the day that is what this "park" about. We have the Columbia Horse Center and other private barns. We have public horse trails. Use those facilities, and keep your hands off my tax dollars.

Anonymous said...

The park isn't proposing a subsidy. Really, I recommend you read the short report. Capital funded by bonds and break-even at operation including debt service.

Horseback riding is a hobby for some.

Horse ownership is a way of life for a substantial number, just like farming.

And it's a sport for many.

Because the above claims are so wide of the mark, I have to ask, is there something personal about you and horses or farming? If you researched and learned that no tax dollars were to be used, what would be your position?

Freemarket said...

Anon, using tax dollars to operate a horse park at “break even” is a HUGE subsidy. The taxpayers take all the financial risk when things head south. Horse park proponents wax on endlessly about the public demand for such a park, but the very fact that private businesses are not scrambling to invest in such a park is proof that the demand is over-hyped.

My claims are actually right on target, and no, I do not have a problem with private investors building a horse park. My problem is only with taxpayers paying a single penny to subsidize this hobby.

Btw, horses have nothing to do with farming. If you would have the read the report, you will know that the park cannot be built on land that is in agricultural preservation.

jim adams said...

Break even should include debt service.

Is the local government backing the bonds?

How does someone get a copy of the short report?

If there were no tax dollars involved, from a business point
of view there should not be any opposition.

Does anyone know if Day's End Horse Rescue in Lisbon receives any government support. If gov. would do anything for something horse related, I would think Day's End would be at the top of the list. It has already proven itself.

It is the use of tax payer's money
that should be opposed. Not because it is a horse park, but because it is a project that does not provide the majority of citizens the services that have come to be identiified as necessary, such as schools, roads, infrastructure.

Priorities should be placed on providing and repairing that which we have now.

I love slapping gears and laying rubber, in a quarter mile, but I have great doubts that anyone would want a quarter mile race tract built with government money.

Anonymous said...


Break even means that the operating revenues are the same as the expense. The revenues are from people who use the park, not the government.

Pls state what you're viewing that makes you think this is a subsidized operation.


Anonymous said...

From the task force report:
The Feasibility Study shows that a horse park would generate sufficient revenue from
rentals to cover the cost of operating the facility.3 A horse park would also generate significant tax revenues for the State and the County, well above the cost of the debt service on the bonds issued to build the horse park.4"

I'll ask again, what if you found that no tax dollars were going into this, would you still oppose?

Freemarket said...

Anon 9:20- I did answer your question, please read my comments before responding to them. Let me make it simple for you: private funds- good horse park; tax dollars- bad horse park. Got it?

With respect to subsidy- the inherent foolishness of this question can be demonstrated by the fact that you need the government to handhold the project as well as to secure the financing and guarantee the debt. If the project does not need government subsidy, why are we even having this conversation? Let private investors build the park and leave the government completely out of it.

Ignoring that obvious fact, user fees are expected to cover only the daily operations of the park. In other words, the $114 million cost to obtain the land and build the park is not recouped from user fees. Tax dollars will have to pay the $114 million cost of the park. Furthermore, when the park falls short in cash flow the government will have to pick up the tab. Subsidy? Check.

Anonymous said...

For those who care to know that the operation intends to pay for its self, debt service includes paying back the original loan. NO GOVERNMENT MONEY. NO TAXPAYER SUBSIDY. The county is a conduit for getting additional money from a third party, NOT TAXPAYER FUNDED. My God, man. You really have a personal thing about agriculture.

Debt Service Defined:
debt service
–noun the amount set aside annually in a fund to pay the interest and the part of the principal due on a debt.

Freemarket said...

Whoa! Hold your horses, cowboy. If you want to look up a word in the dictionary, it should be “subsidy”. Read the report more carefully, as it specifically says that the park is expected to generate TAX REVENUES to cover the debt service. That is not the same thing as user fees. User fees are only expected to cover daily operations. Therefore, this park would redirect tax revenues from roads and schools to subsidize polo fields. Furthermore, since the government is covering any cash shortfalls, how efficient do you think the management of the park will be?

The task force report admits that the park may be a money loser. But that is ok, they argue on page 13, because other sports get government subsidies also. I assume they are talking about kids soccer fields?

Anonymous said...

You're funny, though I'm not sure that's the intention. Polo? That's your idea of what everyone in Maryland is doing with their horses? (I'm refraining from writing with a fake British accent and calling you Muffy)

You're invited to my place to see how it really works, oh, wait, I'm anonymous.

Maybe just visit Days End or Columbia Horse Center to see that it's majority children, not unlike soccer - also healthy.

NOT SUBSIDIZED. Money comes in, goes to the county more than enough to offset debt service. Come on Poindexter - What's the real problem?

I guess you'll support 10,000 more people moving into Columbia and simultaneously work against saving 500 acres of open space in the west (thereby giving it a job to keep it open space). We definitely will not agree on this strategy.

FreeMarket said...

Anon, you must be stoned. My problem is that the park should be built by the private sector and not subsidized by the government. If you were any more intent on not understanding the subsidy, I would think you were on the task force. What would you say if we took all the taxes generated by Trader Joe's or Harris Teeter (sales tax, real estate, etc.) and gave that money back to the owners of those stores to pay for the land and building? Would that not be a subsidy? Bueller? Bueller?

My laptop just took a crap, so I am temporarily banning anon comments since my hands are tied. I hate PCs. Long live Steve Jobs!

Anonymous said...

The horse park was Greg Fox's idea. How is Ulman connected to Greg Fox? You are really reaching here!

Freemarket said...

No Howard County politician had the idea for the horse park. Which one of us is reaching?

Anonymous said...

That was a different anon, I haven't commented since you shut out anons per the prior message.

I'm sorry for use of the word "pointexter" but after I was described as a cowboy I thought to take on the persona, not realizing the strength of the reaction it would evoke.

I won't do that again!

jim adams said...

I admire the display of civility, as well as exceptional character being expressed by anon 5:28 p.m.