Nobody asked, but Port Covington 'but for' needs answer

On saving the Bel-Loc Diner and getting to Angelo's Pie in The Sky Pizza

Nobody asked me but … when the Baltimore City Council takes up the big question next month — whether to agree to $535 million in tax increment financing for Under Armour founder Kevin Plank's huge redevelopment of Port Covington — someone needs to get the "but for" issue settled. That is: "But for this half-billion-dollar TIF from the citizens of Baltimore, the amazing Port Covington project will not happen." This is supposed to be a threshold test for any form of public financing in a private development. I've read the "but for" section of the developer's application, and (yawn) there's not much there other than an assertion that "investment of this magnitude would not be feasible solely by the private sector." Yeah, well, that's what they all say.

Nobody asked me but … Baltimoreans upset with the acquittal of Officer Caesar Goodson Jr. in the death of Freddie Gray should stop tweeting for 40 minutes to read Baltimore Circuit Judge Barry G. Williams' explanations of his not-guilty verdicts. They are detailed and precise and make clear that the state did not have sufficient evidence to prove a crime had taken place. As Baltimore State's Attorney Marilyn Mosby no doubt is learning, it's one thing to assert criminality by cops on national television, another to prove it in a court of law.

And those who believe Mosby and her team should press on with the remaining cop cases ought to consider the cost of continuing this questionable endeavor, particularly in light of the need for experienced and skilled prosecutors to handle criminal cases arising from Baltimore's long run of gun violence. Given the pace of homicides — four more men were killed just between Wednesday and Friday — it's hard to believe police and prosecutors can keep up with it all.

Nobody asked me but … If Gov. Larry Hogan wants to improve bus service in and around Baltimore, he can start with full GPS tracking of all buses, with real-time schedules available to passengers via smartphone. The bus-tracking system the MTA put in place a couple of years ago is good but incomplete, which means it's just meh. In my experience, fewer than half the buses provide real-time status. When this system is fully in place, hopefully the administration can stop one really annoying practice: Bus drivers who roll through their stops way ahead of schedule — like eight to 10 minutes ahead of schedule. A late bus, you can understand. An early bus? No excuse.

Nobody asked me but ... A common-sense solution to the No Fly/No Buy gun debate would be a waiting period of significant duration. Someone who wants to purchase a gun, but who is flagged as a threat to commercial aviation and not allowed to fly, can apply directly to the FBI for a permit to buy a firearm. The FBI would have 90 days — far more than the present 72 hours — to conduct a background check and respond. I mean, what's the rush?

Nobody asked me but ... Baltimoreans who have not done so need to pay attention to the music of Sonia Rutstein, who performs as SONiA disappear fear. She's a talented songwriter, originally from Pikesville, with a rich repertoire, and some songs that tap deep emotional veins. When she performed a Facebook Live miniconcert from the Baltimore Sun lobby a couple of weeks ago, SONiA sat at the keyboard and sang, "Rio's Home," a song lifted literally from the front page of this newspaper in 2002. The song tells the story of Rio-Jarell Tatum, a star athlete and honors student from Polytechnic Institute who had just finished his freshman year at Pennsylvania State University when he was shot and killed in a robbery that netted his killers $10. SONiA's take on that tragedy is powerful commentary about Baltimore; it gets you where you live.

Nobody asked me but ... If Angelo Pizza — yes, that's his real name — wants to attract more customers to his penthouse restaurant in Hamroll — not its real name, but what I call any neighborhood between Hampden and Roland Park — then he ought to get a flier printed up or something, do a little advertising maybe. If any restaurant needs to provide directions, it's Angelo's Pie In The Sky — great name — on the top floor of St. Mary's Roland View Towers on Roland Avenue. Excellent pizza, stunning and unusual view of the city up there. Worth the elevator ride.

Nobody asked me but ... Diner lovers need to conduct a sit-in to prevent the demolition of the Bel-Loc Diner. Are you kidding me? Where are the historic preservationists? Does anyone in Baltimore County care about the proposal to knock down this cool old (1964) diner and replace it with yet another Starbucks? And can't Starbucks think outside the box? What's wrong with serving coffee in the present building, at the front counter and in the booths? It's worked just fine for 52 years. If this happened in the city, there would be hell to pay.

drodricks@baltsun.com

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