City presents its BRAC proposals

The Baltimore Sun

Aiming to pull in newcomers expected to be shifted to Maryland as part of the nation's military base realignment process, Baltimore officials formally presented a plan yesterday to beef up local services and infrastructure.

The city's "BRACtion" plan asks the state to improve parts of the Baltimore-Washington Parkway, increase MARC service into Harford County and develop housing near the MARC station in West Baltimore, among other items.

Mayor Sheila Dixon informally presented these plans recently when Lt. Gov. Anthony G. Brown and the state Cabinet subcommittee in charge of base realignment visited the city to assess what changes the city might need to lure in newcomers.

But at the presentation to the subcommittee yesterday, new city schools CEO Andres Alonso suggested that the plan focus more on improving city education. Among his suggestions: take advantage of the city's underutilized charter schools as ways to entice new families, continue the creation of innovative schools and rethink the school curriculum to include more technical training.

Thousands of jobs are expected to pour into the area after the national Base Realignment and Closure, or BRAC, ordered jobs at bases in Northern Virginia and New Jersey to move to Maryland by 2011.

Baltimore wants to absorb as much of the economic boom from this population influx as it can. Although it's estimated that 2,500 of the 28,000 households expected to move to Maryland will come to city, the city also stands to benefit from new residents who seek entertainment options in Baltimore.

"Those people that are skeptical about whether we can capitalize on that BRAC growth aren't really getting it," said Andrew B. Frank, deputy mayor for neighborhoods and economic development.

"We're not focused on what is. ... We're focused on what could be."

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