In a Tale of Two Developments, Jim Brochin Emerges as Pro-Community Candidate for Baltimore County Executive
Op-Ed by: Jennifer Shapiro
When the Baltimore County administration launched an initiative to sell public land, it unwittingly created a litmus test for future democratic candidates. Vicki Almond, John Olszewski, Jr. and Jim Brochin each had opportunities to support the needs of communities over developers, but only one proves true-blue.
In the County seat, the administration selected Caves Valley Partners to build a Royal Farms gas station and convenience store at “Towson’s Gateway.” Despite persistent community protest, Vicki Almond supported the developer in three consecutive votes. The Councilwoman’s votes lacked independent leadership, a commitment to the environment, collaboration with community and upholding of development standards. Most concerning of all, while the project is not in her district, she failed to use the power of her swing vote when it counted. Instead, after the administration’s illegal removal of 30 trees from the site, she blindsided the community she refused to meet with, joining the other Democrats in tabling a Resolution that would have permanently removed gas from the development. Ms. Almond’s support for any and all projects along existing commercial corridors reveals a deeply flawed understanding of the kind of economic development that grows urban centers into vibrant, mixed-use, walkable communities.
In Dundalk, the administration selected Vanguard Commercial to develop a plan the local community overwhelmingly opposes that nearly eliminates recreational space to make room for a retail center at the North Point Government Park. In October 2013, Dundalk United (DU) met with their State legislators and each promised to write the County Executive and Governor stating their opposition to the project. Only one delegate followed-thru, and it was not Johnny O. Mr. Olszewski also declined to join 7000 district constituents that signed the DU petition. The community’s expensive and exhausting success stalling the project in the courts is in spite of the Olszewkis (John Olszewksi, Sr. was the district’s County Councilman at the time) rather than with their help. With good reason Dundalk residents fear the project may move forward in an Olszewski administration.
By contrast, Senator Brochin signed Save Towson’s Gateway’s (STG) petition four days after it was posted. Jim showed up at STG rallies, community meetings and Council sessions to support his constituents as they took on a government-developer juggernaut determined to steamroll over them. He is the only Maryland State Senator who wrote to the Governor and State Comptroller in support of DU. In Towson and Dundalk, the Senator has demonstrated his commitment to his campaign message: in a Brochin administration, pay-to-play will end. Responsible re-development, park development and preservation of open space will supersede over-development. Baltimore County is at a crossroads. Will we elect a County Executive that further undermines our quality of life by favoring developers over community? Or will we bring badly needed checks and balances on the County Council in land use matters by electing Jim Brochin as our next County Executive?
For Save Towson’s Gateway
and with supporters of Dundalk United