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Baltimore community leader: "I need as many people as possible to go to the casino and play the slots."
This is what Baltimore City community leaders are reduced to-----begging people to go out to gamble in order to get funds into their communities. Baltimore Brew did a good article on what Baltimore City Hall knew when they approved this deal with Horseshoe and people who read my website know I was shouting this 3 years ago------THE HORSESHOE CASINO AND CAESAR'S HAVE BEEN IN DEEP FINANCIAL TROUBLE AND ARE POSSIBLY HEADING TOWARDS BANKRUPTCY. As the Baltimore Brew indicated this is the game of saving shareholder profit by creating 'bad banks' for corporations that are failing. This bad bank term comes from Wall Street banks that went bankrupt in 2008 and the thought was to take all the bad debt out and leave it with a separate business-----you know, like Bain's Capital came in and bought a perfectly healthy corporation----gutted it of all its assets and left the original business to go into bankruptcy where it shed all of its union contracts and creditor debt. The healthy corporation was made the 'bad bank'. Well, it appears these same corporations are now doing this to prop shareholder losses by continuing to open new branches in cities when they know the casino is failing. Baltimore was perfect for this because all of the development ties Baltimore taxpayers to subsidizing all corporate losses. So, like the Baltimore Hilton, this casino will be kept open by government subsidy. All of the promises of community development, funds for education as you see will never happen as NO ONE EXPECTS A CITY WITH 70% OF CITIZENS AT OR NEAR POVERTY to be able to gamble.
Already Baltimore City Hall has given this casino passes on requirements to the city and one wonders if the casino is even paying the stated leasing and profit-sharing and property taxes in the agreement-----history says NO.
'the casino is to pay the city in the range of $8 million to $11 million in lease and profit-sharing agreements and property taxes during the first year'.
I want Baltimore citizens to know Bill Ferguson who headed these community development groups KNEW this would be the case. Ferguson works for Baltimore Development Corporation and not for the citizens in his district!
After three months, Horseshoe Casino Baltimore revenue is well below forecasts
By Jeff Barker, The Baltimore Sun
After glitzy opening, Horseshoe Casino Baltimore revenue is about one-third lower than forecast. City community leaders rely on slots revenue for improvement projects - and early results not favorable. Baltimore community leader: "I need as many people as possible to go to the casino and play the slots." Three months after Horseshoe Casino Baltimore opened to big crowds, its revenues are substantially lower than state consultants projected — even as its chief competitor is thriving a dozen miles away.
Including November totals released Friday by the state, the $442 million Baltimore casino is averaging monthly revenue of about $22.8 million. That is about a third lower than forecast in November 2013 by a pair of state-funded consulting firms, which projected it would be averaging between about $33 million and $35 million a month.
It's also less than half of the $53.4 million of revenue produced in November by Maryland Live, which opened in 2012 at Arundel Mills mall and has not seen the steep decline in money generated from slots and table games that the consultants predicted would occur after Horseshoe opened on Aug. 26.
Horseshoe general manager Chad Barnhill said the casino is still gaining its foothold. Its revenue rose from $22.5 million in October to $23.4 million in November, which he called "a very positive sign."
"It just takes time, we'll get there," Barnhills said.
But if the casino's revenue continues to fall short, it would have adverse consequences for the city, which has embraced Horseshoe as an economic partner.
"I'm concerned, but we want to see a few more months of data," city budget director Andrew Kleine said. "If that trend continued through the year, then the revenues would be coming in well below the state's estimate."
Under state law, 5.5 percent of slots profits must go to "community impact grants" — for such projects as a streets study and employment center — mostly in south Baltimore neighborhoods such as Federal Hill and Westport near the casino. If the casino's take falls short that would mean less funding than community leaders had hoped for local improvement projects.
City and local leaders had anticipated $7 million to $10 million to become available for such projects during the fiscal year ending June 30, 2015.
They are now looking at a number — $6.9 million — below the low end of the range.
"I was hopeful that we'd be closer to $10 million," said state Sen. Bill Ferguson, who chairs a committee working with the city on the community projects. "But I think there is so much flux with a new operator."
Meanwhile, Horsehoe's biggest competitor appears to have shrugged off its rival's opening despite projections it would see revenue drop about 20 percent.
After seeing its revenue take small hits in September and October, Maryland Live's November results reversed the trend, rising 0.7 percent over the same month a year earlier, according to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency.
"Maryland Live is located in the midst of a very dense suburban population, and Horseshoe has its own dense population base in Baltimore City," said David Cordish, chairman of the Cordish Cos., which owns Maryland Live, which has become one of the East Coast's largest casinos. "Our November performance demonstrates we can and are growing the market."
Overall, November revenue from the state's five casinos reached $90.2 million, topping last month's record of $86.8 million, according to the Maryland Lottery and Gaming Control Agency.
Horseshoe, which features a Baltimore-themed restaurant "marketplace" and the city's only 24-7 liquor license, says it is becoming accustomed to the market, and vice-versa.
"Even though there has been gaming in the State of Maryland, it's really brand new in Baltimore," said Barnhill, who helped orchestrate a grand opening that included aerial acrobats, Las Vegas-style showgirls and a surprise performance by pop star Iggy Azalea. "It takes time to learn all the special intricacies associated with the market. There are other casinos that have been open significantly longer. Once you're in a habit of going to a favorite grocery store, favorite restaurant or favorite casino, whenever a new one opens up, not everybody flocks to the next one."
New casinos typically take a few months to "ramp up," said Alan Woinski, president of Gaming USA, which publishes industry newsletters. "You get this big initial rush and then it starts to moderate and then you see what you need to do and start a new marketing push."
But Woinski also believes the projections of Horseshoe's revenue "were extremely optimistic" given its urban location.
"It's the psychology of the gambler," he said. "They don't want to sit in traffic, they don't want to hassle with parking. Face it, there are other things to do in the city."
Maryland now has five casinos and a sixth is planned – the $925 million MGM -scheduled to open at National Harbor in 2016. Lawmakers in Annapolis debated whether to legalize casino gambling for years before voters endorsed slots in a 2008 referendum. The lure of increased jobs and property taxes, and local impact funds, made the casinos more palatable to opponents of gambling.
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake pledged in 2013 to use gaming revenue to lower property taxes, saying Horseshoe, operated by Caesars Entertainment Corp., "brings with it the promise of a new day."
About 1,250 members of the casino's staff -- nearly 51 percent -- live in the city. Under Baltimore's deal with Horseshoe,
the casino is to pay the city in the range of $8 million to $11 million in lease and profit-sharing agreements and property taxes during the first year.
"Certainly we're in a competitive market," said state Del. Luke Clippinger, a member of the Baltimore Casino Local Development Council advising the mayor on how best to use the community funds derived from Horseshoe's slots revenues. "Maryland Live was rather robust in keeping people from coming down the road."
As Horseshoe finds its niche, the Local Development Council now anticipates $9 million to $12.5 million to be available in impact funds during the casino's second year. That estimate has been scaled down from about $15 million a year ago, Ferguson said.
"I'm concerned that projects that are long overdue will get put on the back burner because of the lack of LDC funding," said Keisha Allen, president of the Westport Neighborhood Association. "Our roads infrastructure is awful. I need as many people as possible to go to to the casino and play the slots. If I see a bunch of buses going to the casino, I'm happy. I might be stuck in traffic on Russell Street but I'm happy."
Allen and Clippinger are among a group of community leaders who recently opposed the use of $3 million in the community improvement funds to replace a major artery in the city's underground steam pipe system in the immediate casino area. The work was completed before the casino opened.
"I don't think it's an appropriate use of LDC money," Clippinger said. "It was a pipe I believe the city knew was broken before the casino was a glimmer in anyone's eye."
City officials characterized it as a one-time expenditure necessary to allow the casino to exist safely. The mayor said the city would have missed out on long-term revenue had the casino not opened when it did.
The city is trying to maximize the funds it derives from the casino. But the lower-than-expected slots revenue means the city probably won't be able to fund a number of projects this fiscal year — such as tree plantings and a youth jobs and internship program — that weren't at the top of the priority list.
"We're looking at ways that the money can be leveraged maybe for federal grants or to seed programs or projects that can attract other funding over time," said Ethan Cohen, senior project coordinator in the mayor's Office for Economic and Neighborhood Development. "It will be money for these communities not otherwise available."
Steny Hoyer is a Third Way neo-liberal as is O'Malley so neither support environmental issues. Neo-liberals support corporate interests first and that means labor and justice, including environmental justice will always lose. So, these windfarms deals were never about the environment and always about pay-to-play money to Obama campaign donors....and soon O'Malley campaign donors. Maryland has the worst of environmental policies and never enforce laws that do get passed so we fully expect these wind farms to send money to the private corporation to build and then be useless to alternative energy resources. Making alternative energy PUBLIC UTILITIES would show commitment to green energy.
Let's look at the issue. A Texas-based developer gets this Maryland state job. Texas has the worst Right to Work laws and these deals always allow the contractors to bring their own employees so there goes the strong employment/work for Maryland small business for the most part. Oh, that's right, Maryland businesses will be subcontractors to subcontractors. Then, let's look at the business Steny Hoyer is protecting-----stealth radar for drones. Indeed, Maryland is ground zero for all of the spying and drone warfare that no one in the US wants. HELLO!!!!!!!
So, we are watching our neo-liberal politicians argue over whether a Texas corporation gets to profit from what should be a public project and whether it will bother an unwanted spying/surveillance drone warfare operation. The answer is NONE OF THE ABOVE.
Southern Maryland is being made ground zero for this NSA/international-law breaking drone warfare. This is the problem. I'm sure that Southern Maryland would appreciate the opportunity to have completely different economic drivers.
The solution seems to be as is true of all neo-liberal policy coming from Maryland Assembly and O'Malley------NONE OF THE ABOVE. Kill the military research making the US a rogue nation that breaks international law and kill the deal with Texas corporations that take our business and bring workers that are subjected to the worst of labor laws.
Hoyer, O'Malley administration spar over Eastern Shore wind project Impact on Southern Maryland naval air base debated
By Timothy B. Wheeler, The Baltimore Sun 8:35 p.m. EDT, April 1, 2014
In a duel of sorts between two of Maryland's top Democrats, U.S. Rep. Steny Hoyer went to Annapolis Tuesday to press for legislation opposed by Gov. Martin O'Malley that Southern Maryland officials insist is needed to protect their region's prized naval air base from an Eastern Shore wind energy project.
Hoyer, who represents Southern Maryland in Congress, said he was making his first appearance before a legislative committee since leaving the General Assembly for Washington in the 1970s. He said he did so because he fears giant wind turbines proposed in Somerset County could jeopardize the future of Naval Air Station Patuxent River, which supporters say is an economic engine not only for the region but for the entire state.
"I want wind energy in this state and in this country," Hoyer said. "But not at the expense of undermining the viability and effectiveness" of the St. Mary's County base, where a unique radar system is used to test the stealth capability of aircraft.
Hoyer and other Southern Maryland officials warned the Senate Finance Committee that the turbines could interfere with the radar and lead to the testing being transferred — along with the thousands of jobs associated with it — to an air base in California or elsewhere.
But the Texas-based developer of the $200 million Somerset wind project says it has reached an agreement in principle with the Navy to turn off the 25 turbines whenever radar tests are to be run. And some current and retired military officials have said that would work.
A state Senate committee is considering a bill passed by the House, which would for 15 months effectively block commercial wind development within 56 miles of the air base — a zone stretching across the Chesapeake Bay to encompass the proposed Great Bay wind project on the western edge of Somerset. The developer, Pioneer Green, has warned that the delay would kill the project.
Supporters of the bill contend that the wind project needs to be delayed pending completion of a $2 million study looking at ways to remedy a turbine's impact on the radar system.
O'Malley didn't appear in person to oppose the bill, but Abigail Hopper, his energy adviser and director of the Maryland Energy Administration, told lawmakers the governor considered the legislation both unnecessary and potentially harmful to the state's efforts to woo more renewable energy projects.
"The governor has no desire to harm Pax River," Hopper said, using the base's nickname, but argued it's not "an either-or-choice." She pointed out there are both federal and state laws guaranteeing that the Navy can impose conditions on or even block approval of any wind project it believes would impair or degrade operations of one of its facilities.
Moreover, she said, such a broad moratorium could make it harder for the state to achieve a goal set at O'Malley's urging of getting 20 percent of its power from renewable sources by 2022.
"You will create a reputation across the country that Maryland is not open for clean energy development," she said.
Adam Cohen, vice president and founder of Pioneer Green, said the company has already invested nearly $4 million in leasing land and planning for its 25 turbines. And he said the company has worked out a deal with Navy officials to turn off its turbines whenever the base needs to run radar tests, so there would be no interference.
That deal has not been signed by all the necessary officials, however. Hoyer said he had asked the Navy to hold off pending completion of the study.
The congressman suggested the wind project is being foisted on Pax River by an Obama administration committed to promoting renewable energy. He suggested turning off the turbines was no remedy because it might tip off the nation's adversaries when the Navy was conducting classified radar tests.
Moreover, Hoyer and other base supporters said unspecified "customers" of Patuxent River — military aircraft programs, foreign governments and private contractors conducting testing there — object to the agreement and could take their business elsewhere. Letting the wind project go forward now under that arrangement could weaken Maryland's ability to retain all the operations and jobs at Pax River the next time the Pentagon orders a realignment of bases nationwide, they warned.
Cohen countered that wind turbines generally operate only about 30 percent of the time anyway, so it would be hard to divine when testing was being done. And Pam Kasemeyer, the company's lobbyist, said Patuxent already signals publicly — by a balloon launch — when it is about to conduct radar tests.
The developer also pointed to a statement from a former director of the Pentagon agency that referees such disputes over energy projects near military bases, who called the concerns of Patuxent River supporters "misplaced." Turning off the turbines would remove any interference, said David Belote, a retired Air Force colonel. He also said there was little prospect of the Navy or its customers abandoning Patuxent River because the costs of moving the sophisticated radar system elsewhere would be "astronomical."
The Department of Defense has issued varying statements about the deal. When first asked about it last month by The Baltimore Sun, a Pentagon spokesman said Pioneer Green's agreement to turn off its turbines "will provide the periodic curtailment of operations required by the Navy."
More recently, a different spokesman, Navy Lt. Greg D. Raelson, said that the agreement "still requires revisions and has not been approved by the Navy." He declined to elaborate.
The only Navy representative to speak at the hearing told lawmakers that for security reasons he could not discuss what issues the base may still have with turning off the turbines.
Outside the hearing room, though, Gary Kessler, executive director of the Naval Air Warfare Center Aircraft Division, said the Navy's primary concern with the agreement is not technical but legal. Officials want to ensure that it is legally enforceable. Unless some technical fix is found, he said, base officials do worry how they could manage if more such projects are proposed on the lower Shore.
The developer's lobbyist and O'Malley's energy adviser both suggested a compromise — impose the moratorium, but allow any project with a signed agreement with the Navy to proceed.
Some members of the Finance Committee, particularly those with military background or with a military base in their district, indicated they side with the Southern Marylanders. But Sen. Allan Kittleman, a Howard County Republican, said he was torn.
"We talk about having these renewable energy goals," he said. If much of the state is off-limits to protect Patuxent River, he said, "I'm at a loss how we're going to get to these goals. This is really tough."
Dan makes a good point in shouting that the Trusts meant to build MD's environmental strengths are gutted and underfunded seeming more of a shell operation than money designated for a specific use. Think Transportation/Innovation Trusts. What we don't hear from MD media enough is the outing of O'Malley and MD pols for progressive posing; pretending to support issues that are environmental or labor and justice and then ignoring them if they are passed. MD media has given the world's worst environmentalist headlines for his national campaign meant to sell him as an environmentalist and none of it is true as this one example shows.
US media was free press until a decade or so and had as a mission to hold power accountable and now they work hard providing the headlines and the campaign snippets to hide the facts. The truth with open space is that in Baltimore all public property is being handed to private developers right and left and all areas designated as public are really private campuses built with public money. The entire Inner Harbor is now privately owned with the public designated for costs.
Then take the scam of preserving farms with estate tax reduction where the rich pretend to have a working farm to have huge estates that could be 10 real working farms. MD is far from sustainable or environmental because it has no democratic party.
Marylanders need to speak up for open space A program designed to save trees and farms under constant legislative attack
Dan Rodricks 5:00 a.m. EDT, April 1, 2014
When I have a hard time understanding government spending — the construction and tinkering that goes into, say, Maryland's multibillion-dollar annual budget — I just imagine the whole thing as a kitchen-table conversation with members of a household declaring and negotiating priorities. (Pardon the time-worn metaphor, but it works for me.)
After we cover the big-ticket items (health, education, roads, public safety, the mandatory areas of spending), we get around to the other pieces of the budget that need to be maintained — public employee pensions, for instance — and arguments break out about obligations, fiscal discipline and not "kicking the can down the road." It can get rough, even ugly.
But after the dust settles and everyone's exhausted, someone at the far end of the table, who has waited her turn to speak, reminds us about a certain obligation: One half of one percent of all transfer taxes paid at real estate closings must be set aside for protection of land against future development; that's state law.
In Maryland, it's called Program Open Space. It was established in 1969 with bipartisan support, and for good reason: The legislators of that time saw massive development coming to the state's suburbs, and they wanted to preserve farms and acquire land for public parks and playgrounds to keep things in balance — Maryland as "the land of pleasant living" even as it became a huge bedroom for Washington and Baltimore.
With white flight from the cities, the construction of the interstate highway system and two beltways, environmentalists and lawmakers saw Maryland's potential to become an utter mess as population grew and development spread.
Forty-five years along, we pride ourselves on being a state that still boasts postcard vistas from the Eastern Shore and the Chesapeake to the mountains of Garrett County, with a lot of nice spots in between.
The $2 billion that went into Program Open Space has a lot to do with that. It's a smart program, a legacy of Maryland's progressive approach to conservation, built on a simple idea:
Take a tiny piece of the revenue from each real estate transaction and fund a program to save open space — buy development rights from Maryland's family farmers so they can keep farming, acquire land for state parks, and send money to Baltimore and our smaller cities and the counties so they can build playgrounds, bike trails and lacrosse and soccer fields.
The logic is beautiful.
Because Program Open Space is tied to real estate transactions — only 0.5 percent of transfer taxes go into the fund — it tracks with the economy. If development and house sales slow, so does Program Open Space. In better times, when there's more action in commercial and residential real estate, more money goes into land preservation.
But the wise lawmakers who established the program are gone, and their political descendants have raided the fund countless times — to the tune of about $1.5 billion, according to calculations by the nonprofit Partners for Open Space — and they did this most famously during the savings-and-loan mess of the mid-1980s.
Annapolis has scoffed repeatedly at the spirit of the law that established Program Open Space with little worry about political fallout.
That last part is what gets me. That's why I'm writing about this today. The muldoons in Annapolis are messing with Program Open Space again. In his new budget, Gov. Martin O'Malley designates no cash for the program, using instead a more complicated system of bonds to finance specific projects, while some in the General Assembly want to cap the fund at $100 million. (Yeah, baby, time to rein in all that wild spending going on for open space!)
In the program's original form, there was never supposed to be a cap; Porogram Open Space was supposed to try and balance land gobbled up for development with land conserved for farms, forests and local parks and playing fields, all through a tiny fraction of the revenue from each real estate transaction.
Partners for Open Space says there are 150 Maryland farm families lined up for the state's agricultural preservation program, but not enough money to handle the demand because of Annapolis's constant raiding of Program Open Space.
Doing a budget — in a household or for the entire state — requires many skills, discipline and adherence to principles, including respect for an established rule.
In this case, here's the rule: We will devote 0.5 percent to a fund to acquire land, and it will be tied to income from a specific source; we won't be obligated to put any additional money into that fund but, at the same time, we won't raid it for the general budget, either.
In violating the spirit of Program Open Space, Annapolis counts on Marylanders not caring enough about grass and trees to bother them with phone calls and emails. And if that happens, then in time maybe they'll think it's OK to just end the program altogether.
We can't let that happen. We need to take a stand for open space, and now.
Do you know that the FBI has almost no white collar criminal agencies anymore---they were all sent to Homeland security and the white collar agencies defunded. Did you know that Mikulski gave the FBI white collar criminal agency one of the smallest in recent history while the US grapples with tens of trillions of dollars in corporate fraud yet to come back to government coffers and individual pockets. The FBI now works as part of the NSA network....you know, the network that operates unconstitutionally in ignoring privacy rights of all Americans.
Now, let's see what would MD citizens want. To rebuild the white collar criminal agencies of MD state and local governments creating tens of thousands of jobs in oversight and prosecution of white collar crime or this FBI headquarters. Well, rebuilding the state and local white collar agencies would not only hire more people, but billions of dollars lost to fraud in MD each year would hit state and local coffers. The FBI basically works for Wall Street.
Since when did the democratic party become the hawk on all things totalitarian.....THAT'S A NEO-LIBERAL FOR YOU....NOT A DEMOCRAT!
FBI headquarters would be boon for Md., economists say Scope of impact would depend partly on design
By John Fritze, The Baltimore Sun 11:43 p.m. EDT, March 23, 2014
WASHINGTON— — An effort to lure the FBI to Maryland could have a profound payoff for the state's economy, but the benefits could take years to materialize and the eventual impact would hinge on the way local officials handle the project, several of the state's top economists say.
Maryland's congressional delegation has been pressing for months to make Prince George's County the new home of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, which is currently headquartered in the crumbling J. Edgar Hoover Building in downtown Washington. The lawmakers are competing with officials in Virginia, who want the FBI to move to Springfield.
State Democrats, including Gov. Martin O'Malley and Sens. Barbara A. Mikulski and Ben Cardin, are set to appear in Prince George's County Monday to reiterate their support for bringing the project to Maryland.
The FBI headquarters would house about 11,000 employees, which would rival the size of the largest federal agencies in Maryland, including the Social Security Administration in Woodlawn and the National Institutes of Health in Bethesda. The agency has requested a site that could accommodate 2.1 million square feet of office space.
County officials estimate the development would pump $180 million in annual tax revenue into the state.
"The impact would be enormous," said Anirban Basu of the Baltimore consulting firm Sage Policy Group. "All one needs to do is look at a map and see what kind of potential that development will have."
But that impact would be limited — at least initially — because many of the agency's employees already live in the region. An economic study commissioned by the District of Columbia last year predicted few employees would move closer to the new headquarters, meaning many who live in Virginia would commute to Maryland.
Basu and others said that as the agency made new hires over time a growing share of employees would likely settle in Maryland.
Others said the potential secondary economic benefits of such a project — employees taking lunch in a nearby restaurant or shopping after their shift, for instance — would depend on how the overall development is planned by local officials and the General Services Administration, the federal government's real estate agency.
Little private investment cropped up around the U.S. Census Bureau's headquarters in nearby Suitland, for instance, in part because the design of the complex makes it unlikely employees would walk out to take lunch or run an errand, economists said. To avoid similar office islands, they said, the county needs to follow through on plans to develop retail and residential space near the new building.
Federal workers, University of Maryland economist Peter Morici said, are less likely than employees at a law firm or private company to have expense accounts or need to take clients out to pricey restaurants.
"Bureaucrats don't 'do lunch,'" Morici said. "You're not going to get those kinds of benefits."
Still, Morici said, the project ultimately would be positive for the state.
Elected officials in Maryland, who have been working behind the scenes for months on the project, have all touted the potential economic effect.
"With thousands of employees, both stationed at the headquarters and visiting from field offices around the country, we anticipate significant economic growth directly outside the complex and in the surrounding region," Rep. Steny H. Hoyer, the Southern Maryland lawmaker, said in a statement.
Hoyer, the No. 2 Democrat in the House, represents a portion of Prince George's County, including Greenbelt.
Mikulski, also a Democrat, said the project would make "the country safer and Maryland's economy stronger."
With its proximity to Washington and its large federal workforce and contracting base, Maryland weathered the recession better than most other states. The state is home to more than 300,000 federal employees, and the government spent about $30 billion on contracts in the state in 2011, the fourth-largest share in the nation.
Social Security has more than 11,000 employees in Maryland, according to the Office of Personnel Management. The NIH has more than 18,000.
The military presence grew dramatically during the last base realignment process, or BRAC. Tens of thousands of new jobs were transferred to Fort Meade, Aberdeen Proving Ground and other installations.
Let's look at the Trans Pacific Trade Pact to see why this structural dismantling of our Federal system is happening. Remember, neo-liberals are working to make the US operate under a global corporate tribunal by re-writing national Constitutions and ending national sovereignty of all trade member countries.....and the US. This means that rather than have a national entity like the US, global corporations see the US as market colonies. So, each region of the US is now being annexed by a corporate industry----Maryland is health care and technology for instance.
Neo-liberals from Clinton to Obama work to end Federal programs by sending control to the states. This further erodes the Federal system. Obama is super-sizing this dismantling by attacking the public health care system and education system, the most important for a first world democracy. As neo-liberals dismantle all that is public at Federal, state, and local levels control and oversight with national sovereignty disappears. The model is Italy for example in Medieval/Renaissance days with Venice, Florence, or Genoa being markets and merchants being the head of fiefdoms. This is the model neo-liberals use in dismantling America.
Each time a Federal, state, or local public agency is privatized with public private partnerships, we move towards this merchant fiefdom colonization of a once powerful sovereign nation. It is easy-peasy to reverse. Just run labor and justice in all primaries and send neo-liberals packing!
The Future of Federalism in a Polarized Country The states' widening ideological gulfs have begun to spill over into the implementation of federal programs. Are we headed for an age of 'variable-speed' federalism?
by Paul L. Posner,Timothy J. Conlan | February 4, 2014 Governing
What do health reform, homeland security, education reform and abortion have in common? Substantively, very little. But structurally, each of these areas has been subject to congressional or Supreme Court actions that were intended to guarantee equal and uniform treatment nationwide but which are now characterized by large policy differences among the states.
Diversity across states has always been one of the most important strengths of federalism. States' freedom to innovate new approaches to public problems is a foundation for our highly touted laboratories of democracy. In fact, most federal programs, including welfare reform, health reform and educational testing standards, have their antecedents in state innovations.
Over recent years however, widening differences in state politics, political cultures and priorities have emerged, contributing to increased policy polarization among the states. These differences are readily apparent in the diverging of public policies originated among the states, whether they be legalization of gay marriage and marijuana use or "stand your ground" gun laws and climate-change policies. Recently, however, these yawning ideological gulfs have begun to spill over into the implementation of federal programs as well.
The 2012 elections brought even greater polarization to state governments. In fully half of the states, a single party now controls a supermajority in the legislature, up from only 14 states a decade ago, and 23 states now have unified Republican control of both the governor's office and the legislature. At the same time, the ideological distance between the two parties has continued to widen in the states just as it has in Congress. Both developments give conservative Republican governors greater capacity and incentives to challenge federal mandates and policy prescriptions.
The ideological differences across states have accentuated wide differences in participation by states in some of the major grants under the 2009 stimulus program and the 2010 health-reform law. The map below charts the differences in states' participation in expanded state Medicaid and health exchanges under the Affordable Care Act as well as state participation patterns in new major high-speed rail networks funded under the stimulus program. As the map shows, only 18 states participated in all three of these major federal initiatives, while 14 refused to participate in any of them.
For the most part, states participation in federal programs is broadly reflective of their ideological and partisan composition, and the ideological winds are strong enough to cause these states to act in defiance of fiscal logic and rationality: States opting out of major federal grant programs give up the opportunity for their taxpayers to get a return on their federal taxes, ensuring that their federal tax payments will, in effect, subsidize programs in other states to the neglect of their own.
These state differences have become a source of policy drag on national activism. Consigned to work with the states they have rather than the ones they might want, national officials have adopted flexible strategies that largely enable states to participate in new federal initiatives as much or as little as their politics permit:
• Partial preemptions: These establish a floor but not a ceiling for new regulations, allowing some states to go beyond a federally required level of regulation. This is something that California, for example, has long taken advantage of with the Clean Air Act, which allows states to impose stricter limits on auto emissions than what is federally mandated.
• Waivers: These tools have been used for several decades, first in welfare reform and later in Medicaid. States been able to tailor federal entitlement and grant programs to achieve cost savings, shifts in service-delivery approaches and other innovations.
• Opt-outs: These have allowed conservative states to avoid participating in some federal programs altogether. In the case of regulatory opt-outs, the federal government typically stands by to enforce federal rules in nonparticipating states, thereby ensuring some level of national uniformity. This was most notable with the Affordable Care Act, which allows states to opt out of operating their own insurance exchanges. When states opt out of grants, however, there is typically no federal fallback.
Where is all of this leading? In the European Union there has been much discussion of a "variable-speed" union, currently illustrated by use of the euro. Most EU members have joined the monetary union and utilize the euro, while some countries, including Britain and Denmark, have opted to retain their own currency. In our own system, we are heading toward more of variable-speed federalism as well.
The consequences remain to be seen. On the one hand, states could emerge as newly empowered actors in charge of federal programs. The polarization that gave rise to wide variations among the states could become institutionalized, further segmenting the nation into radically different policy worlds.
However, there could be a cyclical quality to the states' resurgence, coming on the heels of strong national reforms in health, financial regulation and even education. As such, variable-speed federalism may be a temporary speed bump on the way to the adaptation of new national programs to the differences among our states and people.
Should the goals of national programs become more deeply rooted, differences among states could prompt renewed and stronger forms of nationalization of programs, possibly including more centralized federal leadership and mandates. Already there are voices on the progressive side arguing that the refusal by two dozen states to expand Medicaid coverage justifies a nationalized program under federal control. Variable-speed federalism, thus, could be the defining force shaping the next decade of national policy debate.
The entire government outsourcing and bidding system is as systemically criminal as Wall Street banks and indeed, it is these Wall Street banks and investment firms behind all of the fraud and corruption. Baltimore is soaked with this situation and Maryland in general.
Cities simply need to reinstate Rule of Law and recover all of the public wealth being given away. Remember, politicians are elected to work in the public's interest and none of these deals and the way city hall's and state assemblies are working represent policy in the public interest and can be made NULL AND VOID. There are a few being made rich with this that are the ones promoting it, but they had better know the dancing with the devil never ends well for anyone!
B&G Report: Anonymous Contractors, Unconventional Budgeting and the Seattle Syndrome All the public-sector management news you need to know.
by Katherine Barrett & Richard Greene | March 20, 2014
We've noticed that the contractors involved with government products or services often seem to operate under a mask of anonymity -- not just in the press, but even in government reports.
Consider this Salt Lake Tribune article, about a downturn in parking revenues. The piece indicated that the meters in town have had technical problems. They sometimes reject credit cards that should be accepted. Additionally, since they are a fairly dark shade of blue they have also been difficult to operate at night. Why did the article neglect any mention of the company that makes the meters? (With a little Googling we discovered it's named Aparc Systems).
We called the reporter in Utah to see why he left the contractor's name out. His answer was earnest. He wished he had included it. "I think it's a significant oversight on my part," he told us.
We respect him for his candor, but this example is just one of many. In a day when the connections between the private and public sector are becoming ever more important, we think that contractors should be identified when writing about government services they're delivering. Anyone disagree? Or see more reasons why these names are left out so frequently?
The Project Coordination Office in Chicago has saved some $10 million in its first year of operations. How? By simply overseeing roadway and maintenance projects so that city departments and private utilities can "work out project schedules more efficiently." That way, projects can overlap as much as possible, reducing the amount of time "residents are inconvenienced," according to EfficientGov.
This seems like pretty obvious stuff, but it's likely that it couldn't have worked this well just a few years back. The office relies on automated database scheduling, which uses algorithms to prevent "conflicts and "streamline processing."
By the way, if you're interested in more on this topic, you might enjoy a column we wrote in May 2013.
When we get correspondence from readers, typically the responses represent a wide range of opinion. A couple of weeks ago, we set forth the idea that public officials who are promising to pay for tax reductions with service cuts announce -- at precisely the same time -- the items that are going to drop out of the budget as a result. We called the item "B&G's Law," and have rarely gotten such general and often passionate agreement (though we thought a handful of them were off base).
Typical was one from a Midwestern fiscal operations officer. "I agree whole heartedly with your suggestion. I think it goes along with accountability and being transparent about your intentions," he said. ... So often, personal agendas come into play. This way everything is out in the open."
Generally speaking, people think of budgetary shortfalls as far worse than having cash left over at the end of the year. This isn't necessarily the case. An audit by the New York State Comptroller of the town of Clarkson makes just that point. Apparently for years, the town has spent less than it forecast and brought in revenues higher than predicted.
Between 2008 and 2012 the town overestimated highway fund expenses by more than $900,000 and three years ago Clarkson created a budget in which it predicted sales tax revenue at $394,000. The actual figure turned out to be almost $800,000. And that sort of budgeting's simply not a good thing. The town supervisor disagreed, indicated that his community operated under "different philosophies" than the state comptroller and said he enjoyed the security the town has achieved by generating more cash than it estimated.
We can see the supervisor's point of view -- sort of. But it seems to us like there are much better ways to budget in a conservative way than to force conservatism by wildly overestimating the town's financial needs.
"Those who can, build. Those who can't, criticize." - Robert Moses, an urban planner responsible for much of modern New York City
Looking for a way to save on health care for city, county or state employees? Here's an idea based on an article in the Archives of Internal Medicine.
The article compared people who sit more than 11 hours a day to those who were behind their desks for less than four hours a day. Turns out that the chances of dying within three years are 40 percent lower for the standers than the sitters. How can an employer (public or private sector)encourage those who use their legs more than their posteriors? Treadmill desks.
Not only do these contraptions seemingly help keep people healthy, other studies suggest that they improve productivity and creativity.
Typically, the only way people think about the costs of government programs is in dollars and cents. But Donald Moynihan and Pamela Herd, professors at the Robert M. La Follette School of Public Affairs at the University of Wisconsin, point out that the administrative burden of dealing with government programs represents significant price of another kind.
Consider the time that people have to devote to learning how to get a service or apply to a government program. Moreover, once that hurdle has been cleared, there are compliance costs to actually applying -- providing documentation for example. Then there can be psychological costs when citizens are confronted by an unhelpful government worker.
All of these things (often dubbed red tape) help people form a negative impression of government.
We call it the Seattle Syndrome. Years ago, we were evaluating cities on their capacity to use data in order to evaluate the success of programs. We interviewed officials in dozens of cities to get an idea what was going on. Seattle's administrators were outstandingly self-critical; pointing out all the city's shortcomings in this area. When we talked to a number of other cities, we realized that Seattle was more proficient than most of them. Its officials only thought they were behind the curve because they knew how much better they could be. Cities that had no idea of the potential of data for management were pretty much convinced they were doing everything they could.
It's our theory that this phenomenon is one of the reasons why some cities have a hard time making progress in their management. If you can't see the sky, you'll never leave the earth.
The Seattle Syndrome -- a corollary. One of the most common methods used by employers in both the public and private sectors is asking candidates to self-evaluate. On the face of it, this sounds like a perfectly reasonable approach. But just as Seattle underrated its skills in the previous example, many well qualified job applicants also seem to underestimate their skills.
That's one of the conclusions reached by Bob Corlett, a contributing writer for BizJournals. He writes that there's solid evidence that, "Unskilled candidates consistently overrate their abilities and more skilled candidates consistently underrate their abilities." This insight can be extremely valuable to human resource officials, or others involved in the public sector hiring business.
Given the number of state ratings and rankings in which we've been involved, perhaps this item is an example of throwing a rock at a glass house and then throwing it out again. Connecticut's Office of Legislative Research recently released a well-wrought brief about the widely varying findings in studies that rank the "business-friendliness" of states.
The brief points out that one factor with significant impact on a state's ranking is whether the study looks at all businesses or just a subset. "South Carolina and Texas outranked Connecticut in the Tax Foundation's 2013 State Business Tax Climate (36 and 9, respectively, to 40), which assessed how different types of taxes affected business generally."
But then take a look at the Tax Foundation's 2012 study, "Location Matters." This one looked at how taxes affected "new and mature businesses including R&D facilities and capital-intensive manufacturing." There, Connecticut ranked better than both South Carolina and Texas.
Lesson: Before you put any credibility in one of these rankings, take a good look at the fine print about the criteria used.
THE SAME INVESTMENT BANKS THAT STOLE TRILLIONS FROM CITIES IN SUBPRIME MORTGAGE AND ALL KINDS OF OTHER FRAUDS ARE NOW BEING ALLOWED TO COME IN AND TAKE PRIME CITY REAL ESTATE FOR NEXT TO NOTHING. IF FRAUD WAS RECOVERED THESE COMMUNITIES AND CITIZENS WOULD CONTROL DEVELOPMENT.
Actually Shaun is an Obama appointee with a mission to end all public housing and hand all public property contolled by public housing to the very developers who owe the city and states trillions of dollars from the frauds of last decade. Indeed, simply collecting financial fraud from financial institutions involved in these deals neo-liberals are making for all of this development would pay for the development.....only the people would be making the decisions and not the banks and investment firms that sucked our city and state coffers dry with fraud. This is what Shaun is doing at a Federal level as he did in Chicago with Obama and neo-liberals privatizing all that is public. Chicago hates him for this reason. We do too!
What would real estate investment and development look like if the people in the communities actually had a voice? Well, in Charles Village as with downtown we see a relentless stream of national corporate chain businesses taking all small/regional business, taking ownership of large sectors of real estate for pennies that are slated to become extremely valuable in the future. Rather, the public could use that fraud money to rehab these crumbling communities and make the people living there home-owners and small business people. This was what the term Enterprise Zone means. In Baltimore, Enterprise Zone means place where global corporations build their own real estate empires filled with a funneling of public money to feed corporate profits and private corporate non-profits that write all public policy. What's not to love about that Shaun? Your Chicago constituents are shouting the answer!
Fair Development floats all boats and the money that should be the public's to spend needs to work in the public interest. It is not in the public's interest to see all public land made private or all development geared to affluent and corporate profit. Making a city center too expensive for the current residents with visions of Manhattan in exclusivity-----really Shaun? When we get rid of neo-liberals in the Presidency and Congress the first thing that will happen is this assault on our public sector and all of the public's wealth will be reversed!
That's not to say we do not like Barclay are any other community seeing a much needed development, but for those residents owning homes now, look for inflation to challenge your ability to stay in the community and look for consolidation of real estate into the hands of people rich from fraud to soak the rental market dry!
HUD chief says Baltimore will be model for program Donovan tours Barclay; developers to take over, refurbish some public housing
City officials took the head of the nation's Department of Housing and Urban Development on a tour Wednesday of Barclay to show him work by a private developer they say is starting to turn around the small, impoverished neighborhood in the middle of the city.
It's a story of a public-private partnership about to start a new chapter, now that the company is one of 11 developers slated to take over some of the city's public housing units.
HUD Secretary Shaun Donovan, in town to announce the award of $1.8 billion in capital funds for the nation's public housing, said he expects Baltimore to be a model for the new program, which is designed to allow deteriorating public units to access previously off-limits sources of money for repair.
"This is a precious resource at great risk of loss," said Donovan, calling the plan the central piece of the Obama administration's "preservation strategy" for affordable housing.
"I have a lot of confidence in the mayor, in the city, to do this right," he said.
The nation's supply of public housing is shrinking by 11,000 to 15,000 units a year, or about 1 percent annually, the federal government estimates. In Baltimore, the number of units has fallen from more than 16,000 in 1992 to about 10,300, according to city and Abell Foundation figures.
Officials said the drop has occurred in part because of a lack of federal funding for upkeep. In Baltimore, money for maintenance of public housing has fallen by more than half, from $30 million in 1997 to $12.8 million in 2014.
Meanwhile, the city's projected cost of maintenance has ballooned to about $800 million. Even the increase in funding announced Wednesday, to $17 million, isn't enough, officials said.
"Let's just say times haven't been great in recent years," Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano said at the Brentwood, a 15-story public housing high-rise on East 25th Street, where ceiling tiles are missing in the lobby and residents said they have problems with plumbing. "There's a climate on Capitol Hill about let's not fund these programs the way we used to or the way we need to."
The new program changes the form of subsidy received by public housing, making the properties eligible for funding from different sources. About 400 housing authorities, including about a dozen in Maryland, have applied to participate, representing about 15 percent of the nation's housing stock.
Baltimore's plan for the units in the program — more than 4,000 apartments in 22 complexes — involves paying for renovations by raising money from selling state bonds and using low-income housing tax credits, which require private ownership. The city will remain a minority partner and has the option to repurchase the complexes after 15 years.
The state intends to issue about $120 million in bonds during the first year of the program, using the proceeds to provide loans to developers. Developers also can sell the low-income housing tax credits to private investors — a large bank, for example — for cash, allowing them to further reduce the amount of debt required for the renovation or construction.
Privatization will allow the city to clear $300 million in maintenance needs in about five years, Graziano said.
Baltimore's plan has drawn criticism from union members concerned that privatization violates their contract and will cost them jobs. Some housing advocates fear that the change could reduce access to or the supply of affordable public housing.
City officials say that only five units will be lost and that new residents will be drawn from the public housing waiting list. Graziano said the city is working to connect the 192 workers in the affected complexes with the new private owners and looking at possible early retirement and buyout programs.
Expanding the housing authority's public-private partnerships in low-income housing will be a boon to residents reliant on the programs, Graziano said, pointing to Barclay, where Telesis Corp. is leading an effort to build and rehabilitate more than 300 homes in the neighborhood. Telesis will take over the Brentwood in Barclay.
"We wouldn't be pursuing [this] if we didn't have the track record of success we've seen in this community and throughout the city," Graziano said. "Without this, we would not have been able to do any of the work you've seen today."
Brentwood resident Miriam Havard Britt, 51, said she has seen signs that the neighborhood is improving, but many remain unsettled despite the city's reassurances about the privatization program.
"I can see it's on the way up," she said of Barclay. "I just hope people don't get left behind that deserve to be a part of that."
Harbor Point set to get $100,000 credit for work the city will do INSIDE CITY HALL: A fresh subsidy for Michael Beatty that's mighty hard to trace
Mark Reutter March 11, 2014 at 2:17 pm
The Central Avenue Bridge will span the waterway between Harbor Point and Harbor East, seen at center of this picture.
Before tomorrow’s Board of Estimates is a $98,000 credit to the developer of Harbor Point for work that the city, not the developer, will do.
The credit is not made explicit in the BOE agenda; in fact, you have to do the math yourself (using percentages buried in the text) to arrive at the figure.
Here’s how it works: An original fee of $500,000 owed by the Beatty Development Group to pay for traffic mitigation improvements will be reduced to slightly over $400,000 thanks to a “credit” to the developer for building the Central Avenue Bridge.
The rub is that the Beatty organization is no longer building the bridge – the City of Baltimore is.
And just two months ago, the Rawlings-Blake administration kindly stepped forward to absorb any cost overruns on the same bridge in yet another agreement with the Beatty organization.
UPDATE: The item, on the spending board’s routine agenda, was unanimously approved today by Comptroller Joan M. Pratt, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young and the other two members.
Asked by The Brew to explain why Beatty still was receiving the credit, the mayor said “I don’t have an answer for you” and referred a reporter to her staff, who in turn referred The Brew to Department of Transportation officials. (These are the officials queried by The Brew yesterday who have still not made a substantive reply.)
Follow the Fine Print
Back to the matter at hand: When the traffic mitigation arrangement was originally signed, the developer was expected to build the Central Avenue Bridge out of TIF (tax incentive) funds advanced by the city.
Since then, the city decided to take over construction of the bridge, while handing $106 million to Beatty to construct the rest of the site’s public infrastructure, including streets, sanitation lines, parks and a waterfront promenade.
Harbor Point developer Michael Beatty at a press conference last year. (Photo by Mark Reutter)
Tomorrow’s BOE meeting is expected to formally approve the “Public Infrastructure Developer’s Agreement No. 1328″ with Beatty.
A 2011 city ordinance requires developers of large projects to share the costs of roadway improvements needed to handle traffic generated by the projects.
The fee is largely based on the square footage of the proposed development.
Source: Further Beatty Subsidy
In tomorrow’s agreement, the city agrees to reduce the original $500,000 fee by means of a 18.2% credit for the bridge and a 1.8% credit for transit piers.
“The city is giving money back for what the city is actually doing,” said a source with knowledge of the agreement, adding, “It’s a further subsidy to a heavily subsidized development.”
When we called him today, Beatty said he was at a meeting and could not talk. He has not returned the call to discuss the fee arrangement.
City DOT has not yet responded to our emailed request for comment on the bridge credit.
It’s perhaps worth noting that Khalil Zaied, former director of DOT who is now a top Rawlings-Blake aide, successfully pushed for the traffic ordinance back in 2011.
Zaied said the new law was needed to make “the current traffic mitigation process more transparent and predictable.”
If you look at the politics in BAltimore, Md you see the same engineered collapse coming as a captured City Hall works completely for Baltimore Development and the amount of leverage, debt, and fraud and corruption drains all public wealth and revenue....just as happened with Detroit. Baltimore no doubt will claim bankruptcy after the coming collapse just as with Detroit. It is a plan of action for Wall Street to take control of these urban centers and these private non-profits are setting the stage!
Leid Stories - 01/24/14 Jan 24th, 2014 by progressiveradionetwork
Apocalypse Now: Detroit’s Engineered Collapse As the New Urban Paradigm
It’s a story unfolding before our eyes, but we’re encouraged not to see it for what it really is. Detroit’s gone bankrupt, the media and the political establishment tell us, because its mainstay auto industry tanked, its population and tax rolls dwindled, its political leadership was inept and corrupt, and the city can’t meet its operational costs and pension payouts to city workers.
But Leid Stories’ guests over the past few months have made credible arguments that Detroit’s bankruptcy was not inevitable; it was engineered. And long before the city got the green light from the governor to declare bankruptcy, there was a grand plan re-imagining its rebirth – with a “different” population.
Leid Stories contends that Detroit’s engineered collapse is the new urban paradigm – one that suits corporate interests, the political establishment, and the aims and objectives of race and class warfare.
Do you know that Dulaney is an investment banker and that we have just come through a set of massive financial frauds that have tens of trillions of dollars still owed the American people? Simply recovering that fraud would pay the entire infrastructure building across America..a GREAT JOBS WORK PROGRAM PAID FOR SIMPLY BY REINSTATING RULE OF LAW AND RECOVERING ALL FRAUD YET OWED GOVERNMENT COFFERS!
Imagine that! But it gets better. Massachusetts had what was called THE BIG DIG, an infrastructure project known world-wide for the incredible fraud and corruption that costs Boston and Mass citizens tons in lost public revenue and fatten developers. It was a bolis of money just as Dulaney is proposing..we call it THE FEEDING TROUGH in MD known for its rank at the bottom for fraud and corruption.
Believe it or not there is a third reason not to do this..MD leads in handing public works to global corporations and in doing so, will effect how people are hired and paid....just as the state outsources all its work to RIGHT TO WORK states and immigrant labor that then are abused and exploited. So, we need to rebuild our public oversight, public justice system before we create large bunches of money that we know will feed the fraud and corruption and lead to labor being exploited. Let's simply recover what for MD would be tens of billions of dollars in Wall Street fraud first!
A new way to rebuild [Editorial] Our view: A Maryland congressman's creative solution for the nation's aging roads and other public infrastructure picks up some deserved bipartisan support
2:37 p.m. EST, January 21, 2014 Baltimore Sun
Last summer, we sang the praises of Maryland Rep. John K. Delaney's proposal to create a $750 billion fund to rebuild and expand America's neglected public infrastructure. Turns out the freshman Democrat's measure continues to build on its bipartisan support — now with a companion bill introduced in the U.S. Senate.
What makes the 6th District Democrat's Partnership to Build America Act so appealing is that it hits two birds with one stone. The fund would be financed by borrowing money privately — allowing private companies to repatriate foreign profits by purchasing $50 billion in 50-year bonds that will pay for the badly-needed road, transit, water, sewer, energy and other projects.
Mr. Delaney's background in finance has obviously come in handy. Most in Congress understand that the nation has an enormous infrastructure backlog — estimated at $3.6 trillion by the American Society of Civil Engineers — and many probably also recognize that the billions of dollars in profits American-based multinational companies have parked off-shore pose a challenge, too.
That's because those foreign profits can accumulate for years without paying a dime in federal taxes, which can be deferred indefinitely. The infrastructure proposal would at least put the money to work. Companies like Apple could participate in a "reverse Dutch auction" in which they'd bid to buy the bonds by offering the lowest "multiplier." For each dollar in bonds the winning bidder purchases, it will be allowed to repatriate a certain amount in foreign profits.
Under Mr. Delaney's example, a winning bid of a 1-to-4 would mean that for every dollar of bonds a company purchases, it would be allowed to repatriate $4 to spend as it likes. Thanks to the magic of borrowing, the $50 billion in bonds can then be leveraged into $750 billion of infrastructure loans or guarantees.
Obviously, this won't "fix" the nation's enormous infrastructure needs by itself, and some may argue that it would be better for the U.S. to reform the tax code to end unlimited deferrals or perhaps even lower the corporate tax rate. But no proposal involving enormous new spending or tax reform is likely to make it out of a highly partisan Congress, particularly in an election year.
The Maryland congressman's proposal is appealing in large part it appears do-able. The House bill has 25 Democrats and 25 Republican backing it while the Senate bill was introduced last week by Republican Sen. Roy Blunt of Missouri and Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado and has already attracted a handful of Senate co-sponsors.
Meanwhile, suggestions that the federal gasoline tax be raised (after 20 years of stagnation) and indexed to keep up with inflation have fallen on deaf ears on Capitol Hill. The inability of the U.S. to keep up with its transportation needs is, unfortunately, only going to worsen as vehicles become more energy efficient.
States are also capable of creative ideas, of course. Last week, the Maryland House travel plaza on Interstate 95 reopened as a P3 — a public-private partnership. Redesigned, rebuilt and operated by a private company, the rest stop is still a money-maker for the state, but its operations and upkeep are the responsibility of Areas USA.
And the General Assembly proved willing to raise Maryland's gas tax last year — to finance an estimated $4.4 billion in new transportation spending over the next half-decade. But even that may not prove sufficient given the uncertainty of federal transportation spending and the rising cost of road and transit projects — not to mention the desire of local governments to get a bigger share of the tax revenue pie.
Some in Montgomery County, for instance, would like to see tolls on the Intercounty Connector rolled back to encourage greater use of the highway. Others want more of those transportation dollars to go into fixing local roads, restoring what is known as "highway user revenue." And in Baltimore County, officials even want to shrink the state's transportation financing pie by exempting county-owned vehicles from the gas tax.
This much is clear. The old days of financing transportation and other forms of public infrastructure are gone. What's left is going to have to be an "all-of-the-above" patchwork of partnerships, tolls, taxes, grants and fees. Given that reality, creative ideas like Mr. Delaney's are exceedingly valuable.
The thing to know about Venture Capital investments is since we have yet to see justice from the tens of trillions of dollars in corporate fraud from last decade that stole through fraud from the American people's pensions, homes, retirements, from entitlements like Medicare and Medicaid and from our government coffers by the trillions.....with only maybe a trillion of this fraud having come back in parking ticket fashion and then that simply sent to these developers for their own projects....all of that investment represents the people's wealth not yet recovered!
This is important as the failure to address the fraud at the start.....in 2009 just after the crash means we are having to look at the fraud and profits made from it since 2009.....all of the profits made from the stock market these few years from investment of money from fraud are all gains for the people victims of fraud.....that is all of us! Government watchdogs place the amount of fraud recovery at some few hundreds of thousands for each person in the US....so, for a family of 4 this is a milllion dollar retirement nest egg! Nationalizing the banks in 2009 and breaking them down to recover this fraud would have placed the country on the path to economic recovery and health, but since Rule of Law was suspended we are still waiting. Remember, when Rule of Law is suspended so is Statutes of Limitation!
Venture capital surged last year in Baltimore and D.C.
7:47 a.m. EST, January 17, 2014 BAltimore Sun
Venture capital funds flooded into companies last year in the Baltimore-Washington corridor, more than doubling to $1.54 billion, according to a new report to be released Friday.
The region ranked fifth among those tracked — behind California's Silicon Valley, New England, and the New York City and Los Angeles metro areas — by the MoneyTree Report prepared by PriceWaterhouseCoopers LLP and the National Venture Capital Association.
Nationwide, venture capital investing grew 7.5 percent to $29.4 billion in 2013, according to the report, which uses data from Thomson Reuters.
The number of deals in Baltimore-D.C. metroplex increased to 171 in 2013 from 166 the year before.
The top 10 deals of the year reads like a who's who of hot technology with investments in Uber and Pinterest, but also includes a $150 million early stage investment in Precision for Medicine Inc., a Chevy Chase firm working to develop and commercialize specialized medicines.
In the fourth quarter, the region saw $313 million invested in 54 deals, up from just under $117 million last year.
The largest local deal placed $16 million with CSA Medical Inc., a Timonium company that's developing a spray to freeze unwanted body tissue, easing its removal. Annapolis-based Astrum Solar received nearly $7.5 million to expand its residential solar electric rental business. And the Baltimore-based home furnishings and décor retailer Bambeco got a nearly $4.3 million to fund its continued expansion.
What is happening in cities across the country is that all of the tens of trillions of dollars stolen in corporate fraud from government coffers and public wealth is now being used to build global corporate headquarters in urban development schemes and they are using your home equity, your retirement, your entitlements and Social Security, and all of the education loans taken from students not knowing the economy was being imploded deliberately! In Baltimore the sucking sound is so large and the amount of fraud and corruption so breath-taking that all public justice has been captured so people have no recourse.
THIS CANNOT LAST LONG AS WE REBUILD OUR DEMOCRATIC PARTY WITH LABOR AND JUSTICE AND REINSTATE RULE OF LAW!!!
Corporate Entrepreneurs Are at the Heart of Downtown Revitalizations Private-sector actors are reshaping the center of some cities in ways local governments no longer have the ability to do themselves.
by Alan Greenblatt | January 2014 Governing
IBM is housed in a former department store, one of four old stores in downtown Dubuque, Iowa, that now are filled with white-collar workers. (Photos by David Kidd) ‹ › 120 560 1 28 0 Leah Eichhorn is thrilled to be back in her hometown of Dubuque. Like a lot of educated young people, Eichhorn packed up and left once she became an adult, lighting out for Phoenix back in 2000 because there was so little opportunity where she’d grown up. The Iowa town, which sits alongside the Mississippi River across from Illinois and Wisconsin, had lost most of its manufacturing and agricultural sector employment during the 1980s, leaving it at one point with the worst unemployment rate in the nation.
But something surprising happened five years ago. The city convinced IBM that it should move a large IT operations center into an old department store downtown. The company brought with it more than a thousand jobs—a big deal for a community of 60,000—and has helped spark a revival that has quadrupled employment in the city’s historic downtown core. “IBM really catapulted it forward,” says Eichhorn, who works as a manager for the company, enjoying the type of professional career she once thought impossible to achieve in Dubuque. “We have great potential to keep people here, rather than running to Phoenix.”
Creating opportunities and retaining the local best and brightest has long been the dream of many struggling communities. These days, many cities are getting a lot of help on that front from companies that see great potential in downtowns. In some cases, private-sector actors are reshaping central cities in ways local governments no longer have the ability to do themselves.
The examples getting the most attention just now are Las Vegas and Detroit, where Tony Hsieh of Zappos and Dan Gilbert of Quicken Loans, respectively, have invested hundreds of millions of dollars in downtown projects that are not only boosting employment but also reshaping the entire landscape. The reality is that they are creating the urban infrastructure that they want around them—parks, transit, better sidewalks—in ways that builders of one-off projects rarely have to worry about. “Most real estate developers are about ‘give me a permit,’” says Otis White, a civic consultant in Atlanta (and a onetime Governing contributor). “These guys are about building a community where there hasn’t been one.”
Quicken CEO Dan Gilbert wants to use his company’s downtown Detroit headquarters as a catalyst for redeveloping the city’s core with streetcars, wider sidewalks and pedestrian-friendly plazas. Rock Ventures Other companies are pursuing similar visions, from Amazon building itself a whole new neighborhood in downtown Seattle to Facebook’s blueprints for a $120 million housing complex for its workers in Menlo Park, Calif. “Every city that’s struggling, that’s trying to get back on its feet, that’s trying to make its downtown matter again ... needs a private benefactor,” Deadspin editor Will Leitch wrote in an online column last fall, lamenting that Cleveland’s main benefactor—Quicken Loans’ Gilbert—was distracted by putting so much of his time and money into Detroit.
But it’s not just billionaires and big tech and financial firms that are reshaping downtowns. Think of the growth that’s taken place around the University of Pennsylvania in Philadelphia, Georgia Tech in Atlanta or the Texas Medical Center in Houston. In Salt Lake City, the Mormon Church opened the 20-acre City Creek Center two years ago, perhaps the largest mixed-use development to emerge since the recession. In all these places, anchor institutions are not just reshaping their immediate surroundings, but also acting as catalysts that generate further development and job growth. “In Salt Lake City, in everything I do, I’m working arm in arm with the private sector, both profit and nonprofit, to allow us to do the things we want to achieve for our city,” says Mayor Ralph Becker. “I find it an encouraging and probably even more necessary piece of what we do going forward.”
In a sense, there’s nothing new about any of this. Cities have always depended on private actors to create jobs and put up buildings. But the big story over the next several years will be the amount of growth that will be clustered around these centers, says Bruce Katz, director of the Brookings Institution’s Metropolitan Policy Program. It’s not just hipsters who want to be in downtowns, he notes, but also innovative companies that see the value in locating near similar companies. Once a major institutional initiative changes the story about a downtown, it can trigger a wave of investment and capital coming into a city. “What it also reveals is that cities are networks, not governments,” Katz says. “At any given time, a different set of leaders can step up and fill a vacuum. They have the discretionary resources to apply that in many places government doesn’t have anymore.”
Dubuque was a city on a downward spiral. With the collapse of the farm economy in the 1980s, the city watched as the Dubuque Packing Co. closed up shop, and then as John Deere—still the city’s largest single employer—sliced its workforce by about three-quarters from its peak. Everyone in town, it seemed, either lost his job or had a relative who had. All told, Dubuque lost 10 percent of its population.
Then IBM moved into an empty Depression-era department store. The shoppers who had once filled its nine stories had long since taken their business elsewhere. The morbid joke locals tell about downtown was that it was so dead, you could shoot a cannon down Main Street and not risk hitting anybody.
Landing IBM for its downtown was a huge coup. “When you see the list of places competing for that IBM IT center, you would have never thought Dubuque had a chance,” concedes Mayor Roy Buol. But the lesson Dubuque learned from its hard times was never to depend too much on any single large employer. Rather than a pair of companies with several thousand employees each, Dubuque now boasts a number of employers—in publishing, medical services and manufacturing, as well as long-standing insurance and banking businesses—with several hundred workers each. IBM’s building is just one of four former downtown department stores that are filled with white-collar workers.
Dubuque’s current success arrived incrementally. It tried every economic development trick in the book—casinos, a pedestrian mall, a riverfront convention center. What ended up working could almost seem like an accident, if it weren’t the result of years of hard work and planning. City and civic leaders could either pack up and close down the town or maybe struggle mightily to hold onto what employers they still had left, as so many communities do.
But there was a third option as well. The city could try to create a vision that everybody bought into and was willing to work together to bring about. “It wasn’t foresight, it was pure pain,” says Dan McDonald, vice president of the Greater Dubuque Development Corp., an economic development agency. “We had one out of four of our citizens out of work.”
The idea sounds kind of kumbaya, but Dubuque has been able to foster a culture of collaboration that includes every conceivable actor in the area on major projects. People don’t always agree, but everyone gets to have their input as the process moves forward.
Greater Dubuque acts as an ongoing convener, holding nearly 500 standing weekly and monthly meetings a year with city agencies, utility companies, community colleges and other players—private companies and nonprofits alike. It also goes out and interviews the owners of more than 200 local companies on an annual basis. “Zoning issues mentioned in passing can be handled before they’re on the front page or a business leaves because of them,” says Cori Burbach, sustainability coordinator for the city.
It’s more than just a collaborative style of customer service. When the IBM project surfaced, Dubuque was able to convince the company that its culture of working together to identify and rectify problems wasn’t just happy talk, but something the company could rely on. When IBM expressed concern about the local talent pool, Greater Dubuque downloaded and printed off 600 relevant resumes aspirants had put in its job-search database. During an early conference call, the city gathered nearly two dozen individuals from both its own agencies and the private sector to answer any questions the company might have. One of its competitors in the South, by contrast, had the mayor handle the call by himself on a cellphone with spotty service.
Dubuque’s civic culture may have drawn IBM, but now it can call on IBM itself to help out. As Mayor Buol says, IBM’s presence means the city is essentially “preapproved” when other companies are considering relocation. Representatives from IBM just made a trip with Gov. Terry Branstad to New York in hopes of drumming up more business for the town. “It is a good selling point,” says Tom Coffas, who heads IBM’s local office. “They don’t have to say, ‘This is stuff we can do; we think we can support you.’ Instead it’s, ‘We have IBM, and we’ve shown we can accommodate you.’”
No matter how big the employer, there are always concerns about turning into a heavily reliant company town, or letting the downtown become a corporate campus. There will always be bloggers and local residents who complain that tax breaks and other policies are too generous to big business. But city officials today know their downtowns need anchor tenants, the big firms whose importance lies partly in convincing other companies that the area is attractive. Now, rather than everyone in a family having to rely on one or two local employers, as was the case for Dubuque in the past, when individuals come to Dubuque for a job with IBM, their spouses can hope to find jobs with any of several other companies. And they’ll find more amenities in town available as a result: With the corporations come the coffee shops. “There’s actually a pretty vibrant nightlife, and there are a lot of young professionals moving in,” says Derek Elgin, who relocated from South Carolina two years ago for a job in publishing.
Since IBM opened up shop in Dubuque nearly five years ago, 250 residential units have opened up downtown. The most striking examples are in the Millwork District, a 17-square-block conglomeration of massive old industrial sites that had long sat empty but are now starting to be occupied by airy condos, law firms and art galleries. To lay the groundwork, the city used federal grant money to replace century-old utilities and spruce up the streetscape. “We see ourselves as a partner for the developer,” says David Johnson, an assistant city planner. “We want to be a resource, rather than an obstacle.”
Dubuque’s downtown went bust at the right time. The city has been able to preserve many handsome old brick and masonry buildings that are now being repurposed. You can still buy feed and seed in downtown Dubuque, but you’re much more likely to encounter boutique shops and restaurants selling high-end chocolates or dishes like lobster mac and cheese. There’s so much construction and renovation going on that Emily McCready was able to convince the architecture firm she works for in Tulsa that it ought to open up a local office to take advantage of the business prospects. When she was growing up in Dubuque, there simply weren’t enough jobs to convince aspiring professionals that they should stick around. “You went away for college and there was no pressure to come back,” she says. “We always wanted to come back here, but we didn’t think it was possible.”
McCready moved away 15 years ago, but on recent visits back she could see that the city was changing fast. IBM’s presence was bringing in a more educated and diverse workforce. People still joke that Italians help diversify a town that’s historically been mostly Irish and German. But now Dubuque boasts two cricket leagues to accommodate the many South Asians and other new residents who are addicted to the game. Not only is Dubuque drawing types of people it had never welcomed before, it’s seeing the return of native daughters. It seems impossible to strike up conversations with individuals in their 20s and 30s and not find some who had moved away to Colorado and California, but are now glad to be back. Allison Mitchell, for instance, recently returned after three years in Los Angeles, where she worked as a “celebrity swim coach and nanny” for the children of film stars.
Admittedly, jobs like that still can’t be found in Dubuque. But there’s plenty of work. Since hitting a trough with the recession in 2009, the Dubuque area has gained 4,600 jobs—an increase of nearly 9 percent. Last fall, the U.S. Department of Commerce dubbed Dubuque the fastest-growing area in the state and the 27th-fastest growing metro area in the country. When McCready was growing up, more than half the storefronts on Main Street were vacant, but when she opened her firm’s satellite office in November, she was unable to find a vacancy and had to settle for an address just off Main Street. “I think there’s always going to be work here,” McCready says. “IBM coming into the city was a huge confidence boost for people.”
Thirty years ago, there was actually a billboard in Dubuque asking the last person to leave to turn off the lights. Today, there are stickers above the light switches in city conference rooms requesting the same thing. It’s a small part of the city’s sustainability program, a top priority for Buol that has become the city’s main ongoing collaborative effort with IBM.
The company is using Dubuque as a test kitchen for its “smarter city” products and services, running several pilot projects on water, electricity, mobility, health and waste. Rather than monthly water meter readings, for example, hundreds of people were able to track their water use online with updates available every 15 minutes. By seeing what they were consuming in real time, people could get a sense of what might be driving excessive usage. In one case, parents were able to find out their kids had held a party because of a spike at 2 a.m. one night when the grownups weren’t home. More fundamentally, says Chris Kohlmann, Dubuque’s information services manager, the city was able to point out likely leaks in the sewer system and even gather enough data to learn to anticipate situations where pipes should be replaced before leaks start.
The result was a significant reduction in average household use of water and other services. IBM and Dubuque have received a plethora of awards for the pilot projects, and work done in Iowa has become the templates for projects from Australia to Turkey. “What happens in Dubuque doesn’t stay in Dubuque,” jokes Milind Naphade, IBM’s Smarter City Services director.
As with any pilot project, taking the ideas up to scale can be challenging. IBM’s ideas might still be expensive for the small and medium-sized cities that are nimble enough to put new public works strategies into place. “A challenge for IBM is making these tools affordable when they go to market with cities of our size,” Kohlmann says of her small city.
But what may really be difficult to replicate elsewhere is not the gee-whiz environmental changes but the basics behind Dubuque’s comeback. There isn’t always 100 percent agreement about what approach to take, but various stakeholders in Dubuque feel like they’ve at least had some input and can understand the strategy that ultimately prevails. Just as meters keeping close track of water use can help cut down on use, so can ongoing collaboration smooth out problems for any project along the way. It ends up that people don’t care so much about getting credit as getting it done. “It’s not rocket science, it’s communication—it’s dealing with problems in real time,” says McDonald of Greater Dubuque.
It may seem like no big deal that people from different entities and sectors try to pull together, but it’s surprisingly rare. In many parts of the country, people from separate agencies or jurisdictions can’t even name their counterparts, let alone maintain ongoing working relationships with them. “I’ve heard the stories about the days when these groups didn’t know each other or have many connections to each other,” says Kurt Strand, head of McGraw-Hill’s Dubuque office, who moved to the city eight years ago. “But they all saw the need to find ways to create jobs and bring people here.”
When IBM expressed interest in working on a research project with the city, Dubuque was able to draw not only on its own existing sustainability efforts, but its practice of collaborating on large-scale projects. Naphade and his colleagues were surprised when they came to town for an early brainstorming session and found that the event had been booked in a hotel ballroom. It turned out the city had convinced 83 individuals it would be worth attending. “It’s hard getting two people together in a city, but that has been the hallmark in Dubuque,” says Naphade. “I would say that when Dubuque talks about partnerships, it’s really not hollow talking. They’re very good at it.”
This is what made BWI the magnet for labor and justice abuses as a once public agency.....the MAA outsourced all development to a corporate contractor that operates with no oversight! This contract ends in 2016 and justice advocates should already be shouting that it not be outsourced!!!!
- The State of Maryland, through the Department of Transportation (MDOT), purchases Friendship International Airport from the City of Baltimore for $36 million. Under MDOT, the State Aviation Administration takes over airfield operations and grows from three employees to more than 200.
Mar 5, 2008, 12:00pm EST Updated: Mar 5, 2008, 12:00pm EST
BAA Maryland hoping to fill retail, restaurant jobs at BWI Airport Ryan SharrowStaff Hundreds of jobs are flying into Baltimore/Washington International Thurgood Marshall Airport.
BAA Maryland, the developer and manager of newly developed retail space at the Linthicum airport, is holding a job fair Thursday to fill "hundreds" of positions. The positions, at all levels, include jobs at Borders, California Tortilla, the Greene Turtle, Silver Diner and Sunglass Hut.
BAA developed 140,000 square feet of new and refurbished concession space at BWI during the last three years as part of the airport's $1.4 billion improvement project. Additional retail stores and eateries are expected to open.
The job fair will be held from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. at BWI's upper level terminal near the American Airlines ticket counter.
BAA Maryland signed a 12-year contract with the Maryland Aviation Administration in March 2004 to become sole concessionaire at the airport.
Since then, BAA has developed an "airmall" -- a concept that pushes competition between retailers and restaurants like a regular mall, rather than hiring a single company to operate all retail concessions using its own employees.
Pittsburgh-based parent company BAA USA also operates concessions at Pittsburgh International Airport, Boston Logan International Airport and Indianapolis International Airport.
Below we see a corporation wants its land for free because it will hire people to do its business. Why don't we give a local citizen that much money to build a small, local biomedical manufacturing plant to provide enough generic PHARMA to local citizens, hiring just as many people? Because Emergent, located next to Hopkins will be used to develop and market the biotech patents of Hopkins.....ie, it will be a profit-maker for Hopkins. But wouldn't it be more valuable to give away public land to a business working to supply local people with common drugs that are used every day right here in Maryland rather than yet another PHARMA manufacturer of drugs that will be sold all over the world? Did you know PHARMA manufacturing is becoming highly automated and will not bring many new jobs beyond the 100? With generic drug markets ready to explode why would we invest in yet another PHARMA manufacturer set to sell Hopkins' patents?
What is the Generic Pharmaceutical Manufacturing Industry?
Generic pharmaceutical and medicine manufacturers develop prescription and over-the-counter drug products that are used to prevent or treat illnesses in humans or animals. Generic drugs are produced and distributed without patent protection, and industry operators are not significantly engaged in the research and development of new drugs. The industry does not include manufacturers of nutritional supplements or cosmetic beauty products.
'Emergent wants to buy the land at a discount. The option provided for sale of the land at a price of $715,691, but the city would provide a credit of up to $245,000 for environmental analysis and remediation. The company has asked for an additional credit worth up to $250,000 if it creates 100 new jobs by the end of 2020'.
Emergent BioSolutions seeks to buy land from city for expansion Officials to vote Wednesday on sale of 8 acres in East Baltimore
- By Scott Dance, The Baltimore Sun 7:21 p.m. EST, December 16, 2013
The Rockville-based biotechnology company bought its facility on East Lombard Street for $7.85 million in 2009, and has invested $50 million there since, Chief Financial Officer Bob Kramer said.
The City Council is slated to vote Wednesday on the sale of the city-owned parcel next to the facility near Johns Hopkins Bayview Medical Center.
Emergent expects to spend between $40 million and $120 million over the next decade on the campus, Kramer said. Driving the future growth is a $220 million federal contract Emergent struck last year to make flu vaccines in the case of a pandemic.
Kramer said there were no immediate plans for construction.
"We think it's important to have more space to be able to expand our presence and footprint in Baltimore long term," he said.
The company is already set to grow that footprint in Baltimore through the $222 million deal it struck last week to buy Canadian biotech company Cangene Corp., which operates a manufacturing facility in West Baltimore.
Emergent bought the facility at 5901 E. Lombard St. from the MdBio Foundation, a private charitable group that advocates for the state biotechnology industry. As part of that deal, Emergent also paid the city $415,000 to buy the 5.3 acres on which the facility sits and an option to buy the neighboring parcel at 6001 E. Lombard St.
Emergent wants to buy the land at a discount. The option provided for sale of the land at a price of $715,691, but the city would provide a credit of up to $245,000 for environmental analysis and remediation. The company has asked for an additional credit worth up to $250,000 if it creates 100 new jobs by the end of 2020.
The parcel is worth $807,000, according to state property records.
About 60 people work at the East Lombard Street facility, where Emergent makes components of a cancer drug called otlertuzumab.
The company is still in the process of evaluating what improvements it might need to comply with the flu vaccine contract, Kramer said. The contract requires that Emergent be able to produce 50 million doses within a matter of months.
The company should have a better understanding of its possible needs for new construction, as well as possible opportunities through the Cangene deal, in the coming months, Kramer said.
The Cangene facility, in the Carroll-Camden industrial area, performs contract manufacturing. It adds the capability for final filling and preparation of biopharmaceutical products — something Emergent now lacks, he said.
That capability could save Emergent money in producing one of its key products: BioThrax, a vaccine for anthrax disease. The company makes the vaccine in large batches in a Michigan facility, but has to hire a third-party manufacturer to fill vials for sale to customers, Kramer said.
Emergent made $13.5 million in profit on $89.1 million in revenue in the quarter that ended Sept. 30. Its stock price has surged since it announced the Cangene deal, from $21.31 on Dec. 11, the day before the deal was announced, to $22.92 at the close Monday.
Regarding the speed camera debacle:
Those who were at the Baltimore Board of Estimate meeting that moved speed camera business from one corporation to, as we see now, another corporation that is failing know the problem.
First, the entire public works system has been dismantled and is now run by Baltimore Development Corporation who handles awards like a candy store for friends and family. You cannot have good public policy is policy is driven by who is connected with whom and what will I get if I give you this?
Second, as this one example shows, all of these deals being made by City Hall.....your City Council person who says -----WE HAVE NO VOICE-----are of course supposed to be shouting against all of this but are paid to sit silently and nod approval------are written in a way that allows failure to end with mitigated business losses paid for by taxpayers. Think failing banks due to outright incompetence and fraud with everyone leading still in place. Same thing on the local level. So, we listened as the last speed camera corporation was kicked to the curb for failing but we did not hear that this corporation needed to take its faulty cameras and reimburse the city.....we didn't hear that this failing corporation needed to pay the taxpayers for all the costs of consequences of service failures, citizen's refunds, time and cost of our elected officials talking about this. This is called 'DAMAGES' TO THE PUBLIC. No, we didn't hear any of that. We heard instead that Brekford would take over. Immediately this award was protested as bad by fellow contract bidders and the public as this corporation showed no ability to handle such a big job. Yet, as we see they are now no doubt going to go away with money from a cancelled contract.
Everyone knows all of this is fraud and public malfeasance and as I always say----when government suspends Rule of Law it suspends Statutes of Limitation. So, the problem is that we have no public justice that would have stopped this way back when the first contract was made.
THE ENTIRE CONTRACT IS WRITTEN AGAINST THE PUBLIC INTEREST AS WE HAVE NO PROTECTION FROM INCOMPETENCE AND FAILURE.
The problem lies with the Maryland Attorney General Doug Gansler and City Attorney Bernstein both of whom have no agency staffing to monitor what we all know is massive and systemic white collar fraud in the state. THAT'S THEIR JOB AND THEY ARE CHOOSING NOT TO DO IT. SUSPENDED RULE OF LAW. If they were working, City Hall would not even attempt to move such convoluted and corrupt policy through. They would be afraid of being held accountable! Do you hear the current candidates for both Maryland Attorney General and Baltimore City Attorney shouting loudly and strongly that all this is criminal and they are going to seek justice for the public? I DO NOT HEAR ANYTHING FROM THESE CANDIDATES----THEY MUST BE PART OF THE CRONY! Why does labor and justice not run candidates that shout for public justice and holding white collar crime accountable?
The solution for the short term is for the public to act as those public employees that should be monitoring and prosecuting all this. It is easy peasy!
BE THE INVESTIGATOR AND DATA COLLECTOR YOUR GOVERNMENT SHOULD BE AND HAVE INFORMATION READY FOR WHEN RULE OF LAW IS REINSTATED!
These next elections are critical and neo-liberals and crony pols have a farm team waiting in the Baltimore and Maryland Democratic Committees. You would not go there for candidates in any primary. You would run people you know from your communities and who you trust to be passionate for justice. There are people like that! Once we shake the bugs from the rug we can go back and claw-back lost city revenue from fraud and corruption.
City plans to pay Brekford $600,000 to end speed camera contract
Board of Estimates scheduled to vote Wednesday on proposed settlement
By Scott Calvert and Yvonne Wenger, The Baltimore Sun
8:30 p.m. EST, December 16, 2013
Baltimore plans to pay its speed camera vendor $600,000 to end a troubled relationship that has left the city's once-lucrative automated enforcement program offline since April, city officials said Monday.
Termination of the contract with Brekford Corp. puts the future of the city's speed and red-light camera system in question. One city councilwoman says it's time to stop using technology to nab speeders and red-light runners.
Close Political Ties For Maryland Speed Camera Vendor
Connections to O'Malley
March 7, 2013
by Mark Newgent
Yesterday, a Baltimore County Circuit Court judge ruled the county’s speed camera contract with its vendor, Xerox State & Local Solutions, is illegal.
Since their adoption in 2009, speed cameras have been controversial, and there are several bills filed in the legislature to either eliminate or reform the state’s speed camera law. A Baltimore Sun investigation found numerous errors in Baltimore City’s program, including a camera that issued a citation to a stopped vehicle.
Xerox State & Local Solutions, formerly known as ACS, the speed camera vendor for many of Maryland’s jurisdictions has extensive political ties to Governor Martin O’Malley and the circles of political power in Maryland.
A review of state campaign finance records shows John Brophy Sr., ACS Group President of State and Local Solutions and his family contributed tens of thousands of dollars to O’Malley and key Maryland Democratic politicians.
ACS is also a top state contractor. Between 2008-2012 earned more than $3.2 million in state contracts. Xerox acquired ACS in 2010 for $6.4 billion. Brophy is now no longer with Xerox.
Brophy’s son, John Brophy Jr., was a classmate of O’Malley at Gonzaga High School in Washington, D.C. and held high dollar fundraisers at the exclusive Columbia Country Club where he is an officer. State campaign finance records show the younger Brophy gave generously to O’Malley.
Federal Election Commission records show the elder Brophy is also a prolific donor to Democratic politicians, including the political action committee associated with Democratic Minority Whip, Steny Hoyer from Southern Maryland.
After failing to adopt them in 2008, Maryland approved use of speed cameras in 2009. State lobbying disclosures show that during both the 2008 and 2009 legislative sessions, ACS enlisted several high priced Annapolis lobbyists including the former Speaker of the House of Delegates, Casper Taylor, to ensure passage of speed cameras.
One of those lobbyists, Sean Malone, of Harris Jones & Malone LLC, has ties to O’Malley going back to his tenure as mayor of Baltimore. Malone served chief legal counsel for the Baltimore City Police Department, and the city’s labor commissioner, then as top legislative aide when O’Malley became governor.
Disclosure records show ACS spent $240,000 on lobbying for the 2008 and 2009 legislative sessions.
When ACS wanted to expand the speed camera programs in Baltimore County and Howard County, they enlisted the assistance of the politically connected firm of Kearney O’Doherty Public Affairs. Kearney O’Doherty crafted an Astroturf campaign of “citizen groups” complete with Facebook pages, to create the appearance of wide spread citizen support for unlimited expansion of speed cameras. The firm’s principle partners are O’Malley’s former communications director Steve Kearney, and Damian O’Doherty, an aide to former Baltimore County Executive, Jim Smith.
After Patch.com broke the story of Kearney and O’Doherty’s involvement on behalf of ACS, the company added a disclosure statement to the Facebook sites acknowledging the groups receive support from the company.
ACS mounted a similar campaign in Pennsylvania to approve red light cameras.
Kearney and O’Doherty are also the founders of Center Maryland, a news and aggregator site, which purports to provide “the news you need straight down the middle.” However, Kearney and O’Doherty have proven themselves to be quite the partisans. The company is a generous donor the Maryland Democratic Party, and during the 2010 gubernatorial election they set up a series of high-dollar fundraisers for Governor O’Malley’s reelection campaign featuring Vice President Joe Biden, and then Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi.
Center Maryland features an occasional video podcast with O’Doherty and lobbyist Lisa Harris Jones, who is partners with Sean Malone in Harris Jones Malone, LLC. Lobbying disclosures show ACS paid Lisa Harris Jones to lobby for speed cameras.
In addition to speed cameras, Kearney O’Doherty has represented clients for other controversial issues. They represented MGM on behalf of the gaming corporation’s push to expand gambling in Maryland, and the group of politically connected developers of the State Center project, which is on hold due to the O’Malley administration’s violation of state procurement laws.
Kearney and O’Doherty have refused to disclose whether or not Center Maryland features articles that benefit their clients.
This is typical Maryland for you. The public is on the hook for hotels in Baltimore and Easton that didn't need to be built and are losing money.....billions will be lost. That was O'Malley. Below you see that the Maryland Transportation Trust that was emptied to build the ICC and Montgomery County VEOLA transit will now be the focus of sustaining this I95 toll road. THIS IS WHY TOLLS ON BRIDGES ALL OVER THE STATE HAVE DOUBLED. So, the Washington Beltway takes the Transportation Trust and the rest of the state is soaked to maintain the Trust's budget.
WE HAVE NO TALENT IN OUR POLITICAL POOL FOLKS! NEO-LIBERALS ONLY KNOW HOW TO MOVE MONEY TO CONNECTED PEOPLE, NOT TO RUN AN ADMINISTRATION!
RUN AND VOTE FOR LABOR AND JUSTICE IN ALL PRIMARIES!!
Maryland will pay for underused I-95 toll lanesby Ben Ross • November 5, 2013 10:17 am
Maryland highway planners predicted that if the state didn't build 7 miles of toll lanes on I-95 north of Baltimore, the road would back up for hours every day. But when the $1.1 billion expansion opens in 2014, it won't even collect $10 million a year in tolls.
Rendering of future I-95/I-695 interchange with toll lanes from MdTA.When former Governor Robert Ehrlich's administration decided in 2003 to add toll lanes to I-95 north of Baltimore, the traffic forecast for 2020 was 238,000 vehicles per day. Now the state predicts 186,000 daily drivers in 2020. Even that assumes growth of 1% per year, although traffic has been flat since at least 2006.
The toll lanes, their promoters said, would benefit even those who can't afford to pay by taking traffic off the free lanes. Tolls would be set to attract as many cars to the pay lanes as they could carry without backing up. But that policy, it turns out, would only yield $2 or $3 million a year in revenue, barely more than the cost of collecting tolls, so Maryland boosted the rates to match the per-mile charge on the Intercounty Connector.
With a rush-hour toll of $1.75, the 4 toll lanes will carry less than 7% of the total traffic on the 12-lane highway. Truck drivers will avoid them, the Maryland Transportation Authority's consultants say, "due to the minimal benefit for trucks in saving small amounts of time." Except during exceptional traffic jams, nearly the only users will be drivers affluent enough not to care much about the toll, leading some to call them "Lexus lanes."
But folks who can't afford to use the Lexus lanes will pay a hefty price for them. When construction began, the Ehrlich administration estimated the cost at $830 million. The price tag has now grown by a third, even though transportation officials eliminated some expensive flyover access ramps as a cost-saving measure after Governor Martin O'Malley took office in 2007.
The net toll revenue of around $5 million a year (after subtracting toll collection expenses) won't begin to pay off the hundreds of millions of dollars in construction debt the state has taken on. The bill will go to drivers on the Bay Bridge, Harbor Tunnel, and other roadways the transportation authority operates, unless it raids the tax-supported Transportation Trust Fund as it did to pay for the Intercounty Connector.
Even toll road enthusiasts admit that the I-95 toll lanes are a "disappointment," built to meet forecasts that are "now seen as an absurd basis for planning." This debacle was in fact quite foreseeable. It's a lesson highway planners should take to heart.
Notice that from the start the words faulty and improper hit the news.......shout out on this important issue because we know these developers always get around all this illegality!!!!!
Harbor Point Hits Setback By P. Kenneth Burns
P. Kenneth Burns / WYPR
State and federal environmental officials have dealt the controversial Harbor Point project a setback, rejecting plans for monitoring the environmental safeguards in place at the former chromium plant.
The Environmental Protection Agency and the Maryland Department of the Environment sent letters to Beatty Development, the project managers, Thursday expressing concerns about air monitoring in the area of the site.
The EPA complained in their letter that the monitoring stations were placed improperly and that Beatty proposed using potentially obsolete equipment. Federal officials said that off-site monitoring stations at the National Aquarium and Maryland Science Center were placed in areas where sample readings were inaccurate.
Environmental advocates and some Fells Point residents have worried about being exposed to the chromium buried at the site after the 1985 closure of the former Allied Chemical plant.
Beatty has 30 days to respond to requested changes.
A community meeting to discuss the environmental safeguards at the site is scheduled at 7 p.m. November 14 at the Morgan Stanley Building, 1300 Thames St.
In Baltimore we have had our public policy captured by private non-profits that write all public policy and they are financed by corporations. THIS IS ALEC ON STEROIDS. So, in lieu of paying taxes all corporations are now simply 'donating' money to a policy-writing program' that will have public policy implemented by a private non-profit headed by a director working for the corporate interest.
THIS IS THE PRIVATE NON-PROFIT INDUSTRIAL COMPLEX AND BALTIMORE IS GROUND ZERO FOR THIS. It is simply NGOs that used to work in third world countries now moving into US cities and towns and taking control of City Hall and the Maryland Assembly. The political machines in Maryland have long been made crony and corrupt and now that is maximized. The politicians that work in the Maryland Assembly and City Hall have not one iota of interest in what the public wants----they only have eyes for corporations and their private non-profits. All of government spending is tied to these private non-profits.
IT IS A COUP OF PUBLIC PARTICIPATION IN THEIR OWN GOVERNMENT-----OH WAIT-----CORPORATIONS SAY ITS NOT YOUR GOVERNMENT IT IS OURS!
Baltimore Workforce Funders Collaborative
The Baltimore Workforce Funders Collaborative is a public/private partnership of investors dedicated to advancing the labor market prospects of unemployed and under-employed Baltimore City residents while meeting the needs of the region’s employers for a skilled workforce.
The Collaborative convenes public and private stakeholders who support the formation and expansion of sectoral intermediaries that coordinate financial resources, and service providers to help low income residents find and keep jobs with employers who need skilled workers. The public/private funder collaborative also works proactively with employers to support the work of industry-sector intermediaries, and strives to remove barriers to training, employment and advancement through workforce policy reforms and other systems change efforts.
Maryland’s New P3 Legislation Maryland’s New Public-Private Partnerships Legislation
Maryland’s newly passed P3 Legislation sets the stage for Public-Private
Partnerships to increase investment in the state. This is the best and first
chance to hear about Maryland’s new P3 law from people who know what this means
for Maryland’s economy. The panel, moderated by Ballard Spahr, includes leaders
from the public and private sectors with extensive P3 experience in commercial
and institutional development, as well as infrastructure projects. Keynote
speakers include Maryland’s Lt. Governor Anthony Brown and former Pennsylvania
Governor Ed Rendell. Plan to join us on May 9 at the BWI Hilton. We will be announcing the panel in
the near future, so check baltimore.uli.org for details and updates. Featured Speakers:
· Maryland Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown
· Ben Stutz, State of Maryland
· Former Pennsylvania Governor Ed Rendell
Moderator: Brian Walsh, Ballard Spahr
· Chuck Watters, Hines
· Andy Garbutt, KPMG
· Leif Dormsjo. Acting Deputy Secretary, MDOT
· Chris Guthkeltch, Skanska USA
· Tom Rousakis, Goldman Sachs
Master of Ceremonies:
· Sandy Apgar, Apgar Company
We have corporations operating our public commuter train system that are earning billions of dollars and profiting from public subsidy at all government level when we could simply run the transportation our selves. When we make all the capital investments and they take home profits for running the public service.....paying employees less .......there is not value for the citizens of Maryland, only profits for those corporations involved in the partnership! STOP THESE PARTNERSHIPS!!!!!
CSX Our first stop is at CSX
(NYSE:CSX), a Jacksonville, Fla.-based rail transportation and intermodal transport powerhouse. CSX runs just more than 21,000 miles of track in 23 states east of the Mississippi River and the Canadian provinces of Ontario and Quebec. CSX sports a market cap of just over $23 billion and revenues of $12 billion.
If you add short-term investments to CSX’s cash on hand, the company sits on more than $1 billion, and with a cash flow of $3.2 billion, the company is well-positioned for either organic or purchased growth. With a 16% profit margin and a respectable 2.5% dividend yield,
CSX has been increasing its dividend at least once per year since 2010.
As the world’s only manufacturer of planes and trains, we’ve built an extensive and diverse portfolio of winning mobility solutions. Everywhere people travel by land and in the air, a Bombardier product is ready to transport them. From category-defining business jets and commercial aircraft designed for the challenges of today, to sleek high speed trains and public transit that’s smarter than ever.
But it’s not just our products and services that make us a global leader. The most important success factor is our employees, all 71,700 of them. Together we’re focused on the same objective. Propelling mobility forward by answering the call to make it more efficient, sustainable and inviting than ever before. We call it The Evolution of Mobility.
We are headquartered in Montréal, Canada. Our shares are traded on the Toronto Stock Exchange (BBD) and we are listed on the Dow Jones Sustainability World and North America indexes. In the fiscal year ended December 31, 2012, we posted revenues of $16.8 billion USD.
Maryland will invest in MARC Brunswick Line tracks
by Miriam Schoenbaum • November 1, 2010 2:45 pm
On Thursday, the Maryland Transit Administration informed MARC riders of its plans to spend $18.5 million to add three rail crossovers to the CSX tracks the Brunswick Line runs on.
Maryland Rail Commuter (MARC)The commuter railroad serving Baltimore and Washington, D.C.
By Matt Van Hattem Published: June 30, 2006
Passenger service on the 200-mile MARC system is distinguished by the need to serve commuters working in two different metropolitan areas.
Rush-hour trains operate both ways on two separate routes between Baltimore and Washington: Amtrak's electrified Northeast Corridor via New Carrollton (the Penn Line), and CSX's Capital Subdivision via Jessup and College Park (the Camden Line - the oldest rail passenger route in the U.S., first operated by Baltimore & Ohio in 1830).
A third line, the Brunswick Line, provides commuter service on CSX's Cumberland and Metropolitan Subdivisions between Martinsburg, W.Va., and Washington, D.C., with limited service from Frederick, Md., on a branch off of CSX's Old Main Line.
In 1975, the Maryland Department of Transportation began subsidizing Washington, D.C. commuter trains operated by CSX predecessor Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, and in 1976, began funding Baltimore-Washington commuter trains on the Northeast Corridor operated by Conrail. Amtrak took over the Northeast Corridor service in 1983 when federal law relieved Conrail of operating the trains.
Maryland established a State Railroad Administration in 1976 to oversee the commuter rail subsidies using state and federal funds, purchase new commuter rail equipment, and subsidize state short lines. In 1981, the state legislature voted to continue financing the commuter rail services as long as passenger fares paid for 50 percent of the trains' revenue. In response, Maryland DOT upgraded service on the B&O routes with refurbished locomotives and cars.
A 1984 marketing study resulted in the branding of the state-supported commuter rail services under the name MARC (Maryland Area Rail Commuter). In 1986, the agency purchased new locomotives and rolling stock for the Northeast Corridor trains. The State Railroad Administration became part of the Mass Transit Administration in 1992.
Today, MARC is the commuter rail arm of the Mass Transit Administration (itself part of the Maryland Department of Transportation), which manages public transportation in the Baltimore area, and provides financial and operating assistance to smaller local transit agencies throughout the state.
MARC trains are operated under contract by Amtrak and CSX Transportation. Over 22,000 rail passengers a day ride MARC, with a total of 5.5 million trips recorded in 2000.
MARC trains operate into two Baltimore stations: Penn Line trains call at Amtrak's Pennsylvania Station, while Camden Line trains serve Camden Station.
MARC operates the fastest commuter trains in North America, using electric locomotives that race along the Penn Line at speeds of up to 125 miles per hour - the maximum allowable track speed on the Northeast Corridor. Motive power is provided by AEM7's built in 1986 by EMD/ASEA, and HHP-8's built in 2001-2002 by Bombardier-Alstom.
The problem is not only Open Meeting rules. The problem is the quasi-governmental designation of this organization that gives it these special powers to exclude. The problem with the government being in talks that are private is not that these talks might reveal private corporate plans but that the public may actually know what is going on and have time to fight it.
This private non-profit as government is just a takeover of government and public policy in the guise of partnership. A government works out what it needs and then invites corporations to bid for an opportunity. THAT IS WHAT A DEMOCRATIC GOVERNMENT LOOKS LIKE. If no investment firm wants to be involved then you do what Enterprise Zones are supposed to do....invest smaller amounts of money and build grassroot businesses that grow with the community! This won't work for the Baltimore Development Corp/Johns Hopkins because the goal is a Manhattan-style luxury downtown that provides very little value for the rest of the city!
So, the solution is to elect a City Hall that shouts loudly against privatizing all that is public!
City broke laws by meeting in secret, state board rules Third open meetings law violation in six months
By Luke Broadwater, The Baltimore Sun 8:10 p.m. EDT, October 8, 2013
For the third time in six months, a state board has ruled that Baltimore's government engaged in closed-door meetings that violated Maryland's transparency law.
In an opinion released this week, the Open Meetings Compliance Board ruled that the Baltimore Development Corp., which recommends tax breaks for developers and other land deals to the mayor, broke the law by meeting in closed session on July 25 and failing to inform the public of the reasons. The ruling came in response to a complaint filed by the Baltimore Business Journal, which was barred from the meeting.
"It appears that the board members unanimously adopted a motion to close a meeting without knowing why they were doing so, let alone informing the public," the compliance board wrote in an opinion written Oct. 1, according to the newspaper. "We find that the BDC board violated the Act by meeting in closed session without first including in a written statement both the topics it intended to discuss and the need to discuss each secretly."
The head of the city's development arm said in a statement that the violation was technical in nature, and stood by the decision to close the meeting to consider the relocation of an unnamed business.
"The ruling was helpful. We will use it as a guide for future meetings," said BDC President Brenda McKenzie. "The ruling also indicated that the closing was appropriate; however there was a procedural issue."
In May, the compliance board ruled that a task force appointed last year by Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake to study the city's speed and red-light camera program violated Maryland law with a closed meeting in March. The task force also violated the law by not giving reasonable advance notice of meetings and by failing to take proper minutes, board members said.
The ruling came in response to a complaint filed by the anti-speed-camera group Maryland Drivers Alliance. The Baltimore Sun and other media outlets were barred from the meeting.
In July, the compliance board ruled that the city Board of Finance violated transparency laws when it approved more than $100 million in public financing for the Harbor Point development.
In response to complaints from The Baltimore Sun and TV station Fox 45, the board ruled that city officials illegally barred the public from the May 20 meeting, when it approved legislation that went to the City Council to make the financing possible. The state board said public bodies may not approve legislation in secret.
Rawlings-Blake said at the time the ruling was a reminder of the importance of "rule compliance."
"I don't believe it was the intention of the Board of Finance to violate the Open Meetings Act. I think all the boards that I work with … work to make sure their actions and practices are within the rules," she said. "The ruling reminds us that we have to be very careful and diligent to make sure that when they have to go into closed session that they're citing the appropriate rules — to make sure the T's are crossed and the I's are dotted. "
None of the actions done in private need to be redone in public.
Baltimore Brew Stirring up News and Views in Baltimore Maryland
High bidder wins Waverly library contract Three lower bidders are disqualified as non-compliant with city's minority participation law. Mark Reutter September 18, 2013 at 9:18 pm
The Waverly Branch Library will be closed until sometime in 2015.
Saying to do otherwise would “gut” the city’s minority enterprise law, the Board of Estimates today unanimously approved a contract that was more than $500,000 above the lowest bidder.
The city’s purchasing office passed over the lowest, second lowest and third lowest bidder for the renovation of the Waverly Branch Library on East 33rd Street because the bidders all failed to meet the city’s guideline of 27% minority and 7% women-owned business participation.
The contract was given to J.A.K. Construction, whose $4,286,000 bid was $541,000 higher than Towson Mechanical, the lowest bidder.
Arnold Jolivet, managing director of the Maryland Minority Contractors Association, asked the spending board to put the contract out for bid again, saying taxpayers like himself suffer when the city accepts such high bids.
“Do the right thing, and I can assure you all of the bids will be lower the next time around,” he said.
Jolivet said he represented JLN Construction Services, a minority contractor whose bid was $412,000 lower than J.A.K., but whose African American subcontractor was ruled not to be certified to do the work stated in the contract.
Speaking on behalf of the board, City Solicitor George Nilson said failure to hold prime contractors accountable to a strict interpretation of the law would destroy the objective of increasing minority and women’s opportunities in municipal work.
Thomas Corey, chief of the Minority and Women’s Business Opportunity Office (MWBOO), told the board that several of the rejected bidders wanted to use a Lancaster, Pa., minority contractor who was not certified by the city.
MWBOO maintains a list of qualified minority and women-owned businesses. Subcontractors that are not on the list – or are not approved to do the specific work cited in a bid contract – are ruled “non-compliant.”
In some cases (such as the Waverly Library renovation), the city rejects low bids on the grounds of non-compliance before the contract is presented to the Board of Estimates. In other cases, a vendor is given 10 days after the award is approved by the BOE to get into compliance.
The practice has been criticized as arbitrarily enforced by contractors who say they were not given a chance to comply with the law – or were even aware they were in violation – before their bid was rejected.
MMCA’s Jolivet calls the process “a lot of hocus pocus” (see here for more details).
In addition to winning the library contract, Baltimore-based J.A.K. was awarded a $133,000 contract to perform renovations on the Fire Department’s Station 53 in far West Baltimore.
To Remain Closed Until 2015
The Waverly Library Branch was closed last month and is expected to remain shut another 18 months to two years as the contractor undertakes a complete renovation of the facility, Roswell Encina, spokesman for the Enoch Pratt Free Library, said today.
The library was opened in 1971 and has undergone serious physical deterioration.
Plans to renovate the building started five years ago. “This has been a slow process and we are delighted to have reached this stage where construction can begin,” Encina said.
For library services, patrons can visit the Hampden, Hamilton, Northwood or Roland Park branches, he added.
This is happening across the country at it is a precursor to the TPP trade agreements that have corporations having all the power in all public policy. These pols do not even consider what their constituents want....they are moving a corporate plan.
Let's see, what is O'Malley planning for rail development this coming decade? I see natural gas in our future as O'Malley leads the nation in pushing to export natural gas from Fracking and already planning a port for export. How will that bonanza flow from the West to the East?
Then there is the high-speed rail that O'Malley signed on with Obama. You know, the one that moves the rich super-fast from DC to Boston spending tons of taxpayer money while our commuter trains are packed and accident-prone from lack of oversight and maintenance.
These are the plans for the money being gathered from the gas tax.
Baltimore Brew Stirring up News and Views in Baltimore Maryland
Small community in the path of rail project with big political momentum How would 30-40 trucks every hour from an intermodal railyard impact life in Morrell Park?
Fern Shen September 20, 2013 at 1:04 pm Story Link 8
Residents in Morrell Park told city, state and CSX officials they do not want a truck and rail facility there. At right, City Councilman Ed Reisinger listens.
Public meetings about controversial projects have a familiar narrative arc, but the one in Morrell Park this week moved quickly past the first stage (quiet listening) to the second (audible groans and oaths).
It happened after a CSX Transportation official described the number of trucks that would be rumbling through this stable blue-collar community in southwest Baltimore after the company’s proposed “Baltimore-Washington Intermodal Rail Facility” was up and running.
Every hour, between 30 and 40 trucks would enter and exit the Bernard Drive entrance, he said.
“30 to 40!” several people grumbled, while others simply repeated the number around the American Legion Hall on Desoto Road, which was filled to capacity with about 175 people on Wednesday.
When someone rose to ask a question about the truck volume, CSX’s Richard Hisrich pointed him toward one of the poster boards set up around the room’s perimeter.
“You can take that question to one of the stations after we finish the presentation,” Hisrich said. (Each board had graphics and talking points about terminal operations or safety and security and was staffed by a city, state or CSX official.)
The murmuring erupted into heated protests as people realized there was to be no opportunity to stand up before the group and speak. “We don’t want stations, we want answers!” “I think this was a done deal before we even came in here!” “They’re trying to split us up!”
Robert Tivvis, a 51-year Morrell Park resident, drew loud applause when he bluntly told the half-dozen train company officials and government bureaucrats: “This is a community meeting. Talk to us together like we’re a community!”
Another telling moment was a silent one. A speaker asked for “anyone who is in favor of this” to stand up. No one did.
Suburban Sites Rejected
Sought by residents for months, this was the first community-wide meeting about the $90 million expansion of the existing Mount Clare railyard into a 24-hour container transfer facility.
The 70-acre parcel (located between Wilkens and Washington avenues, bisected by Interstate 95) is only the latest site where CSX has tried to locate such a facility in Maryland. Several suburban sites were floated and rejected amid community opposition, which was particularly strong in Howard County’s Elkridge area.
The project calls for tractor trailers from the Port of Baltimore to bring sealed containers to the facility, where they would be “double-stacked” on freight trains. The transfer is necessary because CSX’s 118-year-old Howard Street tunnel is too low for double-stack trains to pass through.
Proposed CSX intermodal transfer facility, from the city’s Transportation Impact Study. (Source: Baltimore Department of Transportation)
State officials say the project would essentially relocate the current CSX transfer depot at the Seagirt Marine Terminal, clearing out space for the Port of Baltimore to accommodate increased traffic from the widened Panama Canal.
Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley and Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake support the project as a way to enhance the port and boost the local economy.
As for CSX, it’s a part of their National Gateway Project aimed at moving freight more efficiently from East Coast ports to inland destinations.
Some information has been made public. There would be 324 tractor trailer trucks a day at the site, according to the city’s traffic impact study. CSX has said there would be as many as five intermodal freight trains a day, two large cranes and lighting on poles as high as 80 feet.
But residents said they had many more questions, including a list of dozens that CSX officials have ignored, according to Paul DeNoble, who spoke on behalf of the Morrell Park Community Association and Morrell Park and St. Paul’s Improvement Association.
Paul DeNoble speaks, and CSX and city officials listen behind him. (Photo by Fern Shen)
“They kept putting us off and telling us our questions would be answered at the meeting,” DeNoble said, explaining why resident were so angry about state, city and company officials assuming control of it. “This is our meeting!”
The executive director of the non-profit National Center for Healthy Housing, Rebecca L. Morley, said the CSX staffers signing people in at the door wouldn’t allow her to set up a table with fliers.
The center has published a 132-page study, funded by foundations including the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation and the Pew Charitable Trusts, on the public health impacts of the facility.
Morley said she was told she could set her fliers (summarizing their findings) near the stack of sanctioned information sheets (marked with logos representing the state, city and rail company).
But every time she returned to check her stack, she said, it was gone: “They keep disappearing – and not from people taking them one by one.”
“A Health Sacrifice Zone”
At Wednesday’s night meeting, people with homes in the two residential neighborhoods abutting the project scrutinized the aerial photos to see how close the intermodal terminal would be. Patty Michel, who has lived on Spence Street for 12 years, already knew.
“I’m three streets from where the main tracks will be. I think this is going to be devastating,” said Michel, speaking to The Brew before the meeting got underway. She said she is dreading the prospect of truck and train noise, exhaust fumes and bright lights.
“We like our quality of life. Will we be able to sit in the yard and look at the stars in the sky?” Michel asked.
Others noted the proximity of schools and raised the specter of hazardous waste spills and increased respiratory illness from truck exhaust, noting that residents are already affected by a nearby industrial parks and citing a recent study that found Baltimore to have the highest rate of air pollution-related deaths in the country.
“I don’t want to live in a health sacrifice zone,” said Heather Moyer, of Grinnalds Ave.
Many said the traffic congestion from trucks on roads surrounding the project would be intolerable. Mary Bush’s face fell as she listened to Valorie LaCour, of the Baltimore City Department of Transportation, explain plans to mitigate the traffic impacts.
“We’ll be making minor modifications, such as increasing the radius so that trucks aren’t jumping the curbs and hitting poles,” LaCour said, as she ran through her presentation.
Bush assailed CSX for not offering to buy her house or to compensate her, asserting that its value would plummet if the rail facility is built next door.
“I step outside my door and there’s the tracks,” she said.
Prospect of Jobs
Among the questions the residents pressed on proponents of the project was how it would benefit residents of Morrell Park and surrounding communities.
“It’s really an economic development project, where there’s jobs and growth,” said Brad Smith, a project manager for the Maryland Department of Transportation. LaCour tackled the question as well, listing the benefits: “good paying jobs, increased business tax revenue, supporting economic growth, solidifying the growth of the Port of Baltimore.”
Several audience members asked what percentage of total jobs would go to local residents. CSX officials’ answer: about 50 permanent jobs will transfer from Seagirt to the new facility. Beyond that, they spoke of “200 indirect jobs,” as well as hundreds of construction jobs as the facility is built.
Reisinger Deflects the Flak
They said they had been working with state and city officials to explain these employment benefits. As talk turned to politicians, the crowd called for City Councilman Ed Reisinger to come to the microphone.
Reisinger, who hails from Morrell Park, is the mayor’s point man on the City Council and has publicly praised CSX in the press.
“You can shoot all the scud missiles you want and throw tomatoes,” said Reisinger, facing the crowd. He assured them that “nothing is carved in stone” and promised to go back to the mayor and “tell her there are a lot of problems, a lot of issues and concerns.”
“Tell her we don’t want it!” several shouted. “I got it,” Reisinger replied.
Morrell Park resident Laurie Weishorn points out the proximity of the project to residential areas. (Photo by Fern Shen)
But he also signaled some skepticism about complaining residents. “With all due respect, when you bought your homes, you saw railroad tracks.”
Asked about that remark later, DeNoble called it “shameful and deceptive” and said the proposed facility would go significantly beyond what’s at the railyard now.
“It just has a couple of tracks running through it,” he said. “CSX currently has no right of way to access the tracks. There’s no truck traffic. It’s the same as the thousands of other tracks that run quietly through the country.”
Baltimore has for these few decades been epicenter for massive corporate fraud, government corruption in the distribution of public money, and has mortgaged its future to credit bonds and TIF tax foregiveness that starves city coffers while existing residents see their tax money spent in maintaining downtown development. At the same time, the city has lost billions of dollars to financial fraud because of O'Malley's/Rawlings-Blake's tying of the city and state to what everyone knows is a criminal Wall Street..BILLIONS OF DOLLARS that would easily have rebuilt the city's infrastructure for example.
Balt had a chance to take the correct approach to Enterprise Zone development by following the Harlem Enterprise Zone example for which this development program is named and for which all Federal tax breaks are supposed to be used. Rather than illegally use them for affluent development that excludes multi-income housing/businesses, it should have sent all those billions into expanding what was a Inner Harbor full of small businesses and a thriving harbor community that simply needed to be cleaned up with investment in the structures already there. I constantly talk with Baltimoreans who wax nostalgic for what was. 100,000 jobs lost since this Affluent Development plan started say people who know.
NO, THE CITY IS NOT BETTER FOR HAVING HANDED PLANNED DEVELOPMENT TO RICH FRAUDSTERS!
What we have now are corporations that are global and national who prey on citizens through fraud and tax avoidance, whether bank or energy corporation. We have public policy taken completely out of the hands of the public and growing blight and social unrest from the communities that should have seen investment. Desperate citizens using crime and violence at the bottom to survive and ruthless cartels at the top stealing any money in sight at the top. That is what this development has produced.
The Harlem Enterprise Zone built poor communities by creating safe and strong environments for children, giving community members an opportunity to own businesses and hire within their communities. This was what was called Enterprise Zones that did uplift poor communities. Harlem before the 2000s attack on people of color by massive corporate fraud had the largest black middle-class and a strong community because of this policy. That was the approach needed in Baltimore and we had leaders determined that the money would go instead to the few and rich to give us the opportunity to window-shop in Harbor East and no valuable job creation at all and tremendous poverty and crime! YEAH, THAT WAS A SUCCESS!
Mar 27, 2000, 12:00am EST
REITs find a comfortable home in Md.
Heather HarlanStaff Writer Corporations still flock to Delaware. But real estate investment trusts are seeking refuge in Maryland.
About two-thirds of the nation's publicly traded REITs are organized in Maryland -- about 124 out of 201 -- while about 25 percent of the private REITs are domiciled here, said Jay Hyde, a spokesman for the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts (http://www.nareit.com), based in Washington, D.C.
"Maryland is to REITs what Delaware is to corporations," he said. Much like Delaware's situation with corporations, though, Maryland derives little direct monetary benefit from REITs forming here. But by having REIT-friendly laws, the state is building a reputation as a business-friendly place.
A REIT is a corporation or a business trust that combines the capital of multiple investors to acquire or provide financing for different kinds of real estate -- from office developments to shopping centers. A REIT typically is not required to pay corporate income tax if it distributes at least 95 percent of its taxable income to shareholders each year.
REITs operate in almost every metropolitan region across the country, often quietly buying up land in cities and suburban areas. Corporate Office Properties Trust is doing just that.
The publicly traded company, which is snatching up property in the Baltimore-Washington Corridor, became the latest REIT to not only organize in Maryland but to shift its headquarters here. The recent headquarters move from Bala Cynwyd, Pa., to Columbia was more in name than anything else.
Randall M. Griffin, the president and chief operating officer of Corporate Office Properties (http://www.copt.com), said the change resulted from the company's high pace of development in the region and Maryland's "business-friendly" attitude.
In 1962, Maryland was the first state to pass a "state REIT statute" -- one that meshed with the federal legislation molded two years earlier, said James J. Hanks Jr., a partner with Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll LLP in Baltimore.
Since REITs -- like corporations -- have to organize under state law, Maryland's measure made sense, he continued. "It's still one of the few states that has a REIT statute and one of the most highly regarded and fully developed in the country," said Hanks, an attorney who specializes in Maryland corporation law.
Ohio, California and Alabama are a few of the other states with REIT statutes.
"There are a lot of reasons why any new corporation -- whether it's a REIT or a high-tech startup -- should form in Maryland," Hanks said.
Under state law, REITS are given broader liability protection, more flexible voting provisions for stockholders, easier bylaw amendment provisions, better protection against hostile takeovers and easier stock issuance procedures, Hanks noted.
With REITs getting breaks for organizing here, just how does Maryland benefit from the statute?
The state collects on filing fees that the REITs are required to pay the State Department of Assessment and Taxation, said Charles P. Moran, also a partner with Ballard, Spahr, Andrews & Ingersoll LLP.
The minimum organization fee is $40, but that figure could climb based on the number of shares and the capitalization of the REIT, according to the department. An annual personal property return, which costs $25 to file, also is required from each REIT based here, according to the department.
But the largest perks that Maryland derives from the REIT law are intangible, Moran continued. "The state becomes known as business friendly," he said.
"The fact that we have a very modern, up-to-date statute for REITs contributes to the state's image as a place that is a good place to do business with a responsive legislature and executive branch," Hanks agreed.
REITs have taken off since the federal Real Estate Investment Trust Act of 1960. Between 1978 and 1998, the number of publicly traded REITs nearly tripled, according to the National Association of Real Estate Investment Trusts.
While about 50 percent of all REITs are organized in Maryland, not nearly as many are headquartered in the state. Corporate Office Properties, which organized in Maryland in March 1998, is one of the few publicly traded REITS headquartered here.
About 15 additional public and private REITS are headquartered in Maryland. They include Mid Atlantic Realty Trust in Lutherville, Prime Retail Inc. in Baltimore and the Rouse Co. in Columbia.
The Rouse Co. converted to a REIT on Jan. 1, 1998. The status change allowed the company to avoid corporate taxes, said David Fick, a principal with Legg Mason Wood Walker Inc. But at the same time, the REIT market was still in an upswing as far as access to capital, he said.
Rouse further benefited from better analyst coverage since two years ago, many of the bigger Wall Street houses were forming REIT research teams.
As you see below these low interest rates with the Fed just as a market goes from crash to recover meant that financial instruments like REITS won big-time while real estate development is booming in Baltimore. What does that mean for the people? While you are losing money big-time with lower rates.....shareholders are booming in profit from these financial instruments. All of Baltimore development is tied to REIT so corporate tax is yet again being avoided.
REITs: Time To Catch The Falling Knife?
Aug 23 2013, 07:42 | includes: IYR, MORT, REM, VNQ BOOKMARK / READ LATER Disclosure: I am long IYR. (More...)
Everyone knows the old adage that you should never try to catch a falling knife, and I have always applied that same philosophy to investing. When a stock or ETF appears to be in a persistent downtrend, it doesn't make sense to try and step in when the momentum is running against you. You don't want to be left feeling the pain of early losses if the price continues heading south. Such has been the case in real estate stocks over the last four months as rising interest rates have pulled the rug out from under this sector.
I have been warning investors for some time to stay away from both traditional real estate investment trusts and mortgage REITs as rising rates have been a natural headwind for these stocks. Consider that fixed-mortgage rates recently hit their highest levels in two years on expectations that the Federal Reserve will taper its asset purchase program. The profitability of these REITs is directly dependent on low interest rates to finance their acquisition and ongoing operating costs. Higher financing costs make these investments less attractive, which is why they have fallen out of favor with income seeking investors.
Mortgage REITs in particular are highly sensitive to any swift move in bond yields because they borrow short-term money very cheap and use it to buy long-term debt. This enables them to pocket the spread on interest rates and distribute the majority of earnings to shareholders. In addition, they use excessive leverage to juice their returns which in turn makes them more responsive to changes in rates.
We have seen tremendous price compression over the last several months as you can see by the list of these heavily traded ETFs and their percentage off the high.
- iShares U.S. Real Estate ETF (IYR) -16.80%
- Vanguard REIT ETF (VNQ) -16.30%
- iShares Mortgage Real Estate Capped ETF (REM) -23.66%
- MarketVectors Mortgage REIT Income ETF (MORT) -22.61%
However, with the 10-Year Treasury Yield rapidly approaching 3%, I am starting to look at these REITs in a new light. I think that the majority of the move in interest rates has been made already and that the expectations for tapering are more than likely baked into the cake. The future risk is REITs will likely be dependent on whether or not we see additional volatility throughout the broader stock market.
As someone who attends BOE meetings regularly what I see is the use of MBE in an arbitrary way. Jolivet is right when he says that the board often allows businesses that are not currently in compliance with MBE to become compliant later. The entire process is tainted by subjectivity and Rule of Law and equal protection should not have a 'best value' list of objectives that are used arbitrarily to get the result the Mayor wants.
What we see that should make everyone concerned is a systematic handing of bids to businesses overwhelmingly from the Washington beltway....a pay to play if there is one. If not the beltway...then from out of the state. So, we are seeing local businesses being dismantled and unemployment high because of this arbitrary system. Baltimore has growing crime and violence because the past 2 decades has seen a War on the poor and working class in Baltimore as the Master Plan unfolds to creating an affluent downtown there has been a need to move out the working class. This policy is just one that leaves city residents unable to work.
I have a landscaping company from the Washington beltway come to install and maintain a school ground. Here we have a school filled with underserved children with parents unable to find work watching as teams of workers come over and over from out of the city. They don't even do a good job.
This is typical and happens far too much and we need to change City Hall pols that allow this pay to play exporting of work. We know the bids often end in costing the city more.
BOE holds up award to contractor with history of MBE noncompliance
Long Fence Co. was slated for a $100,000 contract despite its "continued failure" to meet affirmative action goals. Mark Reutter September 11, 2013 at 3:18 pm Story Link 3
Charles Sparks is the owner of a local fencing company that, he says, was frozen out of a contract by the city Purchasing Department.
Facing increased pressure to root out contractors who violate the city’s affirmative action goals, Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and the Board of Estimates today halted a $100,000 award to a company that’s been in and out of compliance for years.
The decision to delay approval of the contract to Long Fence Co. for the installation and repair of city fences marks an apparent change of policy by the Rawlings-Blake Administration.
It also represented a slap to city personnel who accept or reject bids based on seemingly arbitrary interpretations of the city’s minority and women’s business compliance rules. The Brew highlighted some specific cases last month.
Rarely does the mayor overrule the recommendations of the Purchasing Department and MWBOO (Minority and Women’s Business Opportunity Office).
But after hearing comments critical of the fencing award from Comptroller Joan Pratt and City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young, Rawlings-Blake said she would be “more comfortable hearing from Long Fence” before acting on the matter.
Victory for Jolivet
That remark paved the way for the board’s deferral of the fencing contract for one week.
The decision represents a provisional victory for Arnold Jolivet, managing director of the Maryland Minority Contractors Association, who has repeatedly argued that the city’s bureaucracy “freezes out” African-American and women-owned firms.
Today’s decision also follows criticism by the mayor’s own Advisory Council on Minority and Women-Owned Business Enterprises.
In its April report, the group cited the “infrequency of punishment” of contractors who violate the MBE/WBE ordinance as a deterrent to the growth of minority businesses in Baltimore.
Jolivet represented Charles Sparks, president of Sparks Quality Fence, who had lost out to Long Fence on the original contract – despite being the low bidder – because MWBOO ruled that Sparks was non-compliant with MBE/WBE goals.
History of Non-Compliance
Not cited in board’s records at the time was that Long Fence also failed to meet the city’s minority goals – and had frequently done so over the many years it had a lock on city fencing contracts.
Long Fence was selected by the city despite its bid, which was 26.9% higher than Sparks Fence. (City Comptroller’s Office)
Comptroller Pratt said the company was non-complaint in 2010, compliant in 2011, and non-compliant again in 2012 and this year.
Bill Cronin, Long Fence’s local representative, was not at today’s meeting and did not return a phone call seeking comment.
Acknowledging that Long had a record of “continued failure to meet the MBE/WBE goals for the contract,” Thomas Corey, head of MWBOO, asked the board to approve the contract while requiring the firm to come into MBE/WBE compliance by December.
But Mayor Rawlings-Blake rejected that plan and called on the deferral of the contract so that the board could look into the company’s compliance with affirmative action rules.
Different Treatment Charged
The fencing contract had limited goals to start with. Rather than the 27% MBE and 10% WBE set by city ordinance, Long was required to distribute only 8% of the contract to minorities and 1% to women-owned firms.
Still, the firm failed to reach that goal, offering only 3.75% MBE and 0.75% WBE.
Jolivet charged that the contract had been “tainted” from the start by the city’s failure to allow Sparks, the low bidder, to come into compliance. He showed The Brew a letter that allowed Sparks 10 days to come into MBE/WBE compliance.
A copy of the email that offered Sparks time to come into MBE/WBE compliance. This offer was withdrawn after Long Fence protested, according to Arnold Jolivet.
Jolivet said the offer was withdrawn by Purchasing “after the people at Long Fence protested,” and the contract was then awarded to the company, based in suburban Washington, last September.
Timothy Krus, head of purchasing, blamed the oddities of the contract on the fact that only two companies bid on the work, even though the metropolitan area has many fencing companies.
Krus at first indicated that any delay in awarding today’s contract could result in hardships to city agencies. In the wake of the mayor’s comments, however, he said his department would be happy to review the contract and resubmit it to the board next Wednesday.
What people need to know is that with the infrastructure money ready to pout in to cities across America is the move to contract out all the work to private contractors and what Chow has been told to do is create a pay to play around the country for Maryland's 1% in exchange for this bonanza of water and sewage development. They are working to privatize water and sewage just as Rawlings-Blake did when she made Trash pickup separately charged from property tax. We now have completely privatized trash pickup and rates will be rising. So too now water and sewage.
We already know that VEOLA is in town to develop this water infrastructure development and no doubt will be the public private partnership that will run the agency once all is done. Remember, as we rebuild all public assets new.....neo-liberals hand off these services to private hands to operate making taxpayers responsible for all capital costs and as we know with energy/BGE, all operating costs.
Pay to play is a complicated thing as the interests of the 1% in Maryland must be expanded in the region chosen to represent and profit from work here in Maryland and Baltimore. That is what Chow's work entails. How does that work for the public? NOT AT ALL. Chow is not working for you and me, he is working for the 1% and their profit on our dime.
If you look closely at what public works has become since privatization of public services went on steroids with O'Malley in Baltimore, one only has to look at all of the dozens of independent contractors all working underground all using different resources and having different approaches to work, and none of it overseen for quality to know that we have a mess in our public works that will be a nightmare for the next generation of repair. These politicians say....we will be long gone when that mess is discovered. So too will be this water-sewage project unfolding! -
Travel by city's water chief questioned Rudy Chow spent 35 days this past year at conferences
By Luke Broadwater and Yvonne Wenger, The Baltimore Sun 9:47 p.m. EDT, September 4, 2013
The head of Baltimore's water system spent 35 days attending conferences in the past year, many of them out of state, records show. The travel has raised concerns among some city officials, who say Water and Wastewater chief Rudy Chow is needed here to focus on issues of crumbling infrastructure and erroneous bills.
Chow on Wednesday defended his attendance at 11 conferences, including eight out-of-state trips, as positive for the city. He said he learns from other jurisdictions and often holds up Baltimore's recent progress as a model for other cities.
"Just because I am traveling doesn't mean I am not focusing on work that needs to be done," he said. "By traveling to these different places, having these so-called professional affiliations, we can gain the insight of how other people are doing their business. ...
- City Council asks to halt liens over unpaid water bills
- A steady stream of water billing headaches
- City schools overcharged on water bills
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Among other trips, Chow traveled to Anaheim, Calif., in August of last year for the American Public Works Association Congress. In October, he went to New Orleans to give a presentation at the Water Environment Federation Technical Exhibit and Conference.
And he traveled twice to Chicago for conferences, with plans for a third trip next month. The city's spending board approved $3,000 for that trip Wednesday.
Chow's trips became a subject of scrutiny at the Board of Estimates meeting when Baltimore Comptroller Joan M. Pratt questioned several of his agency's expenses. "Mr. Chow goes on a lot of travel for speaking conferences, and that information should be shared with the citizens of Baltimore," Pratt said. "It is at taxpayers' expense."
Chow has won praise as an innovative manager who is making improvements since joining Baltimore City government 21/2 years ago. But Pratt and some others pointed to the city's frequent water main breaks and erroneous water bills as evidence that Chow should spend more time here focused on day-to-day issues.
"I like it best when he's at home," said Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke.
Clarke said she has "a lot of respect" for Chow and believes he has taken steps to improve the troubled system. "But we have a long way to go," she said.
Chow has been reimbursed about $8,500 for travel expenses, records show. The city also paid at least $4,000 in registration fees for the various conferences, which can range from about $200 to about $1,000. Some of Chow's travel was paid for by outside entities, city officials said.
Kevin Harris, spokesman for Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, said the administration is working to strike the "right balance between the need to have people travel and advocate on behalf of the city while taking steps to minimize costs to citizens."
Harris said Chow "has led in promoting several innovative reforms to our sewer system" that will bring down water billing and infrastructure costs. "It's not surprising that because of this leadership there is interest in learning more about what we are doing here in Baltimore which requires him to leave the city from time to time," Harris said.
Chow, who makes $132,000 annually, joined city government in 2011. The next year, the city's auditor found that the Department of Public Works overcharged thousands of water customers by at least $9 million. Exorbitant bills were especially infuriating to citizens as decades-old water lines cracked underground with regularity, sending water streaming down streets while disrupting traffic and sometimes gas and electric services. At the same time, the city has raised water rates by 42 percent over three years.
In response, Chow implemented what he has called "corrective actions" — part of a broader, long-term effort to address billing problems attributed to faulty water meters, outdated technology, human error and, in some neighborhoods, fabricated meter readings.
At the Board of Estimates Pratt noted that not all of Chow's travel has been approved by the panel. She also questioned the agency's hiring of consultants who are paid more than city workers, as well as the creation of several new administrative positions that pay in excess of $100,000.
Councilmen Nick Mosby and Edward Reisinger said they had not evaluated Chow's travel. But both praised Chow for his efforts to address Baltimore's water system troubles.
"Mr. Chow has always been a very high professional and very knowledgeable, trying to think outside the box when it comes to our aging infrastructure," Mosby said.
Reisinger said he's not opposed to travel by government workers and sees conferences and workshops as opportunities to improve services. "I support when he goes to the conferences, if he learns something," Reisinger said, "if there's something to take back."
Councilman Carl Stokes said the outward appearance of the travel might not sit well with some Baltimore residents, especially those who have received erroneous water bills in recent months. The best response going forward is for the agency to be completely transparent about the expenses and purpose of the trips, Stokes said.
"It's the perception — I am not saying it's right or wrong," Stokes said. "I don't know the ins or outs of the travel. … When people are threatened by fraudulent or very high water bills, and then to raise the water bill double-digits every year, it would seem to many there should be belt-tightening in discretionary spending or travel that is not necessary."
For those that do not know, this corporation owes hundreds of billions of dollars in financial fraud.
Now, since we know this is a criminal corporation the question is why is it in our city? Let's see. $3.5 million for 1600 jobs....is this the idea? What if we used that money to fund small business start ups all around the city with the idea these would grow into regional business hiring tons of people?
What we have is a business that will not grow in this area that does most of its business overseas and that is still actively defrauding people every opportunity it gets. We need to know that this entire development scheme is corrupt as BUILD and everyone else keeps saying. This city could have and should grow itself using the people living here and not working to build a world class city with the Best of the Best. How in the world can a city with leadership that is the Worst of the Worst build something that is the Best?
Morgan Stanley must face part of MetLife MBS fraud case
Reuters – Tue, Jul 16, 2013 6:51 PM EDTBy Jonathan Stempel
(Reuters) - Morgan Stanley (MS) was ordered by a New York state judge to face part of a lawsuit in which life insurer MetLife Inc (MET) accused it of fraudulently selling $758 million of residential mortgage-backed securities that it knew were defective.
SEC charges Morgan Stanley with securities fraud
By William Spain CHICAGO (MarketWatch) --
Nov. 16, 2011, 11:17 a.m. EST
The Securities and Exchange Commission on Tuesday charged Morgan Stanley Investment Management with violations of securities laws for its scheme that charged a fund and its investors for advisory services they never got.
Morgan Stanley pays damages for Precious Metals Fraud Written
by Jeff Nielson Friday, 24 July 2009 11:26Bullion Bulls Canada
City poised to grant job-creation extension to Morgan Stanley Board of Estimates to give New York investment bank more time to deliver on commitment to create 1,500 jobs
By Yvonne Wenger, The Baltimore Sun 9:26 p.m. EDT, August 20, 2013
In return for the promise to bring another 650 jobs to Baltimore, city leaders are poised on Wednesday to give financial services giant Morgan Stanley more time to meet the terms of a $3.25 million loan forgiveness program.
The Board of Estimates vote comes amid public outcry over the city's plan to grant millions of dollars in aid to the $1.8 billion Harbor Point development, but some critics of that plan say the Morgan Stanley deal provides a proven return on investment.
"We made an agreement to them in good faith. We should allow the extension," said City Councilman Carl Stokes, a leading opponent of the unrelated Harbor Point plan that calls for further waterfront development.
The city and Morgan Stanley first agreed in 2003 that Baltimore would provide a series of low-interest loans in exchange for a commitment from the investment bank to create jobs. If the company created the number of jobs promised on the agreed-upon timeline, the city would forgive half of the loan debt. Baltimore was competing with other cities to attract the Morgan Stanley operations center.
The company began receiving $1.75 million in city loans at that time. A second agreement was signed in 2008 for another $1.5 million in loans, expanding the initial commitment of 600 jobs by late 2014 to 1,500 by late 2018.
From the Thames Street Wharf, Morgan Stanley now employs more than 850 people, most of whom were Maryland residents when they were hired, said Matt Burkhard, a company vice president. The Baltimore employees work in institutional securities processing, banking operations and other company functions.
Under the agreement, the company was to have had 900 employees on the payroll by last December. The requested extension would give Morgan Stanley until this December to hire the additional 50 workers.
The company is also seeking relief from its next-phase goal by reducing the number of promised positions from 1,200 by late 2015 to 1,000, said Jeffrey Pillas, chief financial officer of the Baltimore Development Corp., the city's quasi-public development agency. Pillas said that in granting the leeway, the city will reduce the next $500,000 loan installment to $167,000.
He said the company had reached — and exceeded — its job-creation commitments before now, and needs the extension to accommodate a hiring slowdown caused by the economy.
The company's commitment to create 1,500 jobs by the end of 2018 hasn't changed, Pillas said. To meet the final phase of the agreement, the last $500,000 loan installment would be increased to $833,000.
"They were reasonably on target, and we want the jobs," Pillas said. "It's a lot of jobs. It's 1,500 jobs, and 1,500 jobs doesn't come very frequently."
The Rev. Andrew Foster Connors, though, sees Morgan Stanley as a smaller-scale example than Harbor Point of the city's flawed economic development strategy. He is an activist with Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development, known as BUILD.
"BUILD has been saying this for a number of years: The city's whole economic development strategy is empty; it's bankrupt," he said. "These corporations take taxpayers' money under promises that they don't keep, and instead of holding them accountable, our leaders offer excuses on their behalf."
Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young and Comptroller Joan M. Pratt all support giving Morgan Stanley flexibility, each said Tuesday.
The mayor called the deal prudent, said her spokesman, Travis Tazelaar. The city's loan modification reflects similar changes approved by the state, which provided a $4 million grant to Morgan Stanley through the Department of Business and Economic Development's Sunny Day Fund and a $1.5 million workforce grant.
Expansion costs for Morgan Stanley have been estimated at $42 million.
Stokes said Morgan Stanley has demonstrated good faith in fulfilling its promises to the city. He pointed out that if the company doesn't live up to its commitment, portions of the loan must be repaid in full.
The $107 million tax increment financing plan to pay for infrastructure, parks and other amenities at Harbor Point doesn't require job creation. The developer, however, agreed to voluntarily follow the city's new local hiring ordinance — pledging to hire 51 percent of new workers for the project from Baltimore. The City Council is scheduled to take a final vote on that plan next month.
"I actually see Morgan Stanley as a much better deal," Stokes said. "Both parties have kept up their end."
Baltimore Brew Stirring up News and Views in Baltimore Maryland
- Thursday, August, 1st, 2013 1
The Harris Creek outfall, amid the swanky waterfront residences of Boston Street, is a known route for raw sewage into the harbor.
On July 30, 2012, the turgid water emitted a strong putrid odor.
Saying Baltimore has repeatedly failed to stop raw sewage from going into local streams and the harbor, an environmental watchdog group filed a motion today to intervene in a 2002 consent decree between the city and federal regulators.
Blue Water Baltimore asked a federal judge to allow it to represent citizens who “have suffered and will continue to suffer adverse impacts from the city’s unlawful sewage discharges.”
The motion follows a report in The Brew that the city Department of Public Works is currently involved in quiet negotiations with the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) to modify the terms of the 2002 agreement to end water pollution.
EPA agreed in principle to push back completion of costly upgrades to Baltimore’s sewer system from 2016 to 2019 or beyond, according to a top city official.
The watchdog group says it wants to “give citizens a voice in the revision process” before it becomes finalized and public input is restricted to a narrow window of public comment before the court.
“While the city has made some progress, much more remains to be done as raw sewage pollution continues to harm our waterways and public health,” said Halle Van der Gaag, Blue Water’s executive director.
“We believe Blue Water Baltimore’s technical expertise and experience working closely with local communities is critical to effectively addressing this issue,” she added.
City Set to Oppose
A spokesman for the city called today’s motion “premature,” signaling that the city will oppose letting the group intervene as plaintiffs alongside the EPA and Maryland Department of the Environment.
Jeffrey Raymond, chief of communications for DPW, issued this statement to The Brew:
“The Baltimore City Department of Public Works is committed to fulfilling its obligations under the 2002 Consent Decree. We have met every requirement and deadline under this process. A revision of the Consent Decree is not yet before the court, and we consider the intervention referenced today to be premature.”
Trash, as well as sewage, sweeps into the harbor via the Harris Creek outfall. (7/30/12 photo by Fern Shen)
The city, EPA and MDE will have until August 19 to respond to the motion. If any of them object to making the environmental group a party to the case, a hearing would be held in U.S. District Court.
Two years ago, District Court Judge J. Frederick Motz agreed to let Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper (an affiliate of Blue Water Baltimore) and the Chesapeake Bay Foundation to intervene in a consent decree involving EPA and the Sparrows Point steel mill.
At the same time, Motz ruled that citizen groups may not sue a polluter if federal or state regulators are already involved in the case. The ruling would appear to preclude environmentalists from directly suing the city for its alleged sewage overflows.
City Says It Complies, but Sewage Still Flows
City officials argue that DPW has followed the guidelines of the 2002 consent decree, which the city entered under the threat of heavy fines by the EPA for violating the Clean Water Act.
So far, most of the work has involved analysis and the design of upgrades to the system. The construction phase – involving hundreds of miles of new city sewer lines and about $1 billion in expenditures – is scheduled to start in earnest later this year.
But even while the city planned the costly upgrades, it failed to adequately address “ongoing and egregious sewage contamination” from the existing stormwater system, Blue Water charged in court papers today.
The group pinpointed a number of places, such as Stony Run in North Baltimore and parts of Canton, where raw sewage routinely flows into public streams or the harbor.
At Stony Run, continuous discharges of raw sewage flow out of a stormwater line under the University Parkway Bridge, according to Tina Meyers, the Baltimore Harbor Waterkeeper. “This happens even in dry weather,” she noted.
She said her group has documented similar problems along Jones Falls, Herring Run and Gwynns Falls in parks or recreational areas used by joggers, bicyclists, children and others.
“Unacceptable Public Health Hazard”
“People are walking their dogs along creeks that are carrying raw sewage. Dogs swim in the water. So do kids. This is an unacceptable public health hazard,” she said in an interview.
The discharges (known as “Sewage Discharges of Unknown Origins,” or SDUOs) represent serious violations of the Clean Water Act. So far, the city has not been fined for the spills under the penalty clauses of the consent decree or state water permits.
Between 2010 and 2012, the city reported discharging about seven million gallons of raw sewage into local streams and the harbor. Most came during heavy rainstorms.
Meyers said the actual amount of polluted runoff greatly exceeds that number because the city does not count SDUOs or chronic leaks through the system.
Among other provisions needed under a revamped consent decree, Meyers wants the city to better notify the public of sewage spills and promptly clean up contaminated debris floating in the harbor or left along streambanks.
Rudolph S. Chow, chief of the bureau of water and wastewater, said that the city is redesigning the sewer system to deal with the chronic leaks and breaks, which he blames on the age of the system.
Decree Changes Could Save City $500 Million
He told The Brew that the EPA had tentatively agreed to accept changes in modeling assumptions to avoid the “overdesign” of future sewer lines and wastewater treatment facilities.
Chow said these and other changes could save the city $500 million.
The city’s negotiations with EPA are part of a national pattern in which the agency – under intense pressure by conservative legislators and the U.S. Conference of Mayors – has agreed to amend its Clean Water agreements to provide cheaper solutions.
In a policy directive issued last January, Nancy Stoner, acting assistant administrator of EPA’s Office of Water, instructed regional offices to work with local governments “to clarify how the financial capability of a community will be considered when developing schedules for municipal projects necessary to meet Clean Water Act obligations.”
She added that “our on-going conversations [with cities] have been very encouraging and have helped identify several implementation issues, as well as more robust ways to present additional community-specific information within a financial capability analysis when considering a community’s ability to achieve the shared goal of clean water.”
Baltimore not only gives TIFs and corporate tax breaks illegally and allows all kinds of abuse of terms because it gives no oversight, it allows big business to leave the city with huge unpaid water bills while city residents have their houses repossessed for not paying water bills that are again, erroneously calculated. This is not just an attempt to build business in the city, it is a deep fraudulent and corrupt system that exploded under O'Malley with the credit bonds and TIFs on steroids. All of the public outrage, all of the media outing of malfeasance gets a City Hall that refuses to audit itself in entirety and works mostly behind the closed doors of public private partnerships.....A NEO-LIBERAL SHADOW GOVERNMENT THAT TAKES ALL RIGHTS AWAY FROM CITIZENS!
Baltimore doles out tax errors in businesses' favor Paying, or not, for mistakes in calculating Baltimore property bills
By Jean Marbella, The Baltimore Sun 10:41 a.m. EDT, July 27, 2013 Baltimore Sun
Remember that card in Monopoly, "Bank error in your favor, collect $200?" With the top-hatted rich guy jumping in surprise and glee as the teller hands him the bills?
In Baltimore, it's more like, "Tax assessment error in your favor, keep the $1.5 million."
Because after all, it's not like the city is hurting for revenues.
As Luke Broadwater and Scott Calvert reported in the The Sun this week, the city has decided to let bygones be bygones when it comes to the tax breaks mistakenly given to some commercial property owners. The city's finance chief, Harry E. Black, said that because the owners had paid what they were billed — however erroneously — they couldn't be re-billed for the amount they actually owed.
Under billing hasn't stopped the city from going after back taxes in the past — numerous homeowners who were found to have gotten a variety of property tax credits in error were subsequently billed for the difference.
This time, though, Black said an analysis by the city's legal department concluded that the owners of the commercial properties couldn't be billed for the taxes that they actually owe. And these are substantial sums in some cases — the Atrium apartments in the former Hecht's department store on Howard Street downtown, for example, was under billed by $576,000.The Sun's review of the top 10 recipients of tax credits for restoring historic properties found under billing mistakes totaling more than $1.5 million.
The tax breaks for rehabs are, on the face of it, a worthy incentive, rewarding those who have converted warehouses into cool condos or given new life to row houses that otherwise would be left vacant. Those who qualify don't have to pay property taxes on the value of the improvements for 10 years.
But, as The Sun has documented, the credits are frequently miscalculated — much in the same way as other property tax breaks have been, such as those for new construction or even the most common one, the homestead exemption for people who live in their homes.
Admittedly, these tax credits are no easy thing to administer, each has different qualifications, some only go to the original owner, some transfer with the property, some are valid for five years, others for 10. And there are a bunch of them, I learned from looking at the city's tax credit page. There are credits for dwellings on cemetery property, for example, and for artists in residence in neighborhoods like Station North and Highlandtown. And, of course, as the developers of Harbor Point have taken advantage of, there are credits for building on contaminated Brownfields, and in impoverished Enterprise Zones.
So yes, it's complicated, but surely not impossible to calculate an accurate bill. Can there really not be a computer program out there where you plug in an address, and all the approved tax credits for that property are automatically applied? Why are we still hearing of "clerical" errors, "coding" problems and the ever-popular system "glitches?"
But the greater problem, it seems to me, is what the city does once it learns of a mistake. The city previously had a no-excuses policy when it came to the private homeowners, some of whom hadn't even applied for the tax breaks that appeared on their bills, under vague wording like "special credit." However blameless the owners might have been, the city demanded they pay back the ill-gotten credit.
But now, the city seems willing to forgive commercial property owners whose historic credits were miscalculated in some cases — to the owner's benefit and the city's loss — by more than $500,000.
Shades of Leona Helmsley, the hotel magnate and so-called Queen of Mean who when convicted of tax evasion supposedly said, "Only the little people pay taxes."
I don't know, maybe life really is like a Monopoly game, which always seemed skewed toward the rich getting richer anyway. Everyone knows you pay more rent when you land on Park Place than on Baltic Avenue, but who knew the former was getting better tax breaks than the latter as well?
But of course, however much or little they were billed, it still was only play money.
The Spirit Of The Law–Is Baltimore’s Proposed Project Green?
Published on August 31st, 2010 by Shari Shapiro
In 2009, Baltimore passed an amendment to its building code requiring public and private buildings above 10,000 gross square feet to "be equivalent to a LEED “Silver” level." Obviously, the goal was to get buildings in Baltimore to be more environmentally friendly. Fast forward a year, and a controversy is brewing over whether a proposed Big Box project, including a Lowe’s and a Walmart is actually green. There is some rumbling that the project was not green because it was not being certified by the USGBC, and may not be properly managing its wastewater. According to Baltidome:
During community testimony at the hearing, the Planning Commission was presented with concern that the developers were not applying for LEED “Silver” certification for the project and that the proposed development appears to be failing in its method for waste water management of the site. Despite the developer’s assertions, the project may, in fact, be ineligible for LEED “Silver” standards set by the city.
Without deeply analyzing the nicities of wastewater management, the resistance to the 25th street station project appears to be mainly one of local vs. chain. But I am wrestling with the more basic regulatory concept of incentivizing inner city development because it is green, even if it does not embrace green building practices.
Work with me here. Cities are inherently green. One of my favorite New Yorker articles of all time was David Owen’s 2004 piece on why New York City is sustainable. The argument for 25th Street Station’s green cred goes like this "If the 25th Street Walmart project comes to fruition, your average Baltimorean will have greater access to retail within walking or short driving distance. No need to go to the suburbs to shop, wasting fossil fuel and requiring expensive additional infrastructure. In addition, it provides an amenity which makes inner city living more attractive." Weighed against that, of course, is the long distance shipping of goods to Walmart, and potentially the non-green siting and construction practices. But the non-green practices and the long distance shipping would exist wherever Walmart built, in downtown Baltimore or in an exurban location.
Baltidome is rightly concerned that Baltimore’s green building regulations are not being enforced, and there is currently considerable stress on municipal budgets which are leading to green building programs being scaled back. Are we better off, in an era of severely constrained municipal finances, focusing on incentivizing urban development and renewal than specifying (and enforcing) green building practices?
- See more at: http://blog.cleantechies.com/2010/08/31/the-spirit-of-the-law-baltimore-proposed-project-green/#sthash.xROMSaCs.dpuf
Did you know that the greening industry has a regulatory/oversight agency just like the SEC for the banks? It is called LEED. It has over two decades been found to be just as corrupt as the SEC in working with corporations to use taxpayer money given to green projects without restriction. Time and again it was found that funds given to greening projects never met the guidelines for getting the money. Once again, billions of dollars have been lost to fraud for greening and with Obama's initiative giving hundreds of billions to greening and knowing Rule of Law and oversight is completely suspended, we are safe to assume that fraud and corruption is taking much of this taxpayer money as well. LEED certainly is there to make sure they get away with it! All of downtown developers are being loaded with greening tax breaks for simply building apartments!
Feds arrest embezzler hired to run green-jobs program in Baltimore Mayor’s Office
July 12, 2013 By Van Smith 33 City Paper
The Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Employment Development (MOED) in 2011 hired a convicted embezzler, only 14 months out of federal prison and still on supervised release, for a $41,000-per-year position to run a green-jobs training program funded by a state grant, according to court records, other public information.
If neo-liberals were serious about combating global warming then the first thing they would do is protect the funds slated to fight global warming. We have government watchdogs attesting to the fact that much of what goes out with greening tax credits is unnecessary. Do we really need to subsidize a developer building homes with greening elements who then turn around and charge the home-buyer more in price because it has these greening elements?
It has become ridiculous to watch as contractors and management companies feed at the taxpayer trough in these deals that have no oversight....no accountability....no recovery of massive fraud!
Feds arrest embezzler hired to run green-jobs program in Baltimore Mayor’s Office
July 12, 2013 By Van Smith 33 City Paper
The Baltimore Mayor’s Office of Employment Development (MOED) in 2011 hired a convicted embezzler, only 14 months out of federal prison and still on supervised release, for a $41,000-per-year position to run a green-jobs training program funded by a state grant, according to court records, other public information, and MOED human-resources director Valarie McNeese. The former employee, 47-year-old Renita Franklin-Thrower (pictured), left the position on June 30, and on July 5 was arrested again in the embezzlement case after failing to show up to a May status hearing with her federal judge in Washington, D.C.
In 2007, Franklin-Thrower pleaded guilty in D.C.’s U.S. District Court to embezzling nearly $30,000 from the American Red Cross, where she’d worked as a payroll administrator at its national headquarters in D.C. Earlier this year, while still working for the city, she pleaded guilty to a theft-scheme charge in Charles County dating to 2008, and received three year’s probation-before-judgment and a five-year suspended sentence.
“Beginning on or about August 28, 2006, until on or about January 11, 2007,” states a 2008 press release from D.C.’s U.S. Attorney’s Office announcing Franklin-Thrower’s four-month prison sentence, “Franklin-Thrower devised a scheme to embezzle money from the Red Cross by using her position in the payroll department to produce Red Cross manual payroll checks made out to herself, to which she was not entitled.”
On July 5, a week after leaving the MOED job, Franklin-Thrower was in Maryland’s U.S. District Court after her D.C. federal judge, Richard Leon, issued a bench warrant for her arrest. The warrant was issued because she’d failed to show up for a May 23 status hearing in her case, in which she’d been found in violation of her supervised release for not reporting her re-arrest in the Charles County case to her federal probation agent and not making required restitution payments to the American Red Cross. For those violations, Leon ordered that she remain on supervised release for another two years.
It was not the first time in Franklin-Thrower’s federal case that a warrant was issued for her arrest. She spent more than a year as a fugitive, after a warrant was issued when she didn’t report as directed in July 2008 to start serving her prison term at Federal Prison Camp, Alderson, in West Virginia. She eventually was arrested in October 2009. Leon then found her in criminal contempt of court, tacked another four months onto her prison sentence, and added another 100 hours of community service to the 200 hours she’d already been ordered to serve.
Franklin-Thrower’s attorney, federal public defender Shawn Moore, said in a July 12 email that “I really can’t comment at this point.”
City Paper on July 11 sent emails seeking comment and additional information from mayoral spokesperson Ryan O’Doherty and MOED’s spokesperson, Brice Freeman, but they have not yet responded.
Freeman, though, did explain that the program Franklin-Thrower ran – her job title, according to public documents, was the city’s “green navigator contact” for the Maryland Business Green Worker Training program – was part of the Maryland Energy Sector Partnership, “a regional incumbent and new worker grant training program funded as a pilot and demonstration grant” by the U.S. Department of Labor through the Maryland Department of Labor, Licensing, and Regulation (DLLR). “Funds were used,” Freeman continued, “to promote skill attainment and career pathways in emerging energy efficiency and renewable energy-related industries that would most likely lead to job placement and retention of jobs through up-skilling.”
According to McNeese, Franklin-Thrower stopped working for MOED at the end of June – the same time that, according to DLLR spokesperson Maureen O’Connor, the $5.8 million green-jobs training grant expired.
In an email on July 11, City Paper asked O’Doherty and Freeman to “comment or otherwise shed light on how a federally convicted embezzler on supervised release ended up hired there,” and requested to learn: whether Franklin-Thrower disclosed her conviction during the application process; whether anybody Googled her (which turns up information about her federal case) or otherwise researched her background before she was hired; whether the city knew she had an open warrant in Charles County at the time she was hired; whether the city was aware of her federal conviction and hired her anyhow; what the procedures are for reviewing applicants for jobs such as hers; and whether those procedures were followed.
Freeman says answers to those questions are forthcoming, and City Paper will publish them as an update to this story if and when they are provided.
Did you know that neo-liberals like Clinton and Obama and the DNC want this bank because they intend on bringing in international corporations to do the building of US infrastructure? Clinton is cheerleader for US global corporations and cannot get US companies overseas if the US does not bring foreign corporations here? IN MARYLAND O'MALLEY HAS USED ALL PUBLIC TRUSTS TO FUNNEL MONEY TO CORPORATE INTERESTS JUST AS IN TEXAS! IT IS ANOTHER OPPORTUNITY FOR FRAUD AND CORRUPTION!
Bill Clinton wants Congress to 'look again' at infrastructure bank
By Keith Laing - 06/14/13 11:29 AM ET The Hill Blog
Former President Clinton called on Friday for Congress to revive the idea of creating a national infrastructure bank. [WATCH VIDEO]
"I think and hope if the Congress takes up this tax reform issue, particularly on corporate tax reform, that they will look again at the infrastructure bank," Clinton said during an appearance on MSNBC's "Morning Joe."
"It's a way to get a lot of private investment in to doing public infrastructure," the former president continued. "The investors will make money and America's economy will grow and a whole lot of good jobs will be created."
President Obama and Democrats in Congress proposed in 2010 and 2011 to create a $50 billion infrastructure bank that supporters said could be leveraged to attracted private investment in road and transit projects.
Republicans in the House opposed the idea, arguing that states should be allowed to start their own infrastructure banks.
Transportation advocates opposed the idea of state infrastructure banks because many states had small ones, or did not have funds at all.
Clinton, appearing on MSNBC with Chicago Mayor Rahm Emmanuel, praised local governments that were creating infrastructure funds.
"Rahm has really pioneered this in Chicago," Clinton said. "When the infrastructure bank, which used to have a great deal of bipartisan support, seemed to be going nowhere in Washington, which would use a little bit of public money to seed a lot of private money, and guarantee a good rate of return, then he established, in effect, the country's first urban infrastructure bank in Chicago."
"He's got a lot of people across party lines and all sectors of the economy involved in it," Clinton continued. "And so what we're trying to do is to get other cities to do the same thing."
Well, we have yet another private non-profit through which public money is connected with the people running those private non-profits making the development plans with little public input. Remember, Baltimore has a shadow government.....the 'gifting' community that simply exists to allow all of the wealthy corporations that don't pay tax donate to these gifting organizations. When the rich donate they are allowed to say where that money goes. So, if a developer plans to develop say......this area of town, he donates to Parks and People or this Humanim and says.....a want a park right here. That donor writes that donation off, gets grant money and the $800,000 to demolish could very well be from the settlement for subprime loan mortgage fraud that none of the victims of the fraud ever saw! All of that demolition and a park in the middle of a developer's project.....WHAT A DREAM COME TRUE FOR CORPORATE PROFITS...
- Monday, June, 17th, 2013 17
Neighborhood leaders Eric Booker and Doris Minor-Terrell. At right, Humanim CEO Henry Posko.
Photo by: Fern Shen
Eric Booker stood with his back to the park rising up on the site of 18 demolished East Baltimore rowhouses and gazed at the adjacent renovated red-brick American Brewery building that houses the social services non-profit, Humanim.
“That’s what we used to call Darth Vader’s castle,” Booker said, during a tree-planting ceremony Saturday for the New Broadway East Community Park. “We used to break in there to catch pigeons – because there was no park to play in.”
Now, as part of a project coordinated by the Parks & People Foundation, a third of an acre of city-owned land at the corner of Gay and Federal streets is being transformed into a green space with trees, flowers, benches and a place for the community to gather.
Humanim will maintain the park, which is located adjacent to its headquarters in the old American Brewery building. (Photo by Fern Shen)
“If we lived to be 1,000 we couldn’t thank you enough,” said Doris Minor-Terrell, president of the New Broadway East Community Association, standing with Booker, who is a member.
They were two of the people who spoke at this weekend gathering of volunteers, corporate sponsors and representatives of the city, state and non-profit entities who coordinated to make the park happen.
Lying on their side awaiting planting were 24 trees (Alle Elms, Honey Locusts, Willow Oaks, Crape Myrtle) along with Liriope, Pink Muhlygrass, St. John’s Wort, Purple Coneflower and other native species.
Blight Elimination 101
Blessed with a spectacular distant view of downtown skyscrapers, the park sits in a close-up landscape where families and senior citizens live amid boarded-up and dilapidated buildings.
“This is part of our effort to make green spaces all across the city,” said Jackie Carrera, president and CEO of Parks & People, noting that it is one of the few new parks to have been made in the city in recent years.
The little wedge-shaped park will be easy on the environment as well, Carrera noted, noting the use of rain-absorbing “porous” pavement, as well as benches and trash cans made from recycled paper (donated by Boise Inc.).
Thelma Rasco checks out the site of the new park. (Photo by Fern Shen)
Also present at today’s ceremony were representatives of the city, which spent about $800,000 to demolish the rowhouses, repave the sidewalks and make other improvements.
“I can’t think of a better example of taking vacants and making something of value out of them,” said Julie Day, deputy commissioner of the city Housing Department. “This is what blight elimination is all about.”
The main costs for the park were covered by a $200,000 state grant, obtained by Parks & People, which brought out some of its iconic longtime members for today’s event.
At the microphone, Carrera recognized Parks & People senior director Guy Hager (“our ‘Steady Eddie’”) and the city’s Johnny Appleseed, longtime volunteer Gene DeSantis, who has kept track of a lifetime of planting trees (“What are you up to now, Gene 14,108, I think!”)
Vowing to be Vigilant on Maintenance
Longtime residents walking along Gay Street looked at the flurry of activity and spoke about the history of the spot.
“I’m glad they’re doing something with it. The houses that were there were in terrible shape,” said Thelma Rascoe, who has lived in the neighborhood for 36 years. “Of course, they used to be very nice.”
Minor-Terrell, a 40-year resident of the neighborhood, agreed. “I was here when this was a thriving community. Most people were steelworkers or waterfront workers,” she said.
Could this spot – once thriving, then blighted, now spiffed up – fall back into dilapidation, she was asked. (Humanim has agreed to be responsible for maintaining the park, where the porous paving requires special care to ensure it is absorbent.)
Minor-Terrell said that was a significant concern. “We are going to have to watch that closely,” she said. “The community will have to be very much involved with maintenance.”
Residents, she said, have a huge stake in the park’s success.
“Parks are a great asset. Children can play in them, people can meet there, seniors can socialize there. Seniors are pretty much trapped in their houses around here these days,” she said. “We are trying with this place to breathe new life into the community.”
Nonprofit Launches $500K Harwood Revitalization Effort The Greater Homewood Community Corporation is funding the effort in part with funds from the National Mortgage Settlement.
Greater Homewood Community Corporation announced Thursday a $500,000 effort to revitalize 15 homes in the Harwood neighborhood.
The Charles Village based nonprofit is receiving the funds through the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development’s Neighborhood Conservation Initiative, and expect the project to take about 24 months to complete, according to a news release.
"I am personally excited—and know my neighbors are as well—that after so many years of blighted housing, these blocks will be rebuilt and we will be able to bring in new families to Harwood," Ryan Parnell, president of the Homewood Community Association, said in the news release.
The money for the project comes from $16.9 million distributed to organizations and government agencies throughout the state, which were made available through the $59 million National Mortgage Settlement and a $120 million national settlement with Lender Processing Services, according to a news release from the Attorney General’s office.
"We selected proposals that will improve the lives of thousands of Marylanders who strive for better housing opportunities," Attorney General Doug Gansler said in the news release. "While families benefit and neighborhoods improve, helping the housing market stabilize, the work being funded by these grants also provides much-needed community-based jobs."
We need to elect politicians who do not feel it their duty to find every way possible to hand all public money to corporate profit....which is what this does. These are Third Way corporate democrats working as hard as republicans for wealth and corporate profit. Simply retake the democratic party by running and voting for labor and justice!!!!!
This is obscene!
Montgomery domestic violence center to pay close to $1 million in rent
May 05, 2013 at 11:22 pm
By Glynis Kazanjian
Eagle Building in Rockville houses the Family Justice Center on the top floor.
Montgomery County government may soon be paying close to $1 million a year in rent – above the market rate according to one expert — for a domestic abuse center in downtown Rockville that on average sees less than four clients a day. The innovative center celebrates its fourth anniversary Thursday (see sidebar below).
County Executive Isiah Leggett’s proposed fiscal 2014 budget includes new lease payments for an expansion to the Family Justice Center, a nationally recognized “one-stop-shop” domestic abuse center that houses public and private agencies in the same location. The county is moving ahead with that funding plan even though it’s possible the county’s payment could be reduced if it renegotiated an existing 12-year lease approved in 2008.
In the fiscal 2014 proposed budget, the county will be paying about $960,000 for the existing 23,907 square feet and another 5,500 square feet Leggett is requesting. The 2014 lease rate for the existing Justice Center space is about $31 per square foot, but it will go as high as $40.58 per square foot by 2020 because of a built-in annual escalation.
While the county is currently negotiating terms for its expansion, it’s not planning to renegotiate the full lease, said Cynthia Brenneman, director of the Montgomery County office of real estate. The County Council is expected to vote on Leggett’s $4.8 billion budget proposal May 23.
County paying ‘above market’ rent
The landlord for the building, Washington Real Estate Investment Trust, is currently advertising additional space in the building for $26.50 to $27.50 a square foot — a third less than the amount the county will be paying in 2020 and $3.50 per square foot less than the 2014 lease rate. According to Rory Coakley, a leading commercial real estate broker in Montgomery County, the county should renegotiate its lease terms.
“The county is the true custodian of our tax dollars,” said Coakley, president of Coakley Realty, Inc. “It’s a tenant’s market right now. If a worthy, qualified tenant is in an above market lease, it would not be uncommon for that tenant to go back and ask for rent relief. It happens all the time. I have a management company. In many cases, I’m either keeping rents flat or I’m rolling them back to keep a good tenant, like Montgomery County.”Under Leggett’s proposal, the lease payments will increase from their current cost of about $777,900 in fiscal 2013, according to Brenneman. Current rent includes 78 parking spaces valued at $90 each per month.
Spokesman: expansion will allow more people served, better service
The new base rent for fiscal 2014, which begins July 1, will be approximately $828,000, plus an additional estimated $132,000 the county executive’s office is requesting for the expansion. With an annual rent escalation built into the contract, and the addition of the new office space, rent would be around $960,000 in fiscal 2014 and likely surpass $1 million in fiscal 2015.
Vice President Joe Biden announces domestic violence grants in Rockville in April. (White House photo)
“We are looking to renew and expand in [our] current location,” said Leggett spokesman Patrick Lacefield. “The Family Justice Center delivers valuable one-stop assistance to folks in need. This expansion will enable them to serve more people and serve them better.”
The additional space would be used to offer career counseling, career training and enhance volunteer and internship programs for abuse victims. Since their doors opened in May 2009, the center has seen 5,000 victims and uses a “one-stop-shop” model where clients can obtain restraining orders, receive free legal counsel, obtain emergency immigration visas, if needed, and see counselors.
Non-profits, businesses help fund center
Non-profit groups like Catholic Charities and House of Ruth and businesses such as Verizon, Geico and Kaiser Permanente have been community partners since the center opened in May 2009. Some additional salaries for FJC-based staff are funded by federal and state grants through the Violence Against Women Act, totaling approximately $625,000 per year.
In April, Vice President Joe Biden, Attorney General Eric Holder and other Maryland officials used the center as a backdrop to announce $2.3 million in grants for 12 jurisdictions across the country who demonstrate the coordinated team effort approach to reduce domestic violence.
Entrance to Family Justice Center
Family Justice Center: One-stop aid for victims of domestic violence The Montgomery County Family Justice Center, a comprehensive “one-stop-shop” for victims of domestic violence, will celebrate its fourth anniversary in downtown Rockville Thursday.
The Family Justice Center (FJC) is a multi-agency domestic abuse facility, funded publicly and privately, that facilitates an array of services for abuse victims under one roof. To date, the center has seen approximately 5,000 victims of domestic abuse; approximately 55% are foreign born.
The entire domestic violence section of the Montgomery County Sheriff’s Department — about two dozen people — is based at the Family Justice Center, according to Family Justice Center Director Hannah Sassoon. Staff from the county’s State Attorney’s Office, Montgomery County Police Department and the Department of Health and Human Services also have offices at the center.
“There are about 96 staff assigned to the FJC from various departments and private agencies who collaborate with us on the project,” Sassoon stated.
In 2012, there were 1,893 protective orders served in Montgomery County and five “intimate-partner” homicides as a result of domestic violence, according to Sassoon.
At the center, clients can seek emergency protective orders, receive legal counsel, learn about immigration protections under the Violence Against Women Act and get counseling. Through the use of pro-bono attorneys provided by Catholic Charities, the center has qualified 71 clients for emergency immigration visas. There is also a children’s waiting room and a fully equipped kitchen with daily breakfast baked goods provided by Panera Bread.
Funding: federal, state and county, plus private
Federal and state grants, county funds and money raised through the center’s nonprofit Family Justice Center Foundation are used to fund and operate the center. Some of the sponsors include Catholic Charities, House of Ruth, Verizon Wireless, Geico Philanthropic Foundation and Kaiser Permanente.
The center is located across the street from Richard Montgomery High School, on the fifth floor of the office building at 600 Jefferson Street, also known as the “Eagle Building.” The Rockville Metro is two blocks away, and cab fare is provided if victims need assistance getting to the center.
The center is open Monday through Friday from 8:30am to 5:00pm. To reach the The Family Justice Center call 240-773-0444 or go to www.montgomerycountymd.gov/fjc. For 24-hour assistance, call the center or the crisis hotline at 240-777-4000.
What a great article ....we are truly blessed to have investigative reporting in Baltimore!!!
I would like to point to two issues. We know that real estate is being parceled out to be held for later development. We know that churches have been handed real estate for that purpose and I have heard realtors in Baltimore call the city's real estate policy a 'ponzi scheme'. Indeed it is. We see all of this use of taxpayer money to buy real estate for considerable sums being handed to developers for $1 and large tracts sold for pennies on the dollar. We have to remember what is happening here is decades in the planning so the final vision for Baltimore's city center some decades from now, if people allow these pols to continue, will have real estate valued like Manhattan.....from blight to bonanza. That is what all this questionable moving of property is all about and we will see all this real estate that is handed to one entity transfer to another as development moves into these areas. That is why it is not important whether Johnson has a successful business model because that area is slated down the road for affluent residents that will pay those rents. Just look at Sparrow's Point to see the exact transaction as Federal grants and low purchase price for the mill with the idea of rebuilding manufacturing included no plant upgrades that everyone knew were needed for the Mill to be a viable business. Then, it goes bankrupt....the executives walk away with tons of money and the new buyers get water front property for pennies on the dollar. IT WAS ALL A SCAM! All of this is illegal as you cannot capture real estate like this and sell to connected people.
The second issue is again the power of the mayor to manage all of these transactions with no oversight or accountability. If we can get an honest Justice Department AG Rawlings-Blake would be prosecuted for fraud and corruption and it may come. No doubt that is why they are pulling her to a national position. So, the citizens of Baltimore and indeed Maryland must wake up and take back the government! We will have a petition to referendum coming around soon that will address this mayoral power and retroactive term limits/recall for pols for just this purpose.
RUN AND VOTE FOR LABOR AND JUSTICE NEXT ELECTIONS....STOP ALLOWING THE DNC AND RNP CHOOSE YOUR CANDIDATES!!
Politically plugged-in drywall contractor gets city building with no money down BDC approves the sale of a warehouse to Kevin Johnson for a planned mixed-use complex that may be too ambitious to succeed.
Mark Reutter May 23, 2013 at 1:25 pm Baltimore Brew
Contractor Kevin Johnson, shown here with Mayor Rawlings-Blake at a 2011 Urban League gala where he won an award for his “exemplary business acumen.”
The Baltimore Development Corp. unanimously voted today to sell – for no money down – a block-long empty warehouse, appraised at $455,000, to a company controlled by a politically-connected businessman.
Commercial Interiors Inc., a drywall company founded and owned by Kevin M. Johnson, was awarded the building for $180,000 (with $275,000 of the appraised value taken off for future demolition costs).
But following his demand not to pay more than $20,000 in cash for the property, the BDC board today agreed to accept a non-interest-bearing note from Johnson’s company, which would be due upon his sale of the property to a third party.
Because Johnson hopes to develop the Hendler Creamery site around the warehouse into a mixed-use, 250-unit complex – and is planning to use historic tax credits – he can’t legally sell the property for five years after it is redeveloped.
Thus, he wouldn’t pay the city the $180,000 due on the warehouse, located at 1107 E. Fayette Street, until 2020 at the earliest. (Still in preliminary design stage, the project doesn’t have any firm completion date.)
$8,750 in Campaign Contributions to the Mayor
Founded in 1990, Johnson has built his drywall company into one of the largest in the Baltimore area. It is now part of an umbrella corporation, The Commercial Group, also owned by Johnson.
He’s been a prolific contributor to local politicians, including to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake during her rapid rise from the City Council to the city’s chief executive.
In 2007, Johnson gave $4,000 (the maximum allowable) to Rawlings-Blake’s successful run to become City Council President. In 2009, he contributed another $750 to Rawlings-Blake’s campaign, and in 2011 gave the $4,000 allowable to her mayoral election, according to state election board records.
During the same 2011 election cycle, Johnson paid (through his company) $1,000 to City Council President Bernard C. “Jack” Young; $500 to City Councilman Warren Branch; $2,500 to Branch’s brother, State Delegate Talmadge Branch; and $2,000 to State Senator Verna L. Jones.
Johnson did not return a voicemail message left at his company’s office in Anne Arundel County.
The warehouse on East Fayette St. was purchased by the city for $750,000 in 1999. Today it was sold for no money down. (Photo by Mark Reutter)
Membership Ties to BDC Board
In addition to politicians, Johnson is well-known to members of the BDC board, who are appointed by Mayor Rawlings-Blake.
He is a member of The Presidents’ Roundtable, an exclusive group of African-American CEOs whose other members include three BDC board members – chairman Arnold Williams, Armentha Cruise and Maria E. Beckett.
The old Hendler Creamery on East Baltimore Street is part of Johnson’s mixed-use plan. (Photo by Mark Reutter)
Johnson’s name was not mentioned during today’s discussion by the BDC board; only the name of his company, Commercial Interiors.
“Pushback” over Price
Board member Deborah Hunt Devan, who chairs the subcommittee that struck the deal with Johnson, said she would have much preferred a cash purchase price for the property given the city’s tight financial situation.
But, she added, “there was considerable pushback from the developer.”
At first, Commercial Interiors demanded to receive the warehouse for $1, then proposed only $20,000 in cash. Seeking a better deal, Devan said her subcommittee came up with a $180,000 deferred purchase price, after deducting the $275,000 estimated cost of demolishing the structure.
Devan said her subcommittee, which meets in private when discussing financial deals, held a “spirited” debate about the sale.
While development is desperately needed in the Jonestown area of East Baltimore, Devan said Commercial Interiors may be attempting to do a project that the local market cannot sustain.
The same scenario of overly-ambitious plans has stopped any commercial development from taking place the Oldtown neighborhood just north of the project. That area is now littered with trash-strewn lots – purchased and demolished by the city – originally envisioned for a grocery store and other commercial outlets.
“We have a substantial question [of whether] the market will deliver the rentals projected by the developer,” Devan told the BDC board. She said the developer is seeking “Harbor East rentals” – $1,500 per month, on average – in a part of Baltimore that includes soup kitchens and homeless missions.
BDC member Bert J. Hash also raised questions about the developer’s projections of income that would result from his overall plan to develop a full block between Fayette and Baltimore streets into a $45 million mixed-use development.
Last October, Johnson’s drywall company paid $1.08 million to buy the former Hendler Creamery from developer Martin P. Azola, who in turn had paid the BDC just $500,000 for the property.
Chairman Williams called the latest effort to develop the block welcome news.
“Movement is beginning with the assemblage of land,” he told the board,” saying that he was hopefully that “work will finally get done.”
The mixed-use project was also supported by Paul T. Graziano, a BDC board member who heads the Baltimore Housing Department.
2003 Extortion Conviction
The warehouse sold today by the city has some back history. It was purchased by the BDC in 1999 from Bruce D. Iannatuono trading as Brumar Ltd. Partnership.
In 2003, a former BDC senior officer was convicted in U.S. District Court of trying to extort $4,000 from Iannatuono.
Terry P. Dean told Chief U.S. District Judge Benson E. Legg that he needed cash to cover the settlement costs on a home he planned to buy with his wife, and considered Iannatuono a friend.
Dean was convicted of using his office to commit extortion and accept illegal gratuities, and was sentenced to 15 months in prison.
Shortly before his indictment, Dean was fired by then-BDC president M.J. “Jay” Brodie.
What the public doesn't understand is that it is a good thing to have all of city development money decided by a small group of wealthy developers! In other words, we hate paying for the lost revenue with our own taxes because we didn't know we needed a bridge to help workers get to work faster.
What we do know is that with tens of billions of dollars in downtown luxury development over a few decades we are left with crumbling schools and infrastructure that could have easily taken care of all of these citywide problems. How has that development helped our economy? It made exploitation level jobs that no one wants to work. It created a criminal corporate environment from wage theft to contract fraud and dismantled a public works sector as these developers built their own private contracting companies to receive the bids for work.
We know that these tax breaks are not legal as all the terms of the contracts are not met. We have hiring ratios, wage ratios, working condition requirements......all not met. So, we know that when we get these corporate City Hall puppets out of office all these tax breaks can be made nul and void. We will get this money back to the people living in this city now having to shoulder all these costs. Just float more bonds.....credit the municipality to the max just as markets are ready to crash.....
BDC recommends Harbor Point's $107 million tax increment financing request Baltimore Development Corp. will forward recommendation to mayor
By Lorraine Mirabella, The Baltimore Sun 7:09 p.m. EDT, March 28, 2013
The board of the Baltimore Development Corp. is recommending the city approve a developer's request for $107 million in tax increment financing to pay for roads, utilities and parks for the $1 billion mixed-use Harbor Point development on the waterfront between Harbor East and Fells Point.
The board of the BDC, the city's development agency, voted Thursday to send a recommendation to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake for consideration. The financing, a way to fund construction of public infrastructure for new development, also requires City Council approval.
Developer Michael S. Beatty's Harbor Point Development Group LLC is re-developing the mostly vacant 28 acres, the former site of the Allied Signal chromium plant. Work is expected to start this summer on a 23-story skyscraper to house energy giant Exelon Corp.'s regional headquarters. Harbor Point's first office building houses Morgan Stanley and other tenants.
The financing will pay only for public improvements, and "what people don't realize is even with that in place, these projects are still challenging," Beatty said. "This is a way for the private sector to take the risk to fund costs normally paid by any city, and the city reaps the benefit of future jobs and taxes."
Under tax increment financing, the city would issue bonds and use the proceeds to pay for new roads, sidewalks, a waterfront promenade, a 6.5-acre public park and an extension of the Central Avenue bridge. Property taxes generated by the eventual development of up to 3 million square feet would pay the bond's debt service.
Harbor Point Development's arrangement with the city would include a private construction loan to start the work and an agreement by the developer to repay debt service in the event of a revenue shortage, placing more of the risk on the developer, said Beatty, a developer of the adjacent Harbor East community of offices, shops, hotels and apartments.
This makes autocrat Kamenetz par for the course. When we saw him on TV scolding citizens fighting for their park you saw the politician as authority not public servant and that is with what Maryland is plagued. He, just as with Rawlings-Blake work for the rich and corporations and not the people. So why do they run as democrats and not republicans who are known for that?
Third Way corporate democrats are republicans on issues surrounding finance. They have captured the party of the people....democrats....to make sure all policy works in corporate interest. This is why you have these democrats being pummelled by their constituents because the pols work against them. STOP VOTING FOR CORPORATE DEMOCRATS. IF A CANDIDATE RUNS UNDER THE DEMOCRATIC NATIONAL PARTY DNC.....THEY WILL BE THIRD WAY because Third Way has Maryland's democratic party. So, simply run and vote for labor and justice....the democratic base.....next elections!!!
Balto. Co. won't release developer plans for public-owned sites North Point Government Center, Towson fire station, Randallstown police substation in play
The public needs to know that the politicians are creating a new system of financing called 'gifting' that allows private and corporate donors to circumvent the city general fund by giving to private non-profits who then funnel the funds into projects of which the donors support. This includes Federal and state grants. So if you have a community development, say an enterprise zone having parks and athletic fields built, then a company like UnderArmour will donate to the non-profit working towards that development. Meanwhile UnderArmour is getting all kinds of business tax breaks and paying little tax which would go into the general city fund.
The same thing is happening with Federal grants. Rather than going to the city's general fund for distribution to greening or arts projects, the politicians are having those grants sent directly to a non-profit that determines how the money is spent. Once this money is tied to a project, the city then funnels additional tax payer funds to that non-profit project.
Basically, the general public has been taken out of the loop as to how their tax money is spent and what development will look like in their own city. Also ask Graziano about the Baltimore Federal Reserve Bank meeting this past week that had all kinds of national development foundations he is working with on the development the Baltimore Development Corporation has planned in the Enterprise Zones. We are seeing a renaissance of building in the city he said to this audience!
About the Preston Place complex located at johns Hopkins......you will notice the small number of houses built before this financial strain hit the city. Hopkins received hundreds of millions if not billion of Federal, State, and local funding because this 'Enterprise Zone' was to help the underserved. Well, this is the underserved housing that they say can no longer be afforded!
'Huge drop' in funding for community development In Baltimore and elsewhere, cuts fuel anxiety over fate of revitalization efforts
By Jamie Smith Hopkins, The Baltimore Sun September 20, 2012
The City Arts Apartments are full of artists who live and work in the Baltimore complex, built on what long had been a vacant lot in a very vacant neighborhood. But a sudden gap in its development financing almost kept the project from getting off the ground.
The $2.5 million hole was dug by the financial crisis, which pummeled the value of tax credits that many affordable-housing projects rely on. The post-crisis landscape for community development is shaping up to be even more challenging.
Government funding for work to revitalize neighborhoods is plummeting nationwide amid pressure to cut budgets, increasing the odds of gaps that cannot be overcome. It's a prospect that alarms practitioners in Baltimore, where the battle against vacant housing and blight has raged for decades.
The city got 30 percent less this year from the two major federal programs for revitalization — the Community Development Block Grant and HOME Investment Partnerships — than it received just before the recession. Compared with a decade ago, funding is down by nearly half. That's not even accounting for the value-sapping effect of inflation.
Baltimore Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano said he expects no more next year than this year's $21 million allotment, and he's concerned that further cuts will come.
"It's a huge drop," he said. "That's the new norm — at best."
His agency estimates that HOME reductions will slash the amount of housing construction the city can help fund from 300 to 350 units a year to 130 or 140. Community Development Block Grant cuts have squeezed nonprofits trying to strengthen neighborhoods with services such as literacy education as well as city programs that help residents buy homes, Graziano said.
But shrinking grants could be just the beginning. Community developers fear that federal income tax credits used to help pay for affordable housing and other construction efforts will be cut out of the tax code if increasing calls for tax overhaul bear fruit.
The best known is the 25-year-old Low Income Housing Tax Credit, which generates about $8 billion annually to build apartments and rental homes. States distribute their allocations of the credits to nonprofits and other developers, which in turn sell them to companies looking to offset profits. The cash helps fund construction.
Columbia-based Enterprise Community Partners, which pools investor capital for tax-credit purchases, is making the rounds in Congress to advocate for the programs' survival. The nonprofit group expects to see serious discussion of tax reform next year — no matter which presidential candidate wins the election in November.
"Those in the housing and community-development world should be on notice," said Peter Lawrence, Enterprise's senior director of public policy and government affairs.
Charles Duff, president of Jubilee Baltimore, one of three nonprofit groups that worked on the City Arts project in Station North, had a taste of what life might be like without the Low Income Housing Tax Credit when its value slumped in 2008. So many companies were losing money that the market to buy credits to offset profits all but collapsed.
An infusion of temporary stimulus money plugged City Arts' $2.5 million hole, Duff said, or the fully occupied apartment complex wouldn't have been built and couldn't have kicked off other development nearby. He doesn't want to see the credit shrink or disappear.
"Baltimore is literally at a crossroads," Duff said. "If the rest of the country will keep us in the game through the next boom, whenever that comes, we'll be OK and we won't need their help anymore. And if they back out and say, 'We're going to leave you to your own devices,' they're going to have to pay for our poverty for the rest of time."
Baltimoreans United in Leadership Development believes in the power of construction to turn a neighborhood around. It organized local congregations a dozen years ago to attack abandonment and crime in East Baltimore's Oliver neighborhood. Nearly 100 rowhomes have been reconstructed through a collaboration between BUILD and TRF Development Partners, an arm of neighborhood revitalization financier the Reinvestment Fund.
"It just means the community comes alive again, people come outside again, people believe in their community again," said Terrell Williams, a BUILD organizer, as he walked the neighborhood with its mix of homes waiting for construction, under way and redone.
The redeveloping area is called Preston Place, just north of Johns Hopkins Hospital, and will have 125 rebuilt homes in phase one. The goal is then to redo 100 more, dropping vacancy from 50 percent at the start of the project to 8 percent — a neighborhood housing market that could stand on its own. But finding funding will be tricky.
Money that helped launch the effort is from a federal program that no longer exists, said Sean Closkey, president of TRF Development Partners. The project was able to get stimulus funds aimed at foreclosure-heavy neighborhoods, but that money will run out in March. And HOME funds are scarce.
Twenty-seven percent of the project's budget comes from federal funds, Closkey said. About 13 percent comes from philanthropists. That bridges the gap between the cost to redevelop and current market values, the amount banks are willing to lend to buyers moving in. BUILD and TRF see that public and private financial help as the only way to pull the neighborhood out of a vicious cycle: Values are low because so many homes are in disrepair, and they're in disrepair because values are low.
"Someone must break that cycle," Closkey said.
THIS DEVELOPMENT MODEL DISCUSSED BELOW IS WHAT WAS ADOPTED IN BALTIMORE AS MANY OTHER CITIES. BELOW ARE THE CONCERNS RAISED DURING THE DEVELOPMENT OF THE MODEL. AS YOU SEE, THE CONCERNS HIGHLIGHT THE LOSS OF PUBLIC CONTROL AND THE VICTIMIZATION OF INDIVIDUALS AND THE LOSS OF SMALL BUSINESS VOICE. BASICALLY, IT SAYS THIS WON'T BE GOOD BECAUSE YOU WILL SEE IN BALTIMORE EXACTLY WHAT EXISTS.......DOMINATION OF CITY ADMINISTATION AT ALL LEVELS BY PRIVATE NON-PROFITS THAT WORK FOR THE BENEFIT OF LARGE NATIONAL CONCERNS.
Business Improvement Districts: Issues in Alternative Local Public Service Provision
by Mildred Warner, James Quazi, Brooks More, Ezra Cattan, Scott Bellen and Kerim Odekon
June 2002 CORNELL UNIVERSITY
Critics C. BID programs for economic development do not address urban blight - they displace undesirable groups and business activities to neighboring districts.
While BIDs have the ability to promote economic development within the district of operation through enhanced service provision and capital investment projects, these results may be accomplished by displacing urban ills outside of the district's boundary. BID activities may result in pockets of poverty within a city and lead to further deterioration of the areas immediately outside of the BID.
Critics C. BIDs may exacerbate the uneven distribution of public services.
BIDs are created because municipal services are perceived to be inadequate. As a result, BIDs by definition provide a higher level of public services than their surroundings, encouraging a model of public service provision where services are provided based on an area's ability to pay. The creation of BIDs may then create cycles of inequality in which areas with better services attract more business and profits while under served areas continue to deteriorate. The improved service provision within a district may also decrease support by business and property owners for city-wide provision of services.
Critics B. BIDs privatize public space by excluding those that detract from the commercial goals of the BID members.
BIDs may limit citizen voice by privatizing public space within a district. Public streets, parks and plazas serve the dual role of attracting shoppers and providing a 'living room' in which the daily activities of the city's public life are carried out. The 'clean and safe' programs that BIDs initiate to attract consumers can limit citizen voice and dislocate less desirable citizens through the privatization of public space. In some instances, allegations have been made that these programs involve the removal of the homeless and unauthorized vendors.
Critics C. A BID's influence within a district may co-opt local government authority.
In establishing a BID, New York State law requires approval of the borough president, city planning commission, city council and state comptroller. Once a BID is formed, however, no review of BID activities is required nor is approval needed to initiate any specific programs or improvements. Further, since property owners are guaranteed the majority, municipal governments may be unable to exert control over BID activities.
E. A BID's voting structure may violate the constitutional principle of one-person, one-vote by favoring property owners over residents.
BIDs employ a plurality system of voting that creates a system where property owners are represented and tenants are not. These systems work against organizing around new themes, contingencies, and the needs of non-property-owners that live, work or operate businesses within the district. Because BIDs constitute districts that are 'specialized in purpose, narrow in scope and limited in effect,' BIDs have generally been exempt from the one person, one vote doctrine of the Equal Protection Clause. However, because property owners control BIDs, supplemental services reflect the needs and choices of business and property owners. Where the needs of residents and property owners differ, the needs of residents may not be met.
Case Studies Baltimore Downtown Partnership. Baltimore, MD.
The Baltimore Downtown Partnership (BDP) works throughout six downtown neighborhoods and represents 500 businesses. The BDP is engaged in activities that promote living, working, and recreating in downtown Baltimore. To accomplish these goals, the BDP undertakes programs in the areas of sanitation, security, parking, housing, beautification, marketing, and general economic development.
Downtown Baltimore was widely known for its high crime rate. To change negative perceptions developed among area employees, consumers and visitors, the BDP hired 'Safety Guides' to discourage crime by curtailing the presence of the homeless. The Downtown Partnership has been working with the Baltimore Gas and Electricity Company and the city to install surveillance cameras along the commercial streets of the BID. While this public-private partnership has been touted as a successful tool in fighting crime, it also raises concern over the delegation of police power to less accountable, private entities such as BIDs.
THESE ARE DEMOCRATIC PRINCIPLES AND YOU CAN BE SURE THAT IF YOUR INCUMBENT IS NOT SHOUTING LOUDLY AND STRONGLY AGAINST THE DEVELOPMENT POLICY IN THE CITY.....THEY ARE NOT WORKING FOR THE MIDDLE/LOWER CLASS!
VOTE YOUR INCUMBENT OUT!!
Fair Development Update
Posted in Unity on August 23rd, 2012 by Luis Workers United–
Since our founding in 2002 the United Workers has organized at the intersection of human rights, poverty and development. We saw how a state-sponsored baseball stadium employed hundreds of day laborers for less than minimum wage and fought back to secure workers’ human rights. We extended and expanded our human rights organizing to the Inner Harbor where this same mix of huge public resources and low-wage job creation were present along with systemic human rights violations. Clearly, Baltimore’s system of development does not recognize human rights and the inherent dignity of all of its residents.
The decision by city hall to close fire stations and rec centers this summer is a shocking“new chapter” in this story. Many of our members who work at Camden Yards or the Inner Harbor go home to communities long ignored by city leaders; that now face the question of how we take care of our children and keep our families safe when their rec centers and fire stations are now closed. This week we start a special series of updates highlighting community voices coming together for Fair Development beyond the Inner Harbor and Camden Yards – indeed we are seeing communities across Baltimore begin to organize for Fair Development . Below is the first in this special series – an op ed we wrote originally for the Baltimore Sun:
Three children almost died in a fire that consumed a row home this May. Firetruck Company 10 rescued them, not only because firefighters are heroes, but because these particular firefighters knew the neighborhood well enough to check the third floor closet where the children lay. They shaved crucial seconds off the rescue time by going straight for the side entrance, the only way to get to the upper floors.In May, a woman stabbed her baby five times in the neck and chest with a kitchen knife during a social services appointment. First responders from Firetruck Company 15 came within minutes to resuscitate the baby, who was later described as in “good condition.”
Both fire companies, the busiest in the city, along with Squad 11 were slated to close July 1st to help our Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake close this year’s budget shortfall. Also shaved off of this year’s budget are seven community pools and numerous rec centers (possibly 14). No audit exists to determine the exact savings but estimates for the fire company closures have dipped to $500,000, or less than .02% (that’s two thousandths) of the city’s overall budget.
When July’s major storm knocked thousands of Baltimoreans into a sweltering darkness of fallen trees and live wires, the city decided to keep the firehouses open until July 5th to address the emergency. When the emergency didn’t subside, the mayor kept the firehouses open until the following Monday, when Squad 11 and Company 15 quietly closed without an announcement, and Company 10 was granted an extension until October. If these firehouses were necessary in an emergency we can only conclude that now that they are closed the city is less safe.
The lack of fanfare matches the silence shrouding two large city subsidies slated to go to area developers this year. Last summer, David Cordish, who donated $21,000 to our mayor’s campaign last year, requested a $3 million rent break on a parking garage and an office building near his famed Inner Harbor Power Plant Development. In May, the Baltimore City Planning Commission voted to allow Lexington Square Partners to pay 5% of its tax bill for the next 15 years followed by five years at 20% in exchange for developing a mixed-use project on Baltimore’s west side long known as the Superblock. While other developers have complained that similar projects were completed without subsidies, and that the Superblock makes no sense because downtown is already saturated with offices and apartments only 3/4 full, this hand-out should clear the Board of Estimates this week and head off for its City Council approval. We don’t really know the pros and cons of either decision. Negotiations have been strictly closed-door affairs.
The exact tax write-off the Superblock stands to receive has been estimated at anywhere from $16 million to $35 million over the next twenty years, but until the up or down city council vote, the public will have no clue what we are giving up or why. The public also doesn’t know, (though the city presumably has the numbers) our expenditures last year on fire houses, swimming pools, rec centers and trash clean-up at the Inner Harbor. We do know this: these two subsidies are equal to or greater than the cost of our lost fire companies, and we closing possibly a dozen rec centers and seven pools. Why? So two wealthy developers can build or maintain projects whose profits are unlikely to line the pockets of any of our citizens.
For 50 years, Baltimore has tried to attract jobs and a better economic reality by subsidizing developers. For 50 years Baltimore has steadily become poorer and emptier. Despite Rawlings-Blake’s best efforts to the contrary, (Grand Prix, anyone?) Baltimore lost 1,000 people last year. Developments like the Superblock and Cordish’s Powerplant offer jobs, but not jobs you support a family with. Businesses at the PowerPlant offer largely poverty-wage, part time, seasonal jobs with no healthcare and no chance for advancement. We’ve been bamboozled into buying poverty with the health and well-being of our citizens.
The era of these tragic trade-offs—public safety for private profits, poverty-wage jobs for tax breaks, communities drained of its precious resources for vague notions of what attracts new residents—this era has to end. Baltimore needs Fair Development—a new approach to development that puts human rights values – respect and dignity and the sanctity of life above all other values.
We need human rights standards: a covenant between citizens and publicly subsidized developers that requires projects to secure human rights (work with dignity, health care, education), maximize the public’s benefit and be sustainable. As the struggle for rec centers and fire stations further testifies – this is not an elective struggle for one concession or another. Winning the fight for Fair Development is elemental. Our survival depends on it
WHAT WE SEE BELOW IS THE PLAN THAT DR. ALONZO PUT FORWARD AS A SCHOOL CONSTRUCTION MODEL FOR BALTIMORE. YOU SEE IT IS JUST A COPY OF WHAT WAS DONE IN SOUTH CAROLINA SOME YEARS AGO. WHAT THIS DOES IS COMMIT TAXPAYER MONEY TO A PRIVATE PROJECT FOR 30 YEARS, THIS AS WE SEE A PUSH TO PRIVATIZE PUBLIC EDUCATION. SO, WE WOULD SEE YET ANOTHER EXAMPLE OF PUBLIC MONEY PAYING FOR PRIVATE INFRASTRUCTURE. THIS WILL BRING HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS TO THE BANKS.
I HAVE A BETTER IDEA.......WHAT IF ATTORNEY GENERAL GANSLER SIMPLY WORKED TO GET THE $600 BILLION IN MORTGAGE FRAUD SETTLEMENT MONEY FROM THESE SAME BANKS AND PAY CASH FOR THE PROJECT?
Greenville’s Model Could Mean $1 Billion for School Construction in Baltimore Now!
This Campaign calls upon elected officials and decision makers at
the local, state, and federal levels to adopt and act upon a funding
plan to renovate and modernize all public school buildings in
Baltimore City within 8 years.
NOTE THAT TRANSFORM BALTIMORE ARE THE SAME COALITION OF ORGANIZATIONS AS BALTIMORE EDUCATION COALITION. A PARTNERSHIP OF THE PRIVATE NON-PROFITS, CHARTER SCHOOLS, AND JOHNS HOPKINS.
Transform Baltimore - Build Schools. Build Neighborhoods
✦ A Partnership Organization is needed to borrow a large sum
of money up front so that a large scale construction program
can be implemented.
✦ A “63--‐20”corporation, like Greenville’, could be formed to sells
bonds or borrow large amounts of money from a financial institution.
Alternatively, other institutions like the Maryland Health and Higher
Educational Facilities Authority (MHHEFA), could also be used to
borrow money up--‐front.
✦ The size of Baltimore City Public Schools’ annual funding for
improving school facilities will determine how much could be
borrowed for school construction.
✦ The amount that the Partnership Organization can borrow is
also determined by the length of time the loan must be paid back.
✦ The current payback period on government debt is15 years.
Extending the payback period to 30 years will allow for increased
borrowing, just like a home mortgage.
Dedicating Existing Revenue
✦ Baltimore City Public Schools needs a consistent revenue stream
annually to pay back debt, so that bondholders and banks are
confident that the loan will be repaid.
✦ Existing Revenue that is already alloted for school construction
in Balimore City can be used to borrow large sums of money.
✦ Current annual funding for improving city school buildings varies
slightly each year averaging approximately $60 million in total in recent years; $45 million per year from the state and $15 million
from the city.
✦ State and city legislation is needed to ensure that this funding
remains consistent over 30 years.
✦ Like Greenville, Baltimore City Public School’s Partnership
Organization could borrow about $1 billion up front for school
✦The city school system would then use its $60 million in existing
revenue as annual installments, each year to pay back the debt
over a period of 30 years.
THIS IS THE PROJECT ALONZO WANTS TO COPY......
finance & labor PROGRESSIVE PROJECT DELIVERY Innovative Financial Plan Pushes Greenville Schools Ahead Construction program languished until district found nonprofit catalyst 11/13/2006 By E. Michael Powers
The Greenville, S.C., school board struggled for 10 years to find a means to pay for a much-needed construction program that would build or expand 70 different school buildings. Realizing its effort was going nowhere, the board advertised for a construction manager that could offer a creative solution. It found one, locally, when a group of business executives formed their own firm to attack the financial problem and partnered with New York City-based construction manager Faithful + Gould for construction expertise.
Institutional Resources, Greenville, found a way to finance a $1-billion deal, avoid the state’s debt restrictions and provide comprehensive construction management services. The program is on schedule for a 2008 completion, after only 5 years of operation.
Financing was the biggest hurdle for the program because tax rates had tripled recently and South Carolina has a constitutional debt limit for public entities of 8% of holdings, says school board member William Herlong. Institutional Resources won the bid with its financing plan that utilized a third-party holding corporation to circumvent the debt rules.
Financial plan is similar to that of a mortgage agreement with a bank. The nonprofit company, dubbed Building Equity Sooner for Tomorrow (BEST), is classified by the Internal Revenue Service as a 60-23 corporation, which means that it exists and must function solely to support the school district, says Bob Hughes, chairman of Institutional Resources. BEST is run by a board composed of five members, all appointed by the school board. BEST contracted New York City-based UBS to underwrite $999 million in bonds that it issued for construction of new schools, using projected usage figures as collateral.
“We proved that the school district will always need the schools, that the schools would all be completed, and that it would be very unlikely that the [board] would be able to get equal quality schools for a lower payment,” says Hughes. Those factors allowed BEST to receive an excellent bond rating that made its interest rates comparable to what a school district would expect to pay.