Johns Hopkins Magazine -- February 1999
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Stadium economics... learning agents at Continuing Studies... why whole school reform works best... "Live from Death Row... Support for safer guns... A global explosion...

Build it and they will come?

The state of Maryland recently spent $223 million to build a new football stadium for the Baltimore Ravens of the National Football League. This was after spending $106.5 million for a stadium for the baseball Orioles, $100 million to acquire the two stadium sites and relocate businesses, and $73.1 million in related infrastructure improvements.

Such public investments by American cities have been common during the last decade, and proponents campaign for them by promoting the idea that modern stadiums are good for the local economy. But are they? Will Maryland enjoy a return on its investment of the taxpayers' money?

Hopkins professor of economics Bruce Hamilton delivers a succinct answer: No. The new stadiums are good for the teams' profits but do not significantly improve the local economy.

Hamilton and Peter Kahn, now an economist at Fannie Mae, examined public stadium financing for a chapter in Sports, Jobs & Taxes, a study published by the Brookings Institution. They found that Oriole Park at Camden Yards, for example, generates approximately $3 million in annual benefits to Maryland's economy. But the annual cost, they say, is $14 million. Hamilton estimates that each household in the metropolitan Baltimore area is paying $14.70 a year for the stadium, regardless of that household's interest in baseball. Neither the Orioles nor the Ravens provide many jobs in Baltimore, and since the baseball stadium opened, downtown hotel tax revenue has been flat. Hamilton believes that the Ravens' new football stadium will fall short of recouping its public investment by about $12 million per year.

Says Hamilton, "The only way that a stadium has a positive economic impact is by attracting growth from outside the area." That is, unless lots of people come from out of state to attend ballgames and spend their money in Baltimore, there's no new income for the city or state. But the Orioles and Ravens simply redirect existing commerce, adding nothing to the state or city economy; for every restaurant or tavern owner near Camden Yards who does a booming business on game days, there is a counterpart near the superseded Memorial Stadium on 33rd Street whose trade has declined. Survey data indicate the Orioles do draw 30-35 percent of their attendance from outside Maryland, but that's not enough to recoup the public investment.

"It may well be that the stadiums redirect money from the suburbs to the city," Hamilton says, which is good for the city. "But the suburban [taxpayers] are paying for the stadiums, too."

Hamilton doesn't object to the use of public money for financing stadiums; his argument is the manner in which the public is persuaded to vote for the financing. "To me, the question is not should we build a stadium because it will generate economic growth, because it won't. We should say, 'It will cost you $10 to $15 a year to keep the Orioles. Do you want it?' If Maryland voters say yes, I say fine. I'd probably vote for it on those terms. And if the public votes it down, let the team go."
--Dale Keiger

Illustration by Kevin O'Malley
Secret Service agents hit the books

Consider the reading list for Hopkins course #790.604.61:

Managing Your Boss
Customer Intimacy
Zero Defections

Now, peek in the classroom. Filling desks at Hopkins are members of the U.S. Secret Service. In September, and again in December, agents and managers attended a one-week three-credit graduate course taught through the Police Executive Leadership Program of the School of Continuing Studies.

"The agents have a great deal of cohesion and camaraderie. I don't want to sound camp, but they operate on a higher level," says Hopkins professor of management Pete Petersen, the course's primary instructor and a former Army colonel who closes his phone messages with a military-style: "end of message."

A year ago, Hopkins signed a "memorandum of agreement" with the U.S. Secret Service to establish educational offerings for the federal agency.

The agents enrolled in last fall's Leadership and Organizational Behavior course came from various offices of the Secret Service-- most carried the title of assistant special agent in charge--and specialized in fraud, counterfeit, protective operations, inspection, or financial crimes. Law enforcement officers of all types need to understand new technology--such as how computer software is used to counterfeit money--and then develop their own way to track perpetrators, Petersen and other course leaders say.

To earn the three credits, the agents turned in 20-page papers. Petersen extended that deadline for agents in his fall class-- they were called away to a U.N. meeting in New York.
--Joanne P. Cavanaugh

The verdict on Title I

The federal education funding known as Title I is up for reauthorization this year, and the central question about the $8 billion program is, Does it work? Two Hopkins scholars have collected research that responds with a qualified yes.

John Hollifield and Samuel Stringfield, of Hopkins's Center for Social Organization of Schools (CSOS), collected a variety of studies that examine the effectiveness of Title I spending. They have compiled those studies in the latest volume of the Journal of Education for Students Placed at Risk (JESPAR). The studies conclude that Title I money helps narrow the gap between disadvantaged students and their more advantaged counterparts, but only if more is spent on programs that reform the whole school. Among the findings:

  • Money for teachers' aides has not made much difference in student achievement. Says Hollifield, "There's a good deal of research now that shows that with teachers' aides, simply having another body in the classroom does not help."

  • "Pull-out programs," special classes for disadvantaged students, have not been effective either, on average. "You're pulling a kid out of a reading class to give him a remedial math class. That has not helped much," says Hollifield.

  • While many programs have kept disadvantaged students from falling further behind, they've not helped those students catch up.

  • The best results have come from whole-school reform programs like CSOS's Success for All and the Talent Development Model (Hopkins Magazine, September 1998). "The school works together as a whole to improve the achievement of all the children," Hollifield says. "When schools had their own Title I teacher, it was up to that person to take care of disadvantaged kids. Regular classroom teachers felt that it was not up to them whether these kids succeeded or not. It's much more effective to look at the whole school's needs."

    Says Hollifield, "The public looks at all the money Title I has spent and says, 'My God, they haven't got these kids any closer to achieving at the level of other kids!' But there are effective whole-school programs, and it would be a much better idea to take the money and put it into them."--DK

  • Final words

    Five days before a convicted Maryland killer was scheduled to be executed in November, Amnesty International and the Hopkins Vegetarian Club organized a telephone conversation at Homewood billed as "Live from Death Row."

    Approximately 200 people crowded into Shriver Hall's Clipper Room, which had been festooned with banners that read "Stop Cold-Blooded Killing" and "End the Death Penalty." They were there to talk to Tyrone Gilliam, convicted of the 1988 kidnapping and shotgun slaying of Christine J. Doerfler, a 21-year-old accountant. Gilliam's brother-in-law John Gilliam Price led the crowd in a chant: "They say Death Row, we say hell no!"

    Fliers had advertised the event as a telephone question-and-answer session, but technical glitches and long speeches by event leaders prompted a third of the crowd to leave before Gilliam got on the line. He called capital punishment the"the Great Beast," read a Muslim prayer, and thanked the audience, saying, "I am grateful for your standing up to speak up about what's wrong and demanding that the system give life as opposed to death."

    Pilar Oberwetter, co-president of the Hopkins chapter of Amnesty International, said, "It was one of the first signs of undergraduate student activism on the Hopkins campus. The fact that students came counted for a lot."

    On November 16, Tyrone Gilliam was put to death by lethal injection.
    --Anita Alves '01

    Support for safer guns

    More than three-quarters of Americans would support design standards that make guns childproof and harder to fire unintentionally, according to a poll conducted by researchers at Public Health's Center for Gun Policy and Research.

    "We found strong public support, even among gun owners, for government regulation of the design of handguns," reported researcher Stephen P. Teret, in the September 17 New England Journal of Medicine. The National Rifle Association's Paul Blackman called the survey questions "vague and misleading," noting that the survey did not disclose the drawbacks and costs of the proposed rules.

    A global explosion

    Nonprofit organizations have become a mighty economic force around the world, according to a new study of 22 countries, conducted by researchers at Hopkins's Comparative Nonprofit Sector Project. Nearly 19 million people are employed by NPOs in the countries studied, making it a $1.1 trillion industry. Of note: Most funding for nonprofits worldwide comes not from philanthropic giving (11 percent) but from fees (47 percent) and government funding (42 percent).