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'Investors like the tax-exempt bonds because they often produce higher returns than municipal general obligation bonds, which are repaid with government funds, including tax revenues, Hildreth said'.
See why the middle/lower class are having their taxes go sky high..with Rain Taxes, gambling, and speed cameras needing to take the place of all of corporate revenue in the state of Md?
So, the state thought building a huge luxury resort on the Eastern Shore would be able to draw enough revenue to make it self-supporting or is it that Cambridge is home of the wealthiest Marylander's who wanted a resort in their backyard? MEDCO looks to be for Maryland tax payers what Texas and their Economic Development Corp was....a waste of taxpayer money and rife with cronyism. It will take a Federal investigation to shine light on that as we have no oversight of these organizations. Look only to Johns Hopkins using MEDCO for their biotech business to see where the public is being made to fund development costs of businesses the government should not be apart.
Who is hired at these public private partnerships? We know that with the Hyatt and Hilton here in Baltimore we have workers shouting about workplace abuse and wage violations, temporary workers and immigrant workers being exploited all by the government that is supposed to be serving and protecting!
THESE PARNERSHIPS ARE CRONY!
State will not be downgraded if Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay fails to make bond payments
State-owned resort in Cambridge has dipped into reserve funds for several years to make bond paymentsThe bonds issued to pay for the construction of the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay in Cambridge may fall into default next year. (JED KIRSCHBAUM / Baltimore Sun / May 18, 2006)
By Steve Kilar, The Baltimore Sun 4:15 p.m. EDT, June 15, 2013
The Maryland Economic Development Corp. expects to fall short next year on payments to investors who bought the bonds that funded the Hyatt Regency Chesapeake Bay, a state-owned golf resort hotel and conference center on the Eastern Shore.
Known as default, a failure to meet bond payments may increase investor scrutiny of MEDCO, a company created by the General Assembly to aid economic development throughout Maryland, experts say, but it will not affect the state's credit rating.
"No issuer, MEDCO included, wants to have a reputation of having bonds default," said W. Bartley Hildreth, a professor at Georgia State University and a director of the Municipal Securities Rulemaking Board, which oversees the municipal securities market.
MEDCO issues revenue bonds, which are funded by the money a particular project creates. Such bonds insulate the state and its political subdivisions, such as Dorchester County, where the Hyatt is located, from legal and financial responsibility for the bond payments.
But the Hyatt is poised to become the second state-owned resort to struggle with bond payments — investors agreed to a multiple-year moratorium on bond interest for the troubled Rocky Gap hotel in Western Maryland before it was sold last year. With two soured hotel deals, MEDCO may have difficultly attracting investors to buy its bonds for such a project in the future.
"If the market gets a notion that more and more MEDCO bonds are defaulting then you're going to find institutional investors not willing to invest," Hildreth said.
The Hyatt, built on 260 privately owned acres along the Choptank River in Cambridge, has been using reserve funds for portions of its semiannual debt payments since December 2010, according to documents sent to bondholders. On June 1, the state withdrew $2 million from the reserve, cutting the fund's balance to $2.3 million, about 15 percent of the amount required by its bond covenants.
"We will end up depleting our reserves, based on our projections, either later this year … or sometime next year," said Robert Brennan, executive director of MEDCO. "It means that the investors are going to be wanting to talk to us to figure out how are we going to fix this problem."
With the fall-off in leisure and corporate travel during the recession, the hotel has not been generating enough revenue to pay for its operations, let alone its bond payments, for several years, according to its financial reports.
As a result, it's likely that MEDCO will be unable to fulfill its obligations under the current repayment terms by June 2014, Brennan said.
Though not good for the project, a default won't affect the operations of MEDCO, which does not have a credit rating, or the state's financial standing, he said. The bonds are to be repaid solely from the resort's revenue, he said. Neither the agency nor the state is responsible for payments, he said.
MEDCO and its other projects, which include the Maryland Public Health Laboratory building under construction in East Baltimore, are shielded from the Hyatt's poor performance because MEDCO's "nothing more than a conduit" for financing, said Dick O'Brien, a municipal securities expert at brokerage firm Folger Nolan Fleming Douglas' Hunt Valley office.
Standard & Poor's Ratings Services, through a spokesman, confirmed that bonds like those used to finance the Hyatt's construction don't influence the state's credit rating.
"The investors are taking a risk because all they have access to is the revenue," Hildreth said. "These bonds are not carried on the financial statement of the state … so there's not a legal liability."
Congress authorized the Internal Revenue Service to allow public entities such as MEDCO to issue tax-exempt bonds to spur economic activity that may not be supported by private-sector financing, he said.
That's the scenario the Hyatt project faced in the late 1990s, Brennan said.
The state had selected the bid of a development group to build a conference center hotel and golf resort on the 350-acre site of a former state mental hospital in Cambridge. The group included Hyatt Hotels Corp., Clark Enterprises Inc., a Bethesda-based real estate construction and investment firm, and Quadrangle Development Corp., a Washington-based developer.
But the developers could not obtain financing "to do the entire project," Brennan said.
MEDCO struck a deal with the group to finance the construction by issuing more than $120 million in revenue bonds in exchange for public ownership. The state owns the hotel, marina and other improvements at the resort. Ownership will revert to the developers in the mid-2030s, after the bonds are repaid, Brennan said.
The Hyatt opened in 2002 and was performing well, mostly because of its large group business, Brennan said. The hotel's solid financial footing allowed MEDCO to refinance the bonds, originally issued in 1999 with interest rates near 8 percent, for about 5 percent in 2006, he said.
But when the recession struck, group bookings fell drastically and the hotel's bottom line slumped, he said.
The Hyatt bonds, only made available to institutional investors because of their risk, are owned by a handful of asset management firms, including Vanguard, Deutsche Bank and Franklin Templeton. One firm, Nuveen Asset Management LLC, holds about half of the bonds' value.
Investors like the tax-exempt bonds because they often produce higher returns than municipal general obligation bonds, which are repaid with government funds, including tax revenues, Hildreth said.
These investment firms will decide the future of the Hyatt in the event of a default, Brennan said. While they could decide to foreclose on the property — taking ownership away from MEDCO — Brennan said he thinks that's unlikely because their investment would no longer be tax-exempt.
"Their best value will be continuing in supporting a high-performance resort facility," said Brennan of the investors who meet regularly and know of the resort's financial difficulties. "There's no doubt in my mind that we're going to get back to stabilization."
The investors must determine whether they will recoup more money by keeping the Hyatt operating under the current ownership or by taking over the property, O'Brien said. The most likely outcome, he said, is that the investors will agree to restructuring the debt, perhaps by reducing the interest rate or the principal. That will allow the Hyatt's operations to continue uninterrupted.
Hildreth agreed that the investors are likely to negotiate some type of payment forbearance or restructuring to avoid declaring a legal default.
All but one of the Hyatt bondholders declined to comment or did not respond to requests for comment on the hotel's future.
Lord Abbett & Co. LLC, the third-largest holder of the Hyatt bonds, said through a spokesman that "it's still too early to tell" what the investors will decide.
"We don't even know if default's going to happen," said Jim Sansevero, spokesman for the Jersey City, N.J.-based investment manager. "It's premature to say."
Unless the investors take some type of drastic action, Brennan said, the hotel's operations will continue as normal. A Hyatt spokeswoman said the Chicago-based hotelier plans to continue managing the property.
The hotel has plenty of money to keep paying its vendors because operating expenses come before debt payments, Brennan said. There also are ample reserve funds for "repairs and replenishments" to keep the hotel up-to-date, he said.
"There's a lot of value that this asset brings" to Cambridge, said Brennan, citing 300 to 700 jobs, depending on the time of year. "From a realistic perspective, we will continue as a going concern."
Raise your hand if you see what this loophole will bring......that's right, this gives the incentive for the developer to sell the project to a shell company just as it is gaining revenue. Can you image 12 underserved families in an area where the entire real estate is affluent. How do you choose 12 families? Why would you not designate an entire building to underserved as keeping with the requirement of multi-income housing for receiving business tax breaks? It looks to me that Carl Stokes has actually written away requirements rather than helping his constituents.
Dec 6, 2012
Get a break, give city cut of profits
By: Melody Simmons
The idea of profit sharing between the city and wealthy developers when
public tax breaks are involved has been the topic of much debate in Baltimore
City Hall has a history of granting lucrative
breaks on large development projects every time the wind blows, as my southern
grandmother would say. Those breaks have mostly been in the form of payments in
lieu of taxes, or PILOTs, and tax increment financing, or TIF, bonds.
This week, new rules emerged at City Hall.
The Baltimore City Council approved a deal to grant a $22 million PILOT for
the long-stalled $150 million Superblock project at Lexington and Howard streets
downtown — with a caveat that a profit-sharing plan with the taxpayers be
The agreement allows the city a 20 percent cut from the net cash flow from
the developers, Lexington Square Partners. If the project is sold, the city’s
profit sharing would drop to 5 percent of the net. In addition, developers
agreed to hire local workers and a percentage of minority workers for the
project and will make available 12 of the 296 total housing units to low-income
City Councilman Carl Stokes, who chaired a task force last year that hashed
out a list of recommendations for future tax incentives for developers, said he
was pleased with the deal. Stokes also chairs the council’s Taxation, Finance
and Economic Development Committee that brokered the PILOT-profit sharing deal
with Lexington Square Partners.
“One of the things the city should have is
profit,” Stokes said this week. “The taxpayers are investing, and these are not
to be seen as gifts, but as a value investment to private development. If the
project doesn’t go well at all, the taxpayer could potentially lose on this. And
if it does go well, most projects don’t give anything back to the
The Superblock PILOT joins 13 other such breaks in the city including one
given to Harbor East developer and billionaire bakery owner John Paterakis to
help build the Marriott Waterfront Hotel. That break was granted in 1997 under
the administration of former Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke and allows Paterakis to pay
property taxes of $1 per year for 25 years for the 752-room hotel.
Baltimore Development Corp. officials estimate it will end up reducing the
overall tax bill by close to $62 million — with no profit-sharing options for
At the time, BDC executives said it was the only way to get the Marriott
development jumpstarted. Fifteen years later, that is the same hope for the
Superblock, only now taxpayers are going to get a slice of the profits.
“We hope that this will reignite the energy moving forward with the
Superblock,” Stokes said, of the project that has been stalled for a decade,
mostly because of wobbly financing plans and squabbles between the developer and
WE WILL CONTINUE TO MAKE THIS QUASI-GOVERNMENTAL AGENCY INTO A PUBLIC AND DEMOCRATIC AGENCY!!!
Top developer lawyers helped vet city’s new development chief Brenda McKenzie gave few hints about her priorities for the city's development arm, but pledged transparency. Fern Shen and Mark Reutter November 20, 2012 at 7:18 am Baltimore Brew
Brenda McKenzie addresses the media, as Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and Deputy Mayor Kaliope Parthemos look on.
Photo by: Fern Shen
Baltimore got a glimpse yesterday not just of Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake’s new development chief, a 45-year-old economic development official from Boston, but also of the cadre of real estate attorneys, downtown businessmen and civic power players who helped the mayor select her.
Brenda McKenzie was announced as president and CEO of the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) after closed-door interviews with a panel that included representatives of some of the city’s biggest developers who have won lucrative tax breaks from the BDC.
A top banker and several business lobbyists were also on the interview committee, but no representatives of Baltimore communities or the City Council.
The Brew’s Mark Reutter will discuss the McKenzie appointment with Sheilah Kast on “Maryland Morning” at 9 a.m. today, WYPR 88.1 FM.
At a City Hall press conference, Rawlings-Blake couched the appointment of McKenzie as a victory for Baltimore neighborhoods, saying, “To begin growing again, we need to create new, good-paying jobs for residents and strengthen our communities.”
The agency is tasked with aiding the city’s 225 neighborhoods through such programs as Baltimore Main Streets, Westside Initiative, Facade Improvement Grant Program and Brownfields Initiative.
The mayor described McKenzie’s four years as economic development director for the Boston Redevelopment Authority in glowing terms, saying she “successfully facilitated $15 billion in private development” there. In Chicago, where McKenzie was deputy commissioner for the Department of Planning and Development, she oversaw $1.8 billion in residential and retail development, including 7,000 new housing units.
Summoned by Rawlings-Blake, several business leaders came to the microphone to laud the choice of McKenzie. Donald C. Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee and a member of the interview committee, said McKenzie’s 19 years of experience gave her a unique appreciation of the importance of neighborhoods to economic development.
To Listen and Learn
In the past year, the BDC has faced mounting criticism from citizens’ groups and faith leaders for what they see as favoritism toward glitzy waterfront projects and tourism – at the expense of existing neighborhoods and longtime residents.
Winning the approval of the BDC is the first step toward starting a major development project in Baltimore, and the quasi-public agency has the power to recommend different types of tax breaks to the mayor and City Council.
Among those who helped with the selection of the BDC chief was real estate attorney Jon Laria (second from left), who attended yesterday’s announcement at City Hall. Also pictured: Tom Noonan, president of Visit Baltimore (far left), City Councilwoman Mary Pat Clarke and Kirby Fowler, president of Downtown Partnership (far right). (Photo by Fern Shen)
Picketers (including the Rev. Heber Brown, the group Another BDC is Possible, union representatives, youth advocates and others) have gathered outside the BDC offices, protesting city development policy and closed-door meetings to discuss development deals. A panel formed by City Councilman Carl Stokes, chair of the Council’s Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee, made a series of recommendations last year to open the agency to greater accountability.
McKenzie’s predecessor, M.J. “Jay” Brodie, whose retirement created the vacancy, was the face of the city’s economic development policy which he vehemently defended as bringing tens of millions of new revenue dollars to the city.
In her brief remarks yesterday, McKenzie gave little indication if she planned to make any substantive changes to the agency. Asked about the criticism of BDC, she said she was new to the job and wanted to listen and learn.
“My main priority at this point is to be open . . . transparent and collaborative,” she said.
Superblock and Harbor Point
The members appointed by the mayor to interview about a dozen potential candidates for the BDC job included two of Baltimore’s leading real estate lawyers – Jon M. Laria and Mark P. Keener.
Laria, managing partner of Ballard Spahr’s Baltimore office, represents the 25th Street Station Wal-Mart project in North Baltimore and is counsel for State Center LLC.
His partner, Mark Pollak, represents the developers of the Lexington Square “Superblock” project. The BDC board recently recommended to the City Council that the long-stalled retail-and-apartment project be awarded a PILOT tax break conservatively estimated at $22 million.
Mark P. Keener
Keener, a partner at Gallagher Evelius & Jones, helped the University of Baltimore obtain a PILOT (payment in lieu of taxes) subsidy for the University of Baltimore’s Fitzgerald housing project and parking garage.
More significantly, Keener is the real estate lawyer for H&S Properties and its prominent baker-developer John Paterakis.
On his firm’s website, Keener says he was directly involved in negotiations with the city for the development of the Legg Mason Tower, Marriott Waterfront Hotel and Spinnaker Bay Apartments at Harbor East that received more than $8 million in property tax breaks in fiscal 2010.
Keener reports that he currently represents the Paterakis Group in its negotiations with the BDC over the disposition of Harbor Point, in particular an initiative pushed by the developer to reinstate an “EZ” (Enterprise Zone) tax credits worth tens of millions of dollars.
Other Panel Members
The other members of the panel that interviewed candidates for the BDC post – assisted by the Florida headhunting firm of Gans, Gans & Associates – were insiders in local business and political circles:
• Kaliope Parthemos, deputy chief of economic and neighborhood development, who is the closest advisor to the mayor on all development matters.
• Harry Black, director of finance for the city.
• Atwood “Woody” Collins III, president of M&T Bank’s Mid-Atlantic Division and member of both of the Baltimore Development Corp. and Greater Baltimore Committee.
• Kirby Fowler, president of Downtown Partnership of Baltimore, an advocacy group for downtown and Inner Harbor interests.
• Donald Fry, president of the Greater Baltimore Committee, the city’s premier business lobby since 1955.
• Karl Gumtow, founder and CEO of Cyberpoint, a cyber security firm, and board member of the Greater Baltimore Committee.
• Bert J. Hash Jr., president of the Municipal Employees Credit Union (MECU) and member of the BDC board.
• William L. Jews, former CEO of CareFirst Blue Cross Blue Shield.
• Tom Sadowski, president of the Economic Alliance of Greater Baltimore, an off-shoot of the Greater Baltimore Committee.
• Arnold Williams, an accountant at Abrams, Foster, Nole & Williams and long-time chairman of the BDC.
Ten of the 15 members of the BDC board. From left: chairman Arnold Williams, Maria E. Beckett, Gilberto de Jesus, Deborah Hunt Devan, Bert J. Hash, Armentha Cruise, Paul Graziano, Sharon Pinder, Harry Black and Brian K. Tracey. (Photo by Fern Shen)
Readers: Suggest a Neighborhood
At yesterday’s press availability, McKenzie raved about Baltimore’s neighborhoods to reporters and, saying she was new to the city and still learning about it, asked, “What’s a good neighborhood” to move to when she begins her job next month.
Told by The Brew that “we could ask readers to suggest one,” she said, “I’d like that.”
After Kaliope Parthemos came over and told the media that McKenzie had other obligations and needed to leave, a reporter asked her one last question: “How old are you?”
“Oh, now I really do need to leave!” she said with a smile, refusing to give an answer. A mayoral spokesman later e-mailed the information that she is 45.
TIME AND AGAIN MAYOR RAWLINGS-BLAKE GOES OUT OF HER WAY TO GIVE CORPORATIONS PUBLIC MONEY. SHE HAS NO THOUGHT OF THE COMMUNITIES SHE LEAVES UNFUNDED.
Inside City Hall: Funds for communities used to sweeten casino package Yesterday's contract with Caesars Entertainment will earmark $6 million of local impact grants to the Harrah's casino. Mark Reutter November 1, 2012 at 3:59 pm Baltimore Brew
Casino executives and Mayor Rawlings-Blake break bread at a luncheon with the City Council last month.
Render unto Caesars riches meant for Baltimore communities.
That’s one of the unpublicized details of the casino agreement struck yesterday between the Rawlings-Blake administration and investors led by Caesars Entertainment Corp.
Read through the 300-odd contract and exhibit pages, and you’ll find that Caesars will be picking up some nice winnings, the very best of which comes at the expense of Westport and other impoverished communities that surround the proposed Harrah’s Baltimore on Russell Street.
Sound familiar? We’ve been documenting how the city showers upscale projects with tax breaks. Not sharing the bounty with Caesars would seem to be downright un-Baltimore.
Not to worry.
Caesars won’t get the deluxe tax break of Harbor Point, expected to reap at least $100 million in “EZ” (Enterprise Zone) credits over time, or the $20-million-plus in PILOT (payments in lieu of taxes) for the Lexington Street Superblock project, under final consideration by the City Council.
The city said yesterday that the casino will produce at least $11 million in yearly revenues, allowing for a small break in the property tax rate beginning in 2014.
But the world’s largest casino company won’t do poorly when it opens a 3,750-terminal video gambling emporium thanks to some chips left on the table by City Hall.
Lump Sum in 2017
First is the purchase price for city land for the casino’s 4,000-space parking garage.
The headline price is $5.9 million. But CBAC Gaming, majority-owned by Caesars, will only pay $1.2 million at settlement later this year. The remaining $4.7 million is due in late 2017 in a lump sum, without interest.
The brown box on Russell Street (I-295) will be the site of the casino, while a 4,000-car garage will be located in garage (yellow box). Under the latest plan, Warner Street will be permanently closed between the two structures.
By that time, the purchase price will be effectively offset by the city’s diversion of $6 million in “local impact grants” to CBAC. And here’s where the contract gets interesting.
Community Impact Funds
In order to compensate communities for the problems caused by casinos, such as traffic jams and crime, and to improve “economic and community development, including housing,” the Maryland legislature set aside local impact grants.
Coming out of the state’s portion of casino earnings, the grants are to be distributed to communities through “local development councils” appointed by, in Baltimore’s case, the mayor with the concurrence of the state legislators in the affected district.
The General Assembly enacted an elaborate methodology by which the councils were to handle the grant awards. In Cecil County, for example, non-profits are awarded grants on a competitive points system. In Prince George’s County, the funds can be used for community projects within 10 miles of the Rosecroft Raceway.
But in Baltimore, the Rawlings-Blake administration swept aside this process and will instead let CBAC use the first three years of impact grants – totaling $6 million – for infrastructure costs in the immediate proximity of the casino.
“Haven’t Heard a Thing”
Questioned yesterday, community leaders near the casino said they had no idea that the impact grants would be earmarked to Caesars.
“No, I haven’t heard a thing,” said Ruth Sherrill, longtime president of the Westport Community Association. Betty Bland-Thomas, formerly of the Sharp-Leadenhall Planning Council, also said she was unaware of the plans for the impact funds.
Back in 2009, when Canadian developer Michael Moldenhauer proposed the first casino on the site, former Mayor Sheila Dixon established a 15-member local development council.
The group was chaired by former State Senator George Della and included representatives from Westport, Sharp-Leadenhall, Pigtown, Federal Hill and other communities near the casino.
This committee has not met in over two years, according to James Alston, the representative from Westport.
Alston said he recently contacted a member of Mayor Rawlings-Blake’s office about the status of the council. “I told her I was still interested in remaining on the committee, but I was told the committee is on hold,” Alston said yesterday.
Told of the diversion of impact funds to Caesars, Alston said, “This is bad. There was no precedent for thinking that the funds would be used by the developer. This was to go to the communities. Absolutely.”
No Word from Mayor’s Office
A year ago, Rawlings-Blake indicated that she planned to appoint new members to the council. The mayor’s press office did not respond to questions by The Brew seeking the current status of the council.
Yesterday’s contract stipulates that CBAC would be given three years worth of impact funds to reimburse the developer for “qualified expenses . . . related to the construction of the VLT [gambling] facility and the garage.”
The contract calls on the development council to approve expenditures submitted by the developer, and further states that if the city “fails to pay developer any grant funds pursuant to this section . . . the developer may offset the payment of any rent due and payable [to the city] by an amount equal to the grant funds otherwise payable to developer.”
In other words, the $6 million is locked up to Caesars, even if the city changes its mind – or the development council balks at the payments.
Reached yesterday, Della said the setup was a violation of the law. He said the development councils were established to advise the city on the use of the funds – not to rubber-stamp bills submitted by the developer.
During the period he chaired the council, Della said major strides were made in developing traffic plans that would lessen congestion and make possible access from Russell Street ( I-295) to South Baltimore during Ravens football games.
Under Rawlings-Blake, the review of casino plans is now in the hands of the Urban Design and Architectural Review Panel (UDARP), a panel of architects initially critical of Caesars’ plan for a gargantuan 4,000-space parking garage.
At a meeting last week, the panel muted its criticism of the garage and expressed approval of the developer’s plan to permanently close Warner Street between Bayard and Worcester, which would impact I-295 traffic headed for South Baltimore.
Under yesterday’s agreement approved by the Board of Estimates (Mayor Rawlings-Blake and her two appointees City Solicitor George Nilson and Public Works Director Alfred Foxx voting “yes,” City Comptroller Joan Pratt voting “no,” and City Council President Jack Young not in attendance), the Baltimore Development Corp. is in charge of reviewing the casino’s final design and construction plans.
Community groups – and the local development council – would have no role in this process.
The citizens of Baltimore recognize ABAG as simply a tool for the rich and corporations to circumvent government coffers, I call it launder, money that is given as a donation in lieu of paying taxes with the ability to direct it right back to a project in which one benefits financially. Because it is a private non-profit the public cannot follow the flow of money as it moves through city projects.
What is happening is that a selected few are creating a mechanism that gives exclusive rights to development that the taxpayers will later pay for to a larger extent. So, in tandem with Maryland non-profits, all of these corporations building in the Enterprise Zones all getting business tax breaks and grants for simply existing take the money that would have been taxes and donate it for yet another tax write-off to a greening non-profit with directions that the corporation wants a park near its headquarters. I could go on but the murkiness gets too much. Bottom line is that the people of Baltimore need to work to be rid of these ‘gifting’ organizations by electing pols that work for us and not the wealthy!
Amato named president of ABAG
Posted on October 31, 2012, 4:46 pm, by Daily Record Staff.
Celeste Amato has been named president of The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers.
Amato spent 18 years in the Baltimore City government, most recently in entrepreneurial positions as architect of, and media and communications director for, the Cleaner Greener Initiative and the Baltimore’s conversion to single stream recycling and One PLUS ONE curbside waste collection.
Amato succeeds Betsy Nelson, who announced her retirement in April after 22 years as president.
Celeste succeeds Betsy Nelson, president since 1990, who announced her retirement in April. “I am excited to pass the torch to Celeste and to support her leadership in the years to come” said Nelson.
Amato will begin her tenure at ABAG on December 3.
WHAT'S ANOTHER $250 MILLION IN PUBLIC FUNDING AMONG FRIENDS? BUT WAIT, WE DON'T HAVE ANY COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT MONEY SAID CITY HALL. OH, THEY MEAN FOR THE GREATER COMMUNITY. THE TAP IS ALWAYS OPEN FOR THE ENTERPRISE ZONES!
New $500M Baltimore arena, hotel may need some public financing
Baltimore Business Journal by Jack Lambert, Researcher/Reporter Date: Tuesday, October 23, 2012, 9:52am EDT
Enlarge Image Courtesy of Ayers Saint Gross An artist's rendering of a proposed new Baltimore arena and hotel along Conway and Charles streets.
A proposed $500 million arena and hotel project in downtown Baltimore may take some public money to build, potentially changing course from a previously floated financing model for the development.
Donald C. Fry, CEO of the Greater Baltimore Committee, said his group still hopes to secure the necessary funds to privately finance both the arena and the hotel at the corner of Charles and Conway streets. But Fry, whose group is leading the fundraising efforts for the project, acknowledged public dollars may be needed.
The GBC has been spearheading the effort on behalf of Whiting-Turner Contracting Co. CEO Willard Hackerman, who in 2011 proposed to build a $325 million arena and $175 million hotel on the site next to the Baltimore Convention Center. The development would be adjacent to a $400 million expansion of the convention center, which would be publicly funded by the city and state.
Fry said he has identified about $230 million of the $500 million needed for the arena and hotel projects. That is an 11 percent increase over the 35 percent of private financing the GBC said it had secured in May.
But, Fry said, public financing could be necessary to pay for at least part of the construction of the 18,500-seat arena.
“There is no doubt it is going to require some city and state financial commitment for the entire project, and maybe even the arena possibly,” Fry said.
PHOTOS: Renderings of the proposed new arena, expanded convention center
Any public money allocated for the project would likely be used for the arena portion, said Fry and Kaliope Parthemos, the city’s deputy mayor of economic and neighborhood development.
THIS IS AN EXCELLENT HISTORY OF THE DEVELOPMENT OF ONE PIECE OF BALTIMORE'S COMMUNITIES. WHAT YOU SEE IS THE DOMINANCE OF JUST A FEW PLAYERS IN THE VISION FOR THE CITY. AS THE AUTHOR OF THIS PIECE INDICATES, THERE WOULD BE FAR MORE SUCCESS IF THE PUBLIC WERE GIVEN THE ABILITY TO GROW THE AREA LOCALLY.
That giant sucking sound on Baltimore’s Westside An architect and urban planner argues it’s time to pull the plug on the Superblock
Klaus Philipsen October 8, 2012 Baltimore Brew
Shuttered stores at midday in Baltimore’s “Superblock.”
Photo by: Klaus Philipsen
The developers have had enough chances to show us that they can fit the square peg of “big box” into the round hole of Baltimore’s small-parceled historic west side. We’re coming on eight years now and it hasn’t happened.
It is time for a new approach: smaller, more incremental, phased and more attentive to the existing structures. Let’s not give Lexington Square Partners LLC another extension. We can’t afford it.
I made the above comments on a Brew story recently and the editors asked me to expand on them in an op-ed. Expand I did. Forgive the length but there’s a lot of history behind this sorry saga. I should know, I witnessed much of it. Here, with some minimal editing, is what I wrote and posted on my blog “Community Architect.”
How Big is Too Big?
With a name like this, it should have been clear from the start that the Superblock project wouldn’t lead to anything good. After all, “superblock” is a term from the ’60s describing those “urban renewal” atrocities where several city blocks were cleared of all people and then fused together, ignoring the traditional street-grid. Baltimore examples include the infamous public housing high-rise projects long since imploded in the wake of their failures.
Most people in Baltimore tune out now when the topic comes up. It has taken so many twists and turns that it is almost impossible to keep up with the reasons why nothing has happened down there in the Westside, in the area dubbed the Superblock.
In 2010, reporters were summoned to watch a building get demolished in the Weinberg block, near the Superblock. (Photo by Klaus Philipsen)
I located my office in Baltimore’s Westside in 1995, thinking this area was up-and-coming. I was soon appointed to the Westside project area committee (PAC) consisting of local stakeholders. I have followed the Superblock saga attentively ever since, and now have a thick folder just for it. Also, I have to pass through its festering blight every few days.
Few people are old enough to remember the glory days of the “Westside.” Back then the area west of Charles Street was simply called “downtown” and was Baltimore’s main shopping district. At Christmas time little kids pressed their cold noses against the storefronts of the three big department stores at Howard and Lexington, each with more beautiful holiday decorations.
Although I am old enough, I know about Christmas at Howard and Lexington only from Gilbert Sandler’s “Baltimore Stories” since as a small child I pressed my cold nose against plate glass in downtown Stuttgart, Germany. Baltimore’s shopping district was mostly white; blacks were barely tolerated in the stores. We heard recently about the civil rights-inspired lunch counter protests at Read’s Drugstore on Howard Street. (This history was rediscovered when those preservationists protested the planned demolition of the store as part of the Superblock project.)
The whole thing feels like a cruel game to me so let’s go back a bit and establish what the playing field is, who the players are and what the rules are supposed to be.
The Playing Field
Due to suburbanization and the shiny new malls sprouting in the green fields outside the Beltway, by the early ’90s the Westside was down on its knees. It was so diminished that even one of the big landlords in the area, the Weinberg Foundation, realized that something needed to be done.
All the buildings they had acquired there now stood empty and created much blight along Howard Street. They said they would use the glitzy new “Harlem USA” as a model as for a revitalization of their Westside holdings. Just like in the’ 60s, wholesale demolition was envisioned to achieve it.
An example of the beautiful facades in the former garment district of the Westside. This building is vacant with a “pop-up gallery” populating the first floor as a temporary use. (Photo by Klaus Philipsen)
Yet this time, preservation had gained strength in Baltimore and folks were not so easily fooled by the argument that “a clean slate” is the best approach. Johns Hopkins of Baltimore Heritage and a few others photographed facades all over the Westside, looked up old photos and opened our eyes again to the underlying beauty of this area. They helped us appreciate the old cast-iron facades, the garment district warehouses and the many storefronts now covered by the muck of cheap panels, awnings and signs.
It became clear that, in spite of all the decay, the Westside was an architectural treasure trove. Around 1998, several preservationists and urbanists like myself convinced the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) that not the Weinberg Foundation but the City should prepare a master plan for the whole area and that preservation should be a the foundation for economic development and a renaissance of this part of downtown.
Detail from the top of the McCrory’s Building, on Lexington Street. (Photo by Fern Shen)
This took more than good arguments to become an official policy. Pressure from the State Senate leveraging State funds for the Hippdrome Theatre yielded finally a “Memorandum of Agreement” (MOA) between the City and the Maryland Historic Trust in 2001.
The core piece of the MOA is a Westside map with three colors of buildings: “Must be preserved, should be preserved and historically insignificant.” To ensure that the Westside renaissance would follow the rules of the MOA, the PAC was created and stakeholders appointed to it.
By the time the BDC rolled out the Superblock concept in 2004, the MOA had been in place for a while. Several projects were already going forward in the area, like the big-scale mixed-use CentrePoint, across the street from the refurbished Hippodrome, which had opened the same year.
With these projects, along with the Atrium and the refurbished Stewart’s building, the area didn’t need more big-scale initiatives. In a PAC meeting on the RFP put forth by then-BDC chief M.J. “Jay” Brodie, I argued that it was time now for “a thousand points of light.” (I deliberately used this phrase from the elder president Bush, thinking it would appeal to the business-oriented folks at BDC.)
What I meant was, we need incremental, smaller investments without large-scale city intervention and the associated large-scale disruption. After all, the Weinberg Foundation still had a large project up their sleeve on the north side of Lexington Street. Obviously, I did not prevail and the RFP was issued.
The Players and the Game
The main players in the drama of the Superblock are the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), Lexington Square Partners, displaced merchants and a famous lawyer whose Spanish meaning of his name betrays his aggressive stance and his Greek heritage.
What about the citizens of Baltimore? Well, they are mostly spectators since a real meaningful public debate about the Westside or the Superblock never happened.
Brian Greenan, the mayor’s Westside coordinator, and then-BDC chief Jay Brodie. (Photo by Fern Shen)
As for the game, one could be a cynic and conclude that the City can do whatever the City wants – like taking properties, adding or deleting parcels or extending the deadlines time and again. They set up favorable rules when, through persuasion or condemnation, they acquired all the properties in the area bounded by Liberty, Fayette, Howard and Lexington streets.
The issuance of a BDC “Request for Proposals” (RFPs) is when the real play begins. Developers get a deadline to submit a proposal with a general description of what they intend to build, financial information and their qualifications to do those type of projects.
Since the BDC decides who gets to move on to the next round, selection criteria are focused on economic viability of the proposals and the developers themselves and less on urban design or historic preservation – which the BDC is not qualified to evaluate. At the end of the second round the winning team gets all the game-pieces (parcels) inside the boundaries of the Superblock if they can convince BDC that they are “for real.” But settlement of the properties doesn’t happen until all cards are on the table. That’s the theory.
Where are we today?
More than seven years after Lexington Square Partners was selected as the winner, not a shovel has been turned, no cranes, no construction, no jobs, no taxes and certainly, no vibrancy.
Instead, ever since the Lexington group was picked as the chosen developer in 2004, the Superblock has been sitting in the heart of the Westside as a shuttered hulk, from which pigeons emanate along with the smell of mildew and rot.
In a city, energy seeks out energy and blight and neglect, well, seek out blight and neglect. Instead of being the pulsing heart of the Westside, the Superblock has become a heavy rock dragging down all the investments that were made right outside of it. Just ask David Hillman of Southern Management who invested, largely without big government hand-outs, in the old Hechts Department store to the west of the Superblock (Now the Atrium Apartments) and the empty former BGE Headquarters to the east, now the 39 West Lexington Apartments.
Every day, Lexington Street storeowners Young Cho and her husband “pray that stores will come back.” (Photo by Fern Shen)
Of course, with the prospect of new development being imminent, no business wants to remain in the redevelopment area. Any hold-out waiting out the situation would certainly not invest in their property or building, not when it will be taken, demolished or otherwise become just a game-piece in the plan of the selected master-developer.
So, starting around 2004, when the outline of BDC game-plan became clear, a big sucking sound went through the heart of the Westside and it sucked out all those small local businesses. They went out of the block in question, sometimes out of the area or the city and in some cases out of business entirely.
The idea was that after a year or two the developer would be ready to build and the grand plans would begin to take shape. Small loss (a few unlucky pushed-our small business-owners) but a big gain for the city and the community. That was the idea . . .
When Lexington Square hired a well-known out-of-town architect (Cooper Robertson) and showed impressive and courageous plans, I even wondered if my Bush allegory was, indeed, too small-minded. (Even though it was immediately clear that Lexington Square didn’t have much preservation in mind and violated the MOA left and right.)
Shuttered stores facing Howard Street are . . .
But the famous architect was soon fired and the trench war with the preservationists began. The law offices of Peter Angelos filed one lawsuit and appeal after another and delayed things with an array of reasons. The law suits hit the project like the spray from a shotgun – hurting but not stopping it.
Lexington Square kept moving forward with baby steps towards more preservation (the Reads façade is now supposed to be saved). For a while, the developer’s willingness to spend considerable amounts of money on design fooled me into believing that they may know things I don’t and somehow pull this project off – big scale, big retail and all.
. . . not transit-oriented development. (Both photos by Klaus Philipsen)
But then 2006 and 2007 passed and nothing happened. And remember, those were years before the real estate bubble burst. No surprise, then, that after the bubble burst, there was no progress either.
Near the end of 2010, the Mayor paid the Urban Land Institute (ULI) to bring in a team of experts to spend a good part of a week assessing why the Westside was still languishing. At the end of their analysis they invited the Mayor and many city big shots to hear their findings.
The ULI experts – among them former mayors, professionals and economists – had interviewed dozens of stakeholders, toured the area and spoken with numerous decision makers. Their number one recommendation: make the Superblock developer follow through or throw him out by Christmas 2010.
Schoolchildren protest the demolition of the Read’s Drugstore building. (Photo by Sarah Adams)
Much to my delight, the ULI panel said it was time for “thousand flowers to bloom.” (Although this term came from Mao and not Bush, it essentially confirmed what I had thought all along.)
Needless to say, the developer was not fired. Although the Mayor had paid for ULI to come, somehow she didn’t like the suggestions, at least not the one about the Superblock. Christmas 2010 came and went. So did Christmas 2011 and the development team not only got one but two additional extensions, in spite of an ever larger chorus of discontent ranging from local and state preservationists to Councilman Kraft, the AIA and the PAC.
And this is how we came to today and yet another request for extension. This time, though, the city council may not let the BDC get away with it. Tough questions were asked about financing and it looks quite like the Lexington Square group is the proverbial emperor with no clothes. They were found to be naked, devoid of financing and devoid of tenants for their super project on the Superblock.
What is to be done?
My feelings about the Superblock and the proposed development of large chain stores topped by a residential highrise have gone through many phases, too.
But by 2010 I agreed with ULI that enough is enough. And today, almost two years later, I think that almost no strategy can be worse than to give this development yet another extension.
Time “to let many flowers bloom,” to cut the Superblock up into smaller parcels and offer them to a phased set of smaller developments. It’s time to get serious about preserving the historic buildings facing Lexington and Howard streets and rehabilitate them, one by one with retail that is preferably locally owned and catering to specialty needs, like the famous Hippodrome Hatters store.
A larger project could be realized on the site of the former Trailways bus station, since it has already been demolished with City money. Maybe the tall residential tower the original developer envisioned there isn’t such a bad idea – let’s find someone to build it and bring more residents to the Westside.
Let glitz and chain stores happen on Pratt Street, the Inner Harbor and in Harbor East. “Shop local” should not be limited to food and restaurants, it should be a strategy for retail. And the Westside, now an arts and entertainment district, should be the place where we make it happen.
- Klaus Philipsen, FAIA, is a Baltimore architect, planner and urban designer and the president of ArchPlan Inc. He blogs at archplanbaltimore.blogspot.com/, from which this article was adapted.
As Betsy understands, a mixture of capturing all of the fraud lost to Baltimore just in this decade past…..in the tens of billions, a reform of the city and state tax code so that wealth is not fenced in, and the end of the city’s laws allowing corporations to circumvent wage and workplace hiring laws would do all of the above…..only it would be the people who live in the communities building the community they want to live in rather than having an outside group building a world-class environment no body wants.
Come on Betsy, give it up for the locals!
Betsy Nelson: Living Cities program is gaining ground here
Posted: 12:16 pm Thu, September 13, 2012
By Betsy Nelson
Special to The Daily Record
Fall of 2010, when we first announced Baltimore as one of five sites selected to remake America’s great urban places and reconnect residents to economic opportunity, I declared that there was no more important work that we could undertake. Halfway through this three-year effort, I stand behind these words.
Baltimore was selected by Living Cities, a collaboration of 22 of the world’s largest foundations and financial institutions, to participate in its national Integration Initiative, designed to address some of the most pressing challenges facing America’s cities.
Baltimore identified two critical goals: connecting residents to real jobs and driving investment to central-city neighborhoods. The Baltimore Integration Partnership was established to address these goals and is a collaboration of city and state governments, philanthropic organizations, private institutions, and nonprofits, with the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers and The Reinvestment Fund (TRF) as lead organizations.
While Baltimore continues to face a challenging economy and making real progress on our goals is slower than we would all like, Baltimore is moving forward.
Credit for some recent accomplishments can be given to TRF, a Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), which is a specialized financial entity committed to providing capital to help low-wealth people and communities join the economic mainstream. As a CDFI, TRF finances housing, community facilities, food access, commercial real estate and energy efficiency projects.
TRF recently announced the financing of two major education-related projects in Baltimore — the Maryland Institute College of Art’s (MICA) Studio Center and the Elmer A. Henderson: A Johns Hopkins Partnership School (Henderson-Hopkins). Both projects signal new momentum in two challenged Baltimore neighborhoods and together are expected to bring over 200 jobs and serve over 700 students.
The MICA Studio Center, which houses the school’s graduate programs, is located in a repurposed 100-year-old former Jos. A. Bank garment factory. This renovation will support MICA’s ambitious plan to grow and expand its graduate programs by creating additional studio and gallery space as well as an auditorium and a cafe.
School anchors EBDI project
On seven acres in East Baltimore, the Henderson-Hopkins school, which is the new name for the East Baltimore Community School (EBCS), will house 540 kindergarteners through eighth graders in a new 90,000-square-foot building and 175 students in a new 28,000-square-foot early childhood center known as The Harry and Jeanette Weinberg Early Childhood Center.
The new campus is the cornerstone of a major redevelopment effort by East Baltimore Development Inc. to revitalize 88 blighted acres adjacent to the Johns Hopkins Hospital and create a thriving mixed-use community for families, businesses and public institutions.
TRF provided New Markets Tax Credits (NMTC) totaling over $20 million for the two projects. JPMorgan Chase partnered with TRF for the MICA project, serving as the equity investor and bringing an additional $3 million from its own NMTC allocation.
The EBCS construction is a larger NMTC project and includes NMTC investments from Harbor Bank, City First and the Nonprofit Finance Fund in addition to those from TRF. The project has equity investments from USBank and significant additional investment from several philanthropic and institutional partners including the Weinberg Foundation, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, Rouse Foundation and the Johns Hopkins Institutions.
“These projects are symbolic of TRF’s long-term commitment to Baltimore,” explained Don Hinkle-Brown, TRF’s president and CEO. “In the past five years, we have invested $50 million in these neighborhoods through our lending and real estate development efforts. The MICA Studio Center and the Henderson-Hopkins school are more than just catalysts for economic development — they are investments in creating world-class educational opportunities and building vibrant communities in Baltimore.”
To learn more about the Baltimore Integration Partnership, visit www.baltimorepartnership.org and for more information about TRF, go to www.trfund.com.
Betsy Nelson, president of the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers, writes every other week for The Daily Record. She can be reached at 410-727-1205 or email@example.com.
THIS ARTICLE DESCRIBES POLITICAL ACTIONS AGAINST DEVELOPERS IN THE COUNTY TRYING TO HIJACK DEVELOPMENT PLANS FOR THEIR OWN GAINS. WE IN THE CITY NEED TO GATHER TOGETHER TO SEND A MESSAGE TO BALTIMORE'S CITY COUNCIL THAT PEOPLE NEED TO BE IN THE DEVELOPMENT LOOP. THE PATTERSON PARK CITIZEN GROUP IS A GOOD MODEL!
Grassroots groups urge Baltimore County voters not to sign petitions
Posted: 2:11 pm Mon, October 8, 2012
By Melody Simmons
Daily Record Business Writer
A grassroots group of advocates from Owings Mills and Reisterstown is urging Baltimore County voters not to sign petitions that aim to force recent zoning decisions by the County Council to a referendum in November 2014.
At a news conference in Towson on Monday, representatives of the group called “Don’t Sign It!” said the efforts of two wealthy developers, Howard Brown and David Cordish, could ultimately “hijack” the county’s four-year rezoning process if nearly 58,000 signatures are obtained by a Nov. 14 deadline on two petitions aimed at the newly passed zoning maps of the 2nd and 6th districts.
“They are two very powerful local developers,” said Noel Levy, an organizer. “And they are individuals who are used to getting their way every day.”
At the center of the dispute is a $140 million redevelopment of the shuttered Solo Cup manufacturing plant into a mixed-use office and retail center called Foundry Row. The project, located in the 2nd District at Reisterstown and Painters Mill roads, would be anchored by a Wegmans and developed by Greenberg Gibbons.
But Brown has protested the development for months, saying it is too close to a massive development his David S. Brown Enterprises is building called Metro Centre. There, apartments, retail and office space are under construction, along with a new branch of the Baltimore County Public Library and a new campus of the Community College of Baltimore County.
Cordish is protesting the 6th District maps because they allow new zoning in Middle River at Route 43 and Eastern Boulevard for a redevelopment that could include a Walmart Supercenter, which would compete with a shopping center he owns nearby that also contains a Walmart.
Levy and Cheryl Aaron, of the Greater Greenspring Association, and Ruth Goldstein, president of the Greater Midfield Association, said they are urging county voters not to sign petitions being circulated and promoted in shopping centers and other public places in the county by out-of-state referendum experts hired by an organization supported by Brown and Cordish.
“We’re just saying they are abusing the process for their own gain,” Aaron said.
Workers approach shoppers near the front door of the Target on Goucher Boulevard seeking signatures for the petition drive to force the 2nd and 6th District zoning maps to referendum. (Melody Simmons/The Daily Record)
At the parking lot of the Target on Goucher Boulevard on Monday morning shortly after the news conference, two workers approached shoppers near the front door of the store seeking signatures for the petition drive to force the 2nd and 6th district zoning maps to referendum.
One worker, who identified herself only as Veronica, said she came to Baltimore from her home near San Luis Obispo, Calif., to gather signatures for the effort. She said she had never been to Baltimore before and was unfamiliar with the area or its local issues.
“Voters need to have a voice in their zoning decisions,” she said in her pitch to gather signatures from registered county voters.
Sources have said the workers are being paid $5 per signature garnered.
Gibbons said last week that he had also hired experts in nixing the petition drives from Phoenix, Ariz. They have been handing out flyers that state “Keep Progress Moving in Owings Mills!” and “Think twice before signing this petition!”
Levy said the “Don’t Sign It!” group was not associated with Gibbons or any other developer and had little funding. It had recently formed, and on Sunday launched a Facebook page.
Another advocate, Peter Fenwick, representing the Valleys Planning Council, a local land preservation group, said the petition drive would disrupt the current four-year comprehensive rezoning system in the county.
“To upend that now is to throw the process out,” Fenwick said.
Inside City Hall: Behind closed doors, BDC hammers out deals The art of the exemption. Or how to keep news about a city development project out of the media.
Mark Reutter September 27, 2012 at 5:10 pm Baltimore Brew
The BDC meets in a closed session this morning.
Every month a time-honored ritual takes place at the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC). After engaging in some preliminary discussion, the agency’s board gets down to business by kicking out the media and closing its doors.
The Maryland Open Meetings Act requires all public bodies to meet in open session unless there is a compelling reason to do otherwise.
The BDC board, which instigates and acts on the biggest development deals in Baltimore, has perfected the art of the exemption.
Today was no different. Not long after the meeting had started, board chairman Arnold Williams was calling for a vote to close it.
The Brew has been voicing an objection to this process for months. Today we didn’t bother to object. Instead, we’re going to tell you what happened.
7:39 a.m. – At what may be the earliest time for any public body to meet in Maryland, the board opens its monthly public session, nine minutes late.
7:44 a.m. – Acting president Kimberly A. Clark gives her report to the board. One big success she reports: winning The Baltimore Sun‘s endorsement of a tax deal to help Under Armour expand at Locust Point.
Clark says she had spent an hour talking to the editorial writer about the $35 million deal, which exceeded the city’s own internal guidelines for a subsidy. Reading the favorable Sun editorial was “an ‘ah-ha’ moment instead of a ‘gotcha,’” she tells the board, looking pleased.
7:50 a.m. – BDC officer Phil Croskey runs through a Powerpoint of two proposals for the rehabilitation of the now-vacant Parkway Theatre on North Ave.
One is by developer Sam Polakoff, whose previous bid on the Parkway was thrown out by the BDC. The other is by the Maryland Film Festival in collaboration with Seawall Development (Thibault and Donald Manekin), Johns Hopkins University and the Maryland Institute of Art.
After a brief overview of the proposals – both would have live music and studio space, with the film festival proposal including a film study educational component – Williams halts the presentation so that the board can discuss “the financials” in private.
8:07 a.m. – Here it comes: Williams invokes three subsections of the Open Meetings Act to close the rest of the meeting.
The Parkway Theatre proposals: exempt under statute 10-508(a)(14) because public discussion or disclosure “would adversely impact . . . the bidding or proposal process,” Williams says.
A Business Retention and Expansion report: exempt under 10-508(a)(4) because it “concerns [a] proposal for a business or industrial organization to locate, expand or remain in the State,” Williams says.
A Loan and Audit Committee report: exempt under 10-508(a)(5), allowing a public board to “consider the investment of public funds” privately, Williams says.
8:11 a.m. – The board unanimously votes to close the meeting. The conference room door is shut behind this reporter.
8:15-8:58 a.m. – Sitting in the BDC reception area, The Brew reads the minutes of the Business Retention and Project Review Committees. (The material is in a loose-leaf notebook emblazoned with prohibitions against “removing” or “copying” the contents.)
Turns out, there’s not much to read. The last meeting of the Business Retention committee started at 4:09 p.m. on September 17. A minute later (4:10 p.m.), it was closed by chairman Atwood “Woody” Collins III, president of M&T Bank’s Mid-Atlantic Division. The meeting was reopened and adjourned at 4:55 p.m.
The Project Oversight committee met at 12:18 p.m. on September 19. It was closed at 12:32 p.m. The meeting remained private until it adjourned at an unspecified time.
8:58 a.m. – Today’s closed session comes to a, well, close. The 15 members of the board (not all present today) begin to scatter through downtown.
Among its members: four top city officials, including finance chief Harry Black and Kaliope Parthemos, the mayor’s development chief.
There’s one union representative (Bert J. Hash, president of the municipal employees credit union), one accountant (Williams), two attorneys (Deborah Hunt Devan and Gilberto de Jesus) and five bankers (including Collins, Kenneth Moreland of T. Rowe Price and and Brian Tracey of Bank of America).
The board members are appointed by the mayor. Some of them, like Williams, have been appointed for a long time.
9:05 a.m. – Asked why the BDC does not open up more of its meetings, Kimberly Clark replies, “There is a balancing act we have to perform.” She said that proprietary information from developers is reviewed during the closed sessions. If released, such information would spell doom to the developers at the hands of their competitors.
The board’s recommendations to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake – regarding what projects should receive TIFs, PILOTs (payment in lieu of taxes) or other government subsidies, and at what levels – are also not publicly revealed.
Again, this confidentiality is maintained “to protect that proprietary information” and to gain the most detailed insight into the financial aspects of any given project.
“How else,” Clark asks, “can we be certain we are presenting the best deal for the city?”
9:15 a.m. – Leaving the BDC, Williams is spotted. He says he disagrees with critics who say the BDC is too secretive.
“The meetings are very open, I believe,” he said. “The only time we close them is when the discussion is in accordance with the statutes. I think during the board meeting [today], we made it pretty clear what statues we were using.”
A founding partner of a local accounting firm, Williams was appointed to the BDC by then-mayor Kurt Schmoke in the 1990s. He was named chairman by Mayor Martin O’Malley in January 2002 and has remained in that position ever since.
THE GROUP BELOW-----ANOTHER BDC IS POSSIBLE HAS A STRONG HANDLE ON THE NGO THAT IS BALTIMORE DEVELOPMENT CORPORATION. THEY HAVE BEEN A GREAT ACTIVIST FORCE IN MAKING THESE POWER PLAYERS HEAR THE OTHER VOICES IN THE CITY.
Issue: Spring 2012 - Issue 16: Occupy the Economy
The Indyreader Talks To: Another BDC Is Possible
Another BDC is Possible Meets with Jay Brodie of the BDC.
Activist Pastor Heber Brown pictured. Photo By: Clayton Conn
«The Baltimore Indypendent ReaderThe Indypendent Reader interviewed Another BDC Is Possible a month after their public meeting with Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) president, Jay Brodie, in November.
Indyreader: What is your organization’s background? When did it form? By whom?
AnotherBDC: The group formed after a meeting that arose from Occupy Baltimore. However, participation has been broader than just people who identify as Occupy participants, especially as we continue to outreach to other organizers and bring them on board. Many of the people involved have been involved in various attempts to educate, agitate, and organize around issues of development for years in one form or another (for instance the City From Below conference in 2009).
Indyreader: Can you describe the BDC, specifically its internal structure and institutional function? Does its internal composition represent Baltimore in your view?
AnotherBDC: The Baltimore Development Corporation is a “quasi-public” entity set up by the City of Baltimore to facilitate economic development, formed from the merger of the Charles Center-Inner Harbor Management, Inc., Howard Street Market Place, and the Baltimore Economic Development Corporation in 1991. It employs around 50 people directly and has a yearly budget of just under $10 million, according to the 2010 tax form 990 it is required to file with the IRS; nearly all of this budget is provided by the City of Baltimore. The relatively small size of this budget is probably deceptive; the power the BDC has to shape the development process in Baltimore is greatly amplified by its role in facilitating the transfer of public assets to private developers. While it doesn’t have the authority to do this directly (everything it does is subject to at least nominal oversight and approval from the City Council), it is responsible for coordinating with developers behind the scenes and bringing proposals to the table. In other words, it doesn’t get to pick the meal, but it is the only one creating the menu. The BDC thus facilitates the transfer of current public assets (like city owned properties, which it may also assemble on behalf of developers before a sale) as well as future ones (e.g. the tax breaks, PILOTs, and transfer of future tax revenues towards supporting private development projects, TIFs) which subsidize so much of big development in Baltimore. Its board is lacking any true representation of Baltimore. It’s composed of appointed city officials and members of the business community, especially from the financial sector. There’s no representation from labor, for instance, or from community groups.
Indyreader: How does it relate to other power centers, mainly city government and the corporate sector?
AnotherBDC: The conception that the BDC is the secret shadow government is appealing, but we think ultimately incorrect. The BDC is one particular node in the network of urban power that brings together the developers who know how to work the system, the city government officials and agencies tasked with planning and urban development, the nonprofit foundations which facilitate certain kinds of projects, the multinational corporations that profit from the various kinds of outsourcing arrangements, and the banking interests that profit from the process of financing all of this. One way to see the BDC’s function in all of this is as a kind of standing “back room”: close enough to the city for deals to be cut, but far enough away that the government is isolated from the bad decisions it might make.
Indyreader: A member of your organization was recently quoted by the Baltimore Brew saying, “Baltimore residents are basically presented with a menu. The menu only has one option on it, and they are told they can either choose what’s being offered or they can go hungry.” Can you explain in more detail how the BDC relates to the public?
AnotherBDC: The menu the BDC offers to Baltimore is largely composed of development projects which all follow the same strategy: attract new residents (and businesses intended to serve them) in order to grow the tax base. It largely leaves off any options designed to satisfy the needs of current city residents, concentrating on development projects that largely provide jobs that are precarious and near minimum wage levels, and which don’t, for instance, materially improve the conditions in the neighborhoods which need the most help. “Food deserts” (areas without easy access to healthy and affordable food) are a good example here: if we are going to subsidize development, why not subsidize grocery stores in neighborhoods that need them before subsidizing yet another tourist hotel in the harbor?
The big problem here is that the BDC is subject to democratic oversight, but not open to democratic participation. As a conduit designed to translate the power of private development capital into action, on the part of the municipal government that makes it possible to invest this capital profitably in urban development, the BDC doesn’t really function as an agency which facilitates broad-based participation. If you’re not coming to the table with the resources to carry out a development project, you’re not going to get help from the BDC, even if you’re affected by the development projects it carries out (it reshapes your city, financed in part by the taxes you pay.)
So the problem is ultimately bigger than the specific issues the BDC has with transparency and accountability, or the specific cozy relationships they have with certain big developers: the problem is that the development process by and large is structurally driven by wealthy interests who can then use urban development to become more wealthy, even as the city justifies this process with respect to the presumed benefits this development will bring to ordinary residents of the city.
Indyreader: How would you characterize the BDC’s economic development ideology? How does this ideology manifest in real-life policy terms?
AnotherBDC: The ideology is basically one that sees the economic welfare of the larger community as a side effect of economic development oriented towards private profit. In other words, it’s a kind of “trickle down” strategy: to help the poor, we have to publicly subsidize the rich. Practically, what results is development projects like the Inner Harbor, that create low wage, precarious jobs. A great example here is the debacle of the Baltimore Grand Prix, originally hailed as this magnificent success bringing all this money into Baltimore, but which has quickly become something of a cruel joke on the city. Not only did the race generate far less spending than predicted, mismanagement and poor financial planning has essentially bankrupted the race organizers, who still owe the city close to $2 million in unpaid fees and taxes. The BDC was the agency that reviewed and signed-off on the estimates of how profitable the race would be for the city. The other effect of this ideology is that the BDC, in approaching the problem of economic development in Baltimore, through this trickle-down lens, doesn’t function as we think it needs to: designing projects that directly benefit the community by design, rather than as an afterthought. For instance, why not find ways to create community-owned development projects? Why not help create worker-owned companies through public subsidies? Why not build a sustainable, locally-focused economy that empowers communities devastated by years of disinvestment?
Indyreader: Another BDC Is Possible focuses on three demands: transparency, ethics, and participation. Why did you choose these areas? What specific changes would you like to see here? And how would it change the BDC’s relationship with the public and power centers (city and corporate)?
AnotherBDC: By organizing our critique of the BDC under these three headings, we can bring a degree of intelligibility to a very complicated set of problems. Transparency: the BDC is notoriously opaque. There’s been considerable legal action, largely initiated by developers who felt they were getting unfairly cut out of the process, to make their operations more open to public inspection. Ethical development: if you’re going to create jobs with public money, you need to create good jobs. This is a fight that’s being waged by organizations like the United Workers, which we are honored to act in solidarity with. And finally, Participation: the other BDC we think is possible would be one which Baltimore residents are proud to have working on their behalf, which works alongside them, which builds trust rather than breeding suspicion, and which is unafraid to embrace new models and best practices for involving communities in the development process.
Indyreader: You all organized a meeting attended by 100+ Baltimore citizens with BDC president, Jay Brodie, on November 7th, 2011. How did this meeting come about? What did you intend to achieve? And what came out of it?
AnotherBDC: We decided it was important to take the energy of Occupy Baltimore, and the outrage at an economic system increasingly organized by and for the 1%, and focus some attention on the way that system manifests itself locally. The BDC headquarters at 36 S. Charles, just blocks away from the occupation at McKeldin Fountain, was an obvious place to start. There’s a lot of people who agree that there are some serious problems with the BDC: our action followed the United Workers’ “Haunted Harbor March” which highlighted the injustices workers face in the Inner Harbor, calling for fair development principals. It also saw, a few days later, the release of Carl Stokes’ city council report on TIFs and PILOTs, whose analysis was substantially aligned with the perspective we presented on the steps of the BDC; and that weekend saw Baltimore United in Leadership Development’s (BUILD) march through Harbor East, drawing the connections between tax breaks Downtown and austerity measures for the city’s schools and recreation centers. All in all, probably a bad week to be Jay Brodie. If there wasn’t so much concern with what’s going on with the BDC, and with the development model they represent, it probably would have been easier for them to ignore our demand for a public meeting.
Our intent was to begin a conversation with this first action: both with the BDC and, more importantly, with allies who wanted to help change the development regime in Baltimore City. In our conversation with the BDC, we secured a promise from Jay Brodie to meet with a subsequent delegation, as well as a commitment to begin posting their meeting minutes online as a token gesture of a desire to act more transparently (which, to their credit, they have started doing). But the meeting was also an opportunity for us to reach out to community stakeholders who shared aspects of our critique of the BDC, in this instance the United Workers, who have been agitating for “fair development” in the Inner Harbor; Bmore Local, who were on the front lines of the struggle to stop the Walmart 25th St. project; and Rev. Heber Brown, III, a Baltimore City preacher and eloquent advocate for social justice and anti-racism. This is an important part of our political vision for our work on development: we don’t have all the answers and we can only speak for ourselves. To really make our campaign meaningful, we need to facilitate these kinds of larger conversations.
Indyreader: This past fall you, along with Red Emma’s Bookstore Coffeehouse, co-hosted a presentation by Carl Davidson, on Spain’s “Mondragón and Solidarity Economy.” Can you explain to our readers what the Mondragón cooperative experiment is? Also, how is it relevant for Baltimore?
AnotherBDC: We’re hosting a series of events exploring alternative models for development and planning. Carl Davidson’s talk on Mondragón was part of this, as was a talk by Josh Lerner of the Participatory Budgeting Project. Mondragón is one of the most successful cooperative initiatives in the world: 85,000 workers owning their own businesses, linked together in a network which runs universities, provides employment benefits, operates its own banks, and does advanced research and development, which all started as a small anti-poverty effort set up by a Catholic priest in the Basque country in the 1950s. It’s a powerful example that other kinds of economic development are possible; in this case, a model that brings democracy into the workplace and builds community economic power, and on a rather large scale. We don’t see any reason why such a model shouldn’t be something explored in Baltimore: the LA Times, for instance, recently reported on the Mayor of Richmond, CA, who has started a program to bootstrap worker cooperatives on the Mondragón model, to begin rebuilding the urban economy there.
Indyreader: What are your future plans?
AnotherBDC: We’re going to continue our dialogue with the BDC and bring together a representative delegation to meet with Brodie and other members of the BDC in March 2012, assuming he doesn’t go back on his promise.
ANOTHER BDC IS POSSIBLE:
All of Baltimore's development has been channeled to these same few communities for two decades now as the rest of the city crumbles and is left to face crime, drug abuse, and poverty brought from lack of development. Make no mistake, these political and corporate leaders are deliberately and adversely affecting the lives of tens of thousands of Baltimore's residents in the pursuit of a New York City skyline.
THIS IS EVIL PURE AND SIMPLE!
VOTE YOUR INCUMBENT OUT OF OFFICE!!!
BDC asks that nearly all funding in state program go to Fells Point BDC applies for state funds to renovate two blocks of South Broadway; other neighborhoods to share much smaller pot of money. Mark Reutter August 24, 2012 at 12:21 pm Story Link 11
Corner of Broadway and Aliceanna Street, looking north at one of two blocks flagged for heavy state aid.
Talk about putting your eggs in one basket.
The city’s economic development agency yesterday requested that the state government funnel nearly all “sustainable communities” grant funds for Baltimore into a single two-block area.
Of the $2.9 million requested from the Maryland Department of Housing and Community Development, the Baltimore Development Corp. asked that $2 million go for improvements on the 600 and 700 blocks of South Broadway in Fells Point.
BDC board member Deborah Hunt Devan repeatedly questioned the request, saying it appeared to be a large amount of money to spend on curbs, streets and gutters along two blocks.
“Streetscape is expensive,” acting BDC executive director Kimberly A. Clark replied, at yesterday’s monthly board meeting. She said the work would include installing new utilities, granite curbs, cobblestone paving and other amenities.
Concentrating on Fells Point
The BDC is currently involved in funding improvements on the 800 block of Broadway at Broadway Square. The city park overlooks Thames Street and its various tourist destinations, stylish restaurants and Water Taxi boat service.
Earlier this year, the BDC transferred $269,000 of East Baltimore Construction Reserve Funds for design work to enhance Broadway Square. The city’s Board of Estimates approved the allocation because it would “complement” improvements on the 600 block of South Broadway.
BDC board member Armentha Cruise wondered how the staff determined what neighborhoods were eligible for state grant money? “So many communities might have a need. What determines” the criteria, she asked.
Cruise was told by BDC staffer Nick Rudolph that a committee composed of city staffers “reaches out to a grid of sustainable communities” to determine their needs.
The Sustainable Communities program was established by the Maryland General Assembly to provide government funds to leverage private capital and is tied to the Community Legacy and Baltimore Main Streets initiatives.
A couple crosses Broadway Square yesterday, with Thames Street and the Locust Point waterfront in the background. (Photo by Mark Reutter)
The program calls for funds to be allocated “to revitalize a declining area” and provide money for new storefront facades, streetscape improvements and business retention.
The 600 block of South Broadway is undergoing a $24 million private project to convert the 19th-century rowhouses into 159 apartments and ground-level retail shops.
At the same time, the city is renovating the public market located in the middle of the block.
10 Designated Communities
Baltimore has designated 10 Main Street business districts as Sustainable Communities eligible for state funds.
In addition to Broadway in Fells Point, they are West Baltimore’s Pennsylvania Avenue; East Baltimore’s Monument Street; Belair-Edison’s Harford Road; Highlandtown’s Eastern Avenue; Pigtown along Washington Blvd; Greenmount Avenue in Waverly; Light and adjoining streets in Federal Hill; Patapsco Avenue in Brooklyn; and Belair Road in Lauraville and Hamilton.
Under the state grant application, nine of the communities (the Pennsylvania Avenue corridor was excluded) would be eligible to share $150,000 in building facade improvements, $450,000 for streetscape improvements and $100,000 for parking-lot improvements.
In addition, the agency requested $50,000 for a solar roof on a former fire station in Lauraville-Hamilton and $150,000 for three design charrettes in Highlandltown.
Rudolph told the board that the grant application was a wish list, “knowing that we won’t get the full ask.” The city’s request is nearly half of the $6 million available statewide in fiscal 2013.
THIS ARTICLE BELOW IS A GOOD EXAMPLE OF HOW DEVELOPMENT WORKS IN THE BALTIMORE AREA. THESE COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS ARE STAFFED WITH DEVELOPMENT PEOPLE AS CITIZENS WHO ARE THERE TO SEE THE INTERESTS OF THE DEVELOPMENT CORPORATIONS TRUMP LOCAL CITIZENS. VISTA WORKERS MAN MANY COMMUNITY ASSOCIATIONS. THIS IS PART OF THE NGO-----PRIVATE NON-PROFIT SECTOR THAT COMPLETELY CAPTURES ALL ORGANIZATIONS IN THE CITY OF BALTIMORE. THE CITY COUNCIL MEMBERS ARE TOLD TO PUSH WHATEVER ISSUE THESE COMMUNITY ORGANIZATION LEADERS ADVOCATE.
Royal Farms re-vote: A big thumbs-down Councilman Curran and community association officers blasted at tense meeting. Fern Shen August 2, 2012 at 5:16 pm
Glenham-Belhar voted 56-0 against the proposed Royal Farms gas station and convenience store.
Categories In a meeting that erupted into shouts, accusations and table-pounding anger, residents of the Hamilton neighborhood where Royal Farms wants to put a gas station and convenience store voted resoundingly against the plan last night.
The show of hands – 56 against and none for – was only one hostile message delivered at the Glenham-Belhar Community Association meeting.
It was pretty clear many were furious at the association’s officers and at City Councilman Robert Curran for his insistence that he need only consider the wishes of Glenham-Belhar members – and not residents from neighboring parts of Northeast Baltimore.
“It’s an insult for you to say you’re going to give people five minutes to speak,” said Terrell Williams, addressing president Joe Oaks, vice president Fred Williams, secretary John Whalen and treasurer Keith Bunner.
Monica Risso-Dent had an angry exchange with Councilman Robert Curran at last night’s meeting. (Photo by Fern Shen)
The agenda the officers distributed specified a total of five minutes to discuss a topic that had packed the room with about 90 people, 21 of whom had just paid their $12 association dues for the right to vote against it.
“For Royal Farms, this is one of several investments. For homeowners, this is their one investment. It’s all they have!” Williams said to loud applause.
Several people complained that the community association had done a poor job of informing them about the proposal for a 24-hour, 5,000-plus-square-foot convenience store with 14 fueling pumps and 74 parking spaces at the corner of Harford Road and Glenmore Avenue.
About 90 people, many more than usual, came to the Glenham-Belhar Community Association meeting last night. (Photo by Fern Shen)
Don Dziwulski, who lives on Mary Avenue right behind the Royal Farms site, said he heard about it through fliers distributed by neighbors long after a June vote had already been taken.
He asked bluntly when an opportunity would come to vote for new association leadership.
“If you feel like you want to run and do a better job, then vote me out!” replied Williams, who, like Oaks, has been an officer of the group for nine years. The election of new officers, he said, takes place in December.
Residents had plenty of heat left over for Curran, who has supported the proposal. The District 3 councilman reiterated that his rule of thumb is to support the wishes of the community association whose “catchment area” includes the disputed project.
But many said they’d been surprised by the news that Glenham-Belhar had voted 13-11 in June to approve the project and were unaware that the project – and even the Association – existed.
Curran said it wasn’t his fault if the association hadn’t kept members in the loop.
“If residents feel like their association is not informing them properly, it’s not my problem! Take it up with them,” Curran said, prompting an uproar.
Councilman Robert Curran, with Joe Oaks, John Whalen and Keith Bunner behind him, faces a hostile audience. (Photo by Fern Shen)
“Are you running for reelection? Then it is your problem!” someone said.
“We sure get your newsletter when you’re running for office,” another said.
“You are our representative, we deserve a little representation!” said a livid Monica Risso-Dent, who has lived on Glenmore Avenue for 20 years and said she is selling her house.
Curran said he would represent the community’s wishes based on the evening’s re-vote.
He also noted, explaining the next step of the process, that the Board of Municipal Zoning Appeals could grant the project a conditional use with limitations, such as on the hours of operation.
Community Sliced Too Thin?
With so many people unfamiliar with the Glenham-Belhar Community Association, Oaks and Williams found themselves handing out new member information packets and explaining basic details, such as the existence of a Facebook page, absence of a website and the monthly meeting schedule. (They’re held the first Wednesday of every month at Koinonia Baptist Church on Belair Road.)
“I’m fairly new and had a really hard time getting information about what association is involved, what neighborhood this is,” said Kate Gehr.
(Since the controversy erupted in June, Bunner said, the group added 28 members including those who signed up at the meeting. Their financial balance stands at $1,210.14, he reported.)
Dr. Brenda Pridgen said several Northeast Baltimore neighborhoods would be affected by the Royal Farms. (Photo by Fern Shen)
Others complained privately about the Balkanization of traditional neighborhoods such as Hamilton into community associations like Glenham-Belhar, whose odd name apparently reflects the organization’s creation years ago amid some personality clashes.
Its boundaries – Belair Road, Hamilton Avenue, Glenmore Avenue and Harford Road – are such that several other community associations border the Royal Farms project.
“I could argue that it affects our neighborhood equally,” said John Rhodes, president of the Hamilton Hills Neighborhood Association, which would face the Royal Farms across its eastern boundary, Harford Road.
Brenda Pridgen, who has lived in Northeast Baltimore since 1989, said neighborhoods “have always worked together in harmony with each other.”
“I find it befuddling that on this particular issue we decide to slice off” one neighborhood, said Pridgen, who lives in the area covered by the Moravia-Waltherson Improvement Association.
Treasurer Keith Bunner, a former Royal Farms store manager, placed a large Royal Farms beverage mug prominently on the table in front of him.
Several people promised to help Glenham-Belhar by distributing newsletters and volunteering for the community yard sale.
Others described how area residents, prodded by the Royal Farms issue, are trying to unite a splintered community through an umbrella group called the Harford Road Community Collective.
Toward the end of the meeting, several people urged Curran to meet with residents and talk about what they would like to see on the parcel.
Among the ideas the audience tossed out: some family-oriented recreational or library facility or “offices for lawyers or architects.”
Here is an excellent comment from a Baltimore Brew reader.....it's hard to believe that it isn't me making the comment!......
The Democratic Party machine in Baltimore has long used community associations to do its work, especially getting communities to fall in line for favored development. It is no secret that Baltimore is run by developers (our city council is notoriously weak and ineffective which serve their purpose just fine) and the whole country is run by the wealthy and corporations. Is this a surprise to anyone? We and our communities are used for votes, nothing more. As these Baltimore pols are re-elected over and over, they do more harm to those they purport to serve. Mr. Curran obviously does not know the first thing about real representation; otherwise, he would be anxious to represent all the communities affected by this absolutely inappropriate proposal. Instead he disregarded the earlier "no" votes of the Westfield and Hamilton Hills associations, as well as others, and used what he thought was a "yes" vote from GlenHam/BelHar as his excuse for supporting this Royal Farms - which he obviously wants quite badly. Last night proved that engaged citizens do have power if they would only use it. Now there is NO support anywhere for this mega-Royal Farms store and gas station, nor should there be. We are residential communities bisected by the commercial Harford Road. We are not a commercial neighborhood bisected by a residential street! Put that thing on 95 where it belongs (and keep it away from Bengies drive-in!).
Many of Baltimore's community associations have done a great job of making sure that (1) their community members know nothing about the projects they intend to force through for their political allies and (2) they are nothing more than political clubs existing to serve the pols and their allies. All of the NE Baltimore associations need to unite and work together. There's a reason we remain separate - and that's to make sure the dirty political dealings continue without citizens' scrutiny. No more - people of NE unite now!! After all, it's our lives and our community!!
THE REASON THAT MARYLAND IS NUMBER ONE IN THE CHAMBER OF COMMERCE BOOK IS THAT WE HAVE TONS OF FEDERAL AND STATE RESEARCH FACILITIES ON WHICH THE CORPORATIONS ARE JUST DYING GET THEIR HANDS. O'MALLEY IS TRYING HARD TO GET ALL THESE PUBLIC INSTITUTIONS PARTERED WITH BUSINESS, AFTER ALL, THEY ARE FUNDED TOTALLY BY TAXPAYER MONEY. SO WHAT IF THE MONEY GOES TO CORPORATE PROFITS AND A PRIVATIZATION OF THE RESEARCH DATA IN THE FUTURE.
AS HUNDREDS OF MILLIONS AND BILLIONS OF MARYLAND TAXPAYER MONEY GO INTO THE POCKETS OF VENTURE CAPITALISTS THAT ALREADY HAVE MORE MONEY THAN GOD....MARYLAND HAS NEGATIVE JOB GROWTH
Maryland is Focused on the “Policies that Produce” Maryland continues to focus on developing technology jobs, building on its national leadership in innovation and entrepreneurship.
The Maryland Technology Development Corporation (TEDCO… is a national leader in bringing innovations from universities and federal labs into the state’s economy.
InvestMaryland is Governor Martin O’Malley’s key economic development initiative… aimed at investing at least $70 million in startup and early-stage companies in Maryland to help create thousands of new jobs with the potential to spur billions in follow-on capital.
The state’s new Innovate Maryland initiative… will provide grants to university-based researchers developing technologies with commercial potential, supporting the creation of new innovation-based companies and jobs in the state.
Governor Martin O’Malley has also emphasized government reform as part of his job-creation strategy.
The state launched the Maryland Made Easy initiative to ease business interaction with government agencies… and reduce barriers for business.
Maryland is among the nation’s leading states for STEM job concentration.
Maryland is a center for high-tech business and research and development.
This is a typical non-profit grantmaking organization you are seeing across the country. Here in Baltimore the organization below represents one of several 'giving' groups. Now, what these organizations guarentee to their donors is considerable control over community development as the elected officials both local and statewide are in line to vote and approve whatever these people promote.
They make you feel that these organizations are open to the public, but in fact, as you see in red below, your must be voted in by their board to be a member. I assure you that if I came with my millions of dollars they would not have the likes of me as a member! So this is what you see as a complement to the business tax credits given for enterprise zone development. These two policies give complete control of development in your locality and state to these few people. That is how the concept of 'New Economy' can be pushed with almost no knowlwedge of what is happening by the larger community.
To complete this incestuous circle, this same money is what buys your elected official at election time and promotes the media blackout during elections that blocks any challengers from winning primary elections.
So does this mean we don't have a chance to change things? No, not at all. The internet gives you and I the ability to get the word out without much money.....we just need to network. Start by sharing this website and by establishing your own online newsletter that will let people know the who,what,when,where of voting next election. Don't let people be apathetic or listen to powers-that-be who aren't working in their interest.......help everyone become informed!
About The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers (ABAG)
ABAG's mission is to maximize the impact of philanthropic giving on community life through a growing network of diverse, informed and effective grantmakers.
The Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers is the region’s premier resource on philanthropy, dedicated to informing grantmakers and improving our community. ABAG was founded in 1983 to provide a forum in which colleagues could address common problems, approaches and interests.
Our members include more than 130 private and community foundations, donor advised funds, and corporations with strategic grantmaking programs - representing the vast majority of institutional giving in our area.
ABAG is …
- The Resource on Grantmaking
- The Network for Givers
- The Voice for Philanthropy
Knowledge. Connections. Leadership.
ABAG's Core Values Are:
- Generosity: We believe generosity is one of the most important values. It is essential to communal welfare and something everyone should practice in some form.
- Inclusive and Respectful: We value the perspectives and contributions of all people, and incorporate the viewpoints of diverse communities in our work.
- Diversity: We are committed to supporting a funding community that encompasses differences in the attributes of both individuals (such as race, ethnicity, age, socio-economic status, gender, physical ability, sexual orientation, and religion) and organizations (foundations and giving programs of differing sizes, missions, geographic locations, and approaches to grantmaking).
- Welcoming: We create an open, compassionate and trusting environment that facilitates learning, dialogue and healthy debate to inform and strengthen philanthropy.
- Forward-Thinking: We seek strategic opportunities to meet new and existing needs in new ways.
- Forthright Stewards: We conduct our business with honesty and integrity and utilize best practices in the stewardship of our resources and accountability for our results.
Become A Member More in this Section... Our Members Membership in the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers is open to any private, community, operating, or corporate foundation, donor advised funds or corporate giving program.
For information on becoming a member of ABAG, please contact Adam Donaldson, Member Services Director
Organizations established with the primary purpose of grantmaking which meet the following criteria may be eligible:
- The grantmaking program is the most significant part of the organization's activities. As a guideline, grants awarded should make up at least 50% of the organization's total annual expenditures. (For corporate giving programs, the term "organization" refers to the corporate giving unit, not the entire corporation.)
- The organization accepts applications, within its funding priorities, from the general public and does not restrict its giving solely to subsidiary chapters, member organizations or affiliates, or a single institution.
- The organization's source of funding is predominantly private rather than governmental.
- The organization's primary purpose for joining the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers is a desire to improve its grantmaking program.
- The organization will not use its membership in the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers to solicit donations.
- Membership by an organization that includes federated funds shall be an institutional membership, not representation for support foundations and philanthropic funds.
Contributions are based on your organization's annual grants made in Maryland in the most recent fiscal year.
If you are interested in learning more about membership with the Association of Baltimore Area Grantmakers, please fill out the short form and we will contact you directly
SO WHAT WE SEE BELOW IS HOW THESE SELECTED MEMBERS OF THIS GIVING ORGANIZATION CHOOSE WHICH SOCIAL OR COMMUNITY ASPECT THEY WANT TO MODEL IN THEIR OWN IMAGE. THIS IS WHAT YOU ARE SEEING FOR EXAMPLE IN EDUCATION REFORM IN BALTIMORE. BETWEEN THIS ABAG GROUP AND THE BALTIMORE EDUCATION COALITION, ANOTHER MEMBERSHIP GROUP THAT ONLY TAKES SELECTED ORGANIZATIONS AND WHOSE MEETINGS ARE ONLY ATTENDED BY SELECTED HEADS, NOT THE GENERAL PUBLIC, ADVANCE THEIR PROPOSALS TO THE LOCAL AND STATE ASSEMBLIES WHO CONSIDER THEIR PROPOSALS WITHOUT ANY PUBLIC INPUT.
IT IS TRULY MEDIEVAL. I'M EXPECTING THE JOISTING AT THE LOCAL MEDIEVAL DINNER THEATRE AND GLADIATOR FIGHTING TO BECOME REAL AS SOON AS THESE GROUPS PROPOSE THE LEGISLATION.
THIS IS THE PUBLIC SECTOR ALEC------
THE KEY IS TURNING OVER THESE ELECTED OFFICIALS AGAIN AND AGAIN. VOTE YOUR INCUMBENT OUT AND IF THE NEXT PERSON FOLLOWS THIS GROUP'S LEAD, VOTE THAT PERSON OUT. WE CAN SHAKE THIS ELECTION PROCESS SO THAT IT RETURNS TO BEING DEMOCRATIC!
Member Affinity Groups More in this Section...
Education Affiinity Group
Green Funders Affinity Group
Basic Human Needs Affinity Group
Member Projects As a membership organization, we are proud that ABAG members represent diverse funding types and funding interests, and our affinity groups allow members with common interests to learn and share together.
Volunteer chairs and steering committees lead affinity groups and ABAG staff helps to develop educational programs and facilitate communication among members. All members are invited to participate in the affinity group programming. We hope to see you at a program soon.
For further information on ABAG's Affinity Groups, please contact Adam Donaldson, ABAG Member Services Director.
Affinity Group on Aging
This collective group of funders is dedicated to promoting and strengthening grantmaking for an aging society. An educational resource for staff and trustees of foundations and corporations active in the field of aging, the group collaborates to identify opportunities, challenges, and opinions of how to engage in responsible philanthropy and convene resources together.
Basic Human Needs Affinity Group
For the purpose of this affinity group, basic needs are defined as: shelter, food, emergency financial assistance to avert crisis, and legal aid or other services that help eligible clients access public benefits. This group of funders seeks to raise awareness about critical human service needs, to share information about new and current strategies to keep vulnerable residents from falling into crisis, and to foster the coordination of services among providers.
Education Affinity Group
Members interested in supporting education learn more about worthy initiatives, educational research findings and best practices. Group meetings provide learning opportunities for ABAG members and allow members to share educational grant-making experiences with others.
Financial Literacy and Asset Building Affinity Group
Members share best practices and grantmaking strategies to increase people's financial capability, improve their access to affordable and fair financial products and services and help them increase their financial assets over time. The group is a forum for funders to deepen understanding of issues and strategies and motivate them to use that knowledge in a catalytic way to strengthen and build capacity in the field.
Green Funders Affinity Group
Members explore topics related to community greening, sustainability, and environmental protection. Topics covered tend to be cross-sectoral, examining the impact of environmental issues on community development, human health, or economic welfare, for instance. Members come to the Green Funders table from a wide range of grant-making backgrounds and learn from each other's diverse areas of expertise.
Health Affinity Group
Members interested in supporting health learn more about initiatives, research findings and best practices with particular attention to our region’s safety net and federal health care reform. Group meetings provide learning opportunities for ABAG members and allow members to share health-related grant-making experiences with others.
Workforce Development Affinity Group
Funders interested in workforce development join together to learn more about effective programs, national and local best practices, and their colleagues' investments. In addition to the traditional issues of job training and retention, the group now addresses a continuum of issues surrounding successful employment and financial security for low-wage workers and vulnerable populations including, advancement of incumbent workers, and barriers to employment such as transportation, child care, and criminal records