City's secretive $107M tax giveaway is wrong

Where's the outrage? The city's Board of Finance, in secret, decided to give $107 million to a wealthy developer for the benefit of an even wealthier corporation ("Harbor Point to get city financing," May 21).

Apparently, ordinary citizens can't understand the magic that transforms complicated corporate giveaways into a rising tide of economic prosperity. Unfortunately, that prosperity has yet to reach many Baltimoreans. Access to affordable housing, decent jobs, safe streets, and neighborhood recreation centers has been eroded by the rush of public dollars into the pockets of those who least need this sort of welfare.

The numbers tell the story: the development strategy pursued by this and most other cities in the U.S. is just more social engineering to redistribute wealth. About 155,000 Baltimore residents have incomes below the federal poverty rate. Baltimore Housing reports that 43,617 low and moderate income Baltimore households cannot afford rent each month and are at risk of homelessness. In 1974, there were 23 inexpensive rooming houses for poor single adults and very little homelessness; gentrification soon destroyed them all, enabling the city to count 1,795 people literally without shelter on the night of January 25, 2011 (the most recent data available). Of course, if these individuals choose to sleep in one of the 58,223 vacant housing units in the city, they receive accommodations in our local jail.

Yet Baltimore continues its 40-year trajectory of subsidizing the rich, hoping that such investments will yield benefits for the rest. They never have and they never will.

The city should trade a failed development strategy for a fair development strategy. Adopting the goals of equity, transparency, participation, and accountability would assure that all Baltimoreans — not only the privileged few — benefit from public investments and economic growth.

Jeff Singer, Baltimore

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