The Baltimore County Council recently passed legislation (available for viewing at the end of this article) giving Tradepoint Atlantic $78 million in taxpayer funds to improve the privately owned property’s infrastructure, as well as provide police and fire protection.
The legislation was introduced by Council Chairman Julian Jones at the request of then-Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler. This entire legislation was discussed in detail at a Council work session on December 11, 2018.
The Baltimore Post received a phone call from a very informed citizen–a businessman who, before contacting the Post, did his due diligence and made several phone calls to members of the council asking where was the authority in the legislation allowing for the $78 million loan to TPA. This citizen questioned both the legislation and the lack of transparency from various members of the county council. According to this concerned citizen, nobody he spoke with could validate how legislation was crafted without showing the various aspects involved during the council work session.
After reading the legislation several times, we began to ask the same questions regarding the authority to write TPA a $78 million corporate welfare check. We are also very curious about the so-called promises by TPA regarding special police and fire protection, as well as open space issues. Adding more fuel to the fire, the Post obtained another document that described in detail the structured loan to TPA in detail.
The second document originated from the Office of the County Auditor under the subject title, “Revised Fiscal Note for FM – 1.” (You can view the document below.) The verbiage in this second document is quite clear regarding the structure of the loan to TPA, along with the other $1.5 million in the bill passed by the county council.
After carefully reading both documents, we began to wonder why this language was not included in the original legislation that rubber stamped by the council members. Just as the aforementioned concerned citizen did, we reached out to three members of the county council to see what kind of response we would receive.
Our first phone call was to Council Chairman Jones, who was not available. We left a detailed message asking where in the legislation lies in the authority for Baltimore County to grant $78 million of taxpayer funds to a privately held business.
We also sent Chairman Jones an email asking the same question, and we made his secretary aware of our request for this information. The secretary assured us that Mr. Jones would receive our request for comment.
Nevertheless, Chairman Jones did not respond to our phone call or email. We felt this was especially egregious considering the amount of money given to TPA, along with what appeared to be the chairman’s complete lack of knowledge regarding this complex and expensive legislation.
The Post made two more attempts to find someone within the council who could explain this particular legislation so the voters can understand where their tax dollars are going.
Councilman Todd Crandell did not reply to our email, or even acknowledge that he had received it.
Finally, Councilwoman Cathy Bevins also provided no response to our inquiry.
So much for the pledge of the “new transparency” promised by Johnny O during his campaign.
If anyone can explain the intricacies of this legislation, we will be happy to give you a forum to do so.
Here is the link to the Baltimore County Council webpage for those who may want to revisit the work session, during which many issues were discussed that do not appear in the final legislation. The videos you should watch to learn more about this particular legislation are from December 11 and 17, 2018.
In closing, the Post could not find any prior legislation that dealt with this particular type or level of funding for a private enterprise like TPA. It appears that we’ve broken new ground, folks. However, this ground breaking could end up being back breaking for the taxpayers.