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Op-ed: Community rails against TPA corporate welfare
Posted by The Executive Committee , 7th District Civic Council on 12th September 2018
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Photo credit/Tradepoint Atlantic

 

Pam Wood’s article in the Baltimore Sun, Tradepoint Atlantic hits a turning point, seeks government financing, which exposes corporate cronyism on steroids, is a journalistic breath of fresh air.

Out of the gate, Mrs. Wood addresses the central question at hand: How do Baltimore County property and income taxpayers benefit by giving $150 million to two of Maryland’s richest billionaires, Tradepoint Atlantic (TPA) and NFL Ravens owner Steve Bisciotti, and Jim Davis? (Their combined personal net worth is $8.2 billion, according to Forbes.)

Baltimore County’s Spending Affordability Committee Member Councilman Tom Quirk wrote in the committee’s 2018 report: “The county’s financial outlook presents immense challenges that the next administration and council will be forced to address.” In layman’s terms, that means “We’re busted.”

Money needed for new schools and retired workers has already triggered higher taxes and cuts in county services.

Not true? On day one, Interim Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler raised Baltimore County water rates 40% to fund Baltimore County’s crumbling water system, which is in dire need of more than $100 million in upgrades.

Businesses will either absorb the 40% rate increase, resulting in less money to hire employees and reinvestment, or will pass the cost off to the consumer. County residents’ choices are no better: work longer (taxable) hours or “Just Do Without.”  No free TPA taxpayer lunch here.

Which begs the question: why did Mohler and the Baltimore County Council refuse to legislate Tax Increment Funding for the $100 million dollar county water system improvements that would clearly benefit county taxpayers with no tax increases for 10 years and amortize the capital water project expenditure over 30 years (like TPA plans to do)?

The county taxpayer will not receive one dime of increased tax revenue during TPA’s TIF  10- year property tax holiday, while in harsh contrast the taxpayers have been immediately stuck with a 40% water rate increase by County Executive Don Mohler’s July 1, 2018, unilateral decision.

It plainly appears Baltimore County taxpayers are paying for TPA’s infrastructure at the opportunity expense of TIF-ing their own public infrastructure.

Corporations are financed by equity in the form of stocks or debt in the form of bonds. TIF is bond financing. The question is: why has TPA not packaged its own bonds and offered them on the bond market? Instead, TPA defaulted from get-go to the to bond purchaser of last resort: the powerless taxpayer.

With statements of endorsement from both county and state alike, we add.

“You don’t have a lot of projects that you can look at and say: Can we get billions of dollars of return, year over year, and put tens of thousands of people back to work?” said Will Anderson, Baltimore County’s director of economic development.

“It’s a really hot project,” said Michael Gill, the state’s secretary of commerce. “It’s easy to get excited. It’s got all the pieces for something great.”

The taxpayer is falsely given the impression that TPA bonds would sell like hot-cakes on the open market.

Maybe the “roughness” that TPA PR man Arron Tomarchio mentioned early on in Wood’s article speaks to her Sparrow’s Point Shipyard photo illustrating the paradox of Bisciotti and Davis holding $35 million in one hand while buying TPA’s hard asset, the Sparrow’s Point Shipyard, with a proverbial tin cup in their other hand crying poverty to the busted Baltimore County taxpayers for their TIF money.

Wood’s coverage of Tomarchio taking his medicine show on the road to “community meeting sycophants” pedaling the TPA cure-all as a panacea for southeast Baltimore County’s decades-long economic and social blight alludes to the crumbs communities settle for in Planned Unit Development “community benefits agreements.”  Many community leaders fail to reflect the membership consensus when confronted with developer or politician “sweetheart deals.”

After four years and more than $100 million of state and county taxpayer money “invested” in TPA, Baltimore County’s 7th District remains distinguished with the lowest per capita and household incomes, lowest property values,  highest number of families with children younger than 18 and people older than 65 living below the federal poverty level, and the highest crime stats, with the homicide stat boosted by last week’s double murder across from Patapsco Senior High School.

The Mass Transits Authority’s No. 63 direct bus line from downtown Baltimore City, named by USA Today as the nation’s most dangerous city,  is designed to provide “cheap, Move To Opportunity, city labor” for jobs repeatedly promised to the depressed neighborhoods of Dundalk and Sparrows Point.  Invariably, wage suppression and the irreversible alteration of TPA’s surrounding community’s middle-class fabric is on the horizon.

The recent 2017 HUD/Baltimore County Conciliatory Agreement mandating expansion and re-distribution of Baltimore County housing voucher recipients was signed unilaterally by then-Baltimore County Executive Kamenetz without citizen or Baltimore County Council participation.

Locally, the TPA-neighboring sleepy communities of Millers Island, Fort Howard, Todd’s Farm, and Denton Avenue qualify for UNLIMITED housing voucher residents under the HUD/Baltimore County Agreement. And with the proper political mix, the looming Fort Howard VA Campus is prime for developer profit.

Amazon’s fanfare arrival at TPA has taken a prophetic undertone with national attention to supply-chain robber baron Jeff Bezos (whose net worth is $169 billion according to Forbes).

The $169 billion dollar equation: $12.50 per hour + qualifying low-wage earner state assistance = untold payroll subsidy Bezos wealth resulted in Congress introducing the “StopBezosAct” this week:

“requiring large employers such as Amazon.com…pay the government for food stamps, public housing, Medicaid and other federal assistance received by their workers. The bill’s name is a dig at Amazon chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos and stands for “Stop Bad Employers by Zeroing Out Subsidies Act,” establishing a 100 percent tax on government benefits received by workers at companies with at least 500 employees halting taxpayers subsidizing the wealthiest people paying their workers’ inadequate wages.” Sanders-VT

In closing, ask yourself: how do you, Baltimore County’s property and income taxpayers, benefit giving $150 million to two of Maryland’s richest billionaires, Steve Bisciotti and Jim Davis?

You should give your answer to your councilman.


The 7th District Civic Council, Inc. (501. c) is made up of various community associations on east the side of Baltimore County.