July 16, 2013 10:18 am ET
Ignoring the important questions, but putting out plenty of spin
Kudos to the Baltimore Sun’s Alison Knezevich and her front page story on the potential sale of the North Point Government Center. Her story was fantastic, and she wasted no time in getting to the heart of the issue.
My favorite quote from the story came from community leader Karen Cruz. “[The Government Center] doesn’t belong to the politicians. And there’s been no input at all.”
Several other notable community leaders echoed the same sentiments—namely former Parks and Recreations Supervisors Bob Staab John Weber, as well as former Councilman Joe Bartenfelder.
I’ve written plenty about the Government Center mess, so I am well versed in what is going on with the situation. However, after reading the Sun article, there were several issues that jumped out at me. One in particular was the county turning down a Public Information Act request from the newspaper. All the Sun was seeking was details of the proposals submitted by developers in April, but the county turned down the media flat.
My response would be see you in court.
Honestly, I see no legal reason why the county’s leaders can’t respond in some meaningful way with at least some information for the community. Especially since this is such a touchy issue with a lot of residents.
By the way, when I filed my suit, I did receive the documents I was seeking. I’m just saying…
The county’s trend of staying mute on the issue continues with the Sun. In a recent blog post, I discussed how my simple request for a release date of the bidding process was ignored. All I requested was for them to tell us when we can expect the announcement. That question does not in any way provide any secret details or interfere with all the closed-door meetings with the evaluation committee “playing cards” with the citizens’ assets at stake.
It’s not like we’re asking them to reveal how the deck might be stacked in that card game, though that is something that would be good to know.
The evaluation committee is working in reverse, it seems. If I had to take an educated guess, I would say that the committee members are pondering how to tell the county executive there aren’t enough funds left for all of the “replace the government facilities and fund school improvements” promises being made.
Has anyone bothered to think how much it’s going to cost the county to turn the Eastwood School into a police precinct?
In the beginning of this blog, I used the term “propaganda machine,” which was prompted by this announcement from the county. Go ahead and click over (and, after reading, you’ll understand why I discussed propaganda).
Now that you’ve read that, I’ll do my best to interpret what the announcement really says.
Let’s start from the beginning. The title, “Dundalk Booming” is just a tad suspicious (and, possibly, in bad taste after the recent train explosion). I’m always leery of products that have commercials touting the product’s success before one can either use it or test it.
The first claim, right from the get-go, is questionable. I wrote about this back in 2011, and not much has changed since then. Apparently, the Shopping Center cannot attract a major supermarket chain, so this changes the playing field. In my
conversations with center management, a major chain would mean 70% new business for the center. Conversely, without a name brand name food store, the figure is reduced to 30% new and 70% refurbished. A farmers’ market is hardly a major draw, and I can’t see the flea market by Walmart adding a certain class that would attract upscale businesses.
Further on in the announcement is a lot of “could’ve, would’ve, and should’ve” statements, such as this interesting pipe dream:
“According to data from Artois Retail, over 83,000 people live on the Dundalk peninsula. The developer, who is working with Regional Management to transform Merritt Park Shopping Center, notes that 6,623 Dundalk households currently have average incomes over $75,000. By 2017, that number is projected to grow by almost 40 percent to 9,170 households.”
It’s rather funny how they now have a crystal ball to predict the average income by 2017 when the reality of the current economy is still in peril. When the Federal Reserve stops pumping money into the economy, the market will head south on a deep correction and the interest rates will rise, stunting any economic growth.
The housing market has taken a dip. The vacancy rate of store fronts in Dundalk is also high.
This link also paints a rather bleak picture of our community. Even the Sun has a few choice words regarding our community as opposed to the grandiose pipe dreams of the county.
The economic situation is just a tad different then they want us to believe. The announcement’s projected 2017 average income is a bit off, especially when you look at the current reality—Maryland’s medium income is $72,000, while Dundalk’s fell to $48,000.
Last, but not least, is the setup for quotes from our Councilman John Olszewski, Jr. These are followed by supporting (depending on your point of view) accolades from the cheerleaders of the DRC, who have been pushing for the sale of the Government Center and have backed the Yorkway/Vontran deal.
I want to wait until the ethics investigation is complete before I give theses quotes any credence:
“It is really exciting to see all of this private investment in Dundalk,” said Councilman John Olszewski, Sr. “The private sector is recognizing what those of us who have lived here for years have always known: Dundalk is a great place to live, work, and raise a family.”
“It’s great to see so much new private investment in Dundalk,” said Amy Menzer, Executive Director of the Dundalk Renaissance Corporation. “We’ll all benefit from the new shops, restaurants, services and housing coming to our community.”
Sounds impressive, doesn’t it? That is until you look at reality.
Never let a good press release go to waste, but be sure to watch out for that propaganda! Or, at the very least, be sure to wear your hip waders—it’s starting to get a little deep out there.