For more than three years, Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has stood her ground in promoting Grand Prix auto racing as a solution for improving the city’s Labor Day tourism trade and national profile. While local reaction has been mixed, it's worth commending Ms. Blake’s willingness to consider the bigger picture when it comes to promoting Baltimore.
The TV picture, specifically.
For seven TV seasons between 1993-1999, writer David Simon’s brilliant, Baltimore-based Homicide was acclaimed by critics as one of the best shows on television. Then between 2002-2008, The Wire confronted American television viewers with lots more images of “Bodymore, Murderland.”
Advertisers spend billions promoting an image to sell their products because advertising works. What did Baltimore get for promoting its image as one of the nation’s murder capitals? I'm betting tourism and the city's reputation nationally suffered.
That’s why I think Ms. Blake deserves a lot of credit.
For having the guts to position Baltimore as a player in a national sporting event beyond the Orioles and Ravens. For recognizing the value of TV in promoting a positive, image across the country, even if it’s only for three days a year. For making the whole thing go despite what seems like three years of steady opposition from all quarters.
Congratulations, Mayor Blake, for showing courageous leadership and taking a chance on success. Anyone who’s ever had a great idea meet with less than complete success knows that Mark Twain was right: “A person with a new idea is a crank until the idea succeeds.”