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Councilman Stokes is right to ask what taxpayers are getting for their $107 million subsidy of Harbor Point

RentalsPublic OfficialsInner HarborBaltimore Development Corporation

It is irresponsible for The Sun to suggest that a single city councilman is holding up giving taxpayers' money away to a millionaire developer ("Stokes holds up Harbor Point," June 21). Why should elected officials give carte blanche to developers for questionable projects?

In this day of fast communications and open government, backroom deals have a hard time going unnoticed.

But it is noticed that Michael Beatty, president of Harbor Point Development Group LLC, who plans for 27 acres of prime waterfront real estate southeast of the Inner Harbor, just across the water from the Ritz Carlton, landed an $88.4 million Enterprise Zone Tax Credit — normally reserved for "economically distressed" areas.

Is it not the responsibility of elected officials to question and understand how and why a developer is doing such? In some respect it appears that the developer has some financial difficulties, otherwise why would an Enterprise Zone be needed before Harbor Point is built?

Evidence points to the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC) having helped to create the Harbor Point location as an enterprise zone in October 2012 after a hearing in September. This is strange because the city's data on this area reveal that this is a boom area with population and housing unit gains of 500 or more.

Enterprise zones are designed for the economically disadvantaged areas. A boom area does not correspond with economically disadvantaged.

There are many places in the city that are economically distressed and have a loss of housing units, yet there are no special compensations to the magnitude of that for Harbor Point. How does the BDC reconcile with its authority to produce special compensation areas that are experiencing economic growth?

This behavior exacerbates the disparity in housing growth while bringing a greater encumbrance on the average tax payer, many of whom live in enterprise zones that are truly "economically disadvantaged." These actions are a big reason why caution and financial scrutiny should take place for a developer who receives tax breaks and other incentives like Enterprise Zone status.

The article goes on to quote Rod Easter, president of the Baltimore Building and Construction Trade Council, who says that the councilman is holding up thousands of construction jobs, implying that these jobs would be for Baltimore's unemployed who need jobs, not for new temporary workers who would come only for the time of construction.

Why not inform the public, using past data, and describe how many construction workers get employed who are already residents in the city and then report to the public how many thousands of jobs are being held up?

The article tells that the spokesman for the mayor's office says that much information is available from the developer, but to whom is that information available? Does this information lay out who will benefit (other than the developers)? Does it specifically project the amount of new jobs that will help decrease the unemployment rate of 9.6 percent in a city of which is over 60 percent African American and 22 percent below the poverty line?

It is a fact that this new development will house workers from Exelon, and should receive much income from renting space to them. These Exelon jobs are not new; they are jobs that are moving "across the street." What are the new permanent jobs that are being held up?

Also, why should the public just allow a developer and the mayor's office to produce hundreds of pages of documents without giving full access to the documents so they can be legitimately discerned? This sounds like the old "Prendergast's city dealings" from the early/mid 1900s.

Again, this is the new day of fast and open communication from government. It is not unreasonable to thoroughly question a business project that is set to gain millions of dollars while loyal taxpayers end up losing state aid, particularly for education, as a result of the increased wealth that occurs from Harbor Point.

It is small-minded of The Sun to have a lead story implying that a councilman is trying to hurt the city of Baltimore when it seems that what he is trying to do is protect the taxpayers and make sure that all the documentation for the project is presented so that wise decisions can be made.

Linda Loubert, Baltimore

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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