If there was a shocker in the recent accounting of the spending on food at the governor's and mayor's skyboxes at M&T Bank Stadium, it wasn't that taxpayers are footing the bill for public officials to chow down on beef tenderloin and crabcakes. The surprise was just how little such gourmet grazing costs. Because the state and city governments' deals with the stadium provide them not only free skyboxes but also food at cost, both the governor and mayor fed hundreds of people for under $3,000 a season. That really puts the price of a stadium hot dog into context.
Mayors and governors have been using skyboxes at M&T Bank Stadium and Oriole Park since they were built, and the practice attracted relatively little notice until a recent flap in which Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blakedisinvited City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Youngto a Ravens playoff game after he wrote an op-ed that was critical of her decision to pursue a second
It's possible to debate whether a mayor or governor should have carte blanche about whom to invite to the games. Substantial amounts of public money was used to build the stadiums, but as part of their lease agreements, the Ravens and Orioles provide the suites for the mayor and governor for free. The government watchdog group Common Cause has called on Ms. Rawlings-Blake and Gov.Martin O'Malleyto develop written policies for how the boxes are used to prevent a public asset from being used for "private and partisan" purposes. That's not unreasonable, and neither is another of Common Cause's suggestions: routinely making the names of the guests public. That way, voters can judge for themselves whether an elected official is using the skybox well.
It can be done. WBAL-TV's
The matter of paying for food is even more clear-cut. Even if the dollar amounts involved are relatively small, it's important for the public to have confidence that direct expenditures of taxpayer funds serve a greater purpose than entertaining elected officials' friends and campaign donors. And a policy for how to handle the food is not at all difficult to imagine. The