Developer wins, residents lose in Paragon outlet mall vote
Source: Unlucky 7 for Citizens
Photo credit/Baltimore Sun
Typically, I try to keep the writing style of this blog light, as I hope to entertain as well as inform my readers.
Today, however, I’m going to take a more serious tone. At least I will try. You see, just beneath the surface of the County Council’s whitewash 7-0 vote green-lighting the 110 unit outlet mall in White Marsh are some very troubling issues.
First the development is the size of New York; well almost.
At the Council chambers, I sat next to Devin Crum of the East County Times; Devin wrote an article on July 23 that took an in-depth look at this whole matter. His comprehensive column piqued my interest and, when I read that two council-members (Bevins and Quirk) were the co-sponsors of this bill, the first thing that came to mind was the Jim Smith connection.
I covered that in my last blog, because I was wondering why a west side councilman would jump on board an east side issue. Well the dots led to campaign contributions—former County Executive Jim Smith gave financial support to both Bevins and Quirk, and Mr. Smith appeared in radio ads supporting now-Chairwoman Cathy Bevins.
Another disconcerting issue was the constant pandering of the legislation green-lighting the development by all members of the council. Every member sang the same tune, with Bevins leading the chorus.
“This is great for Baltimore County!”
“$15 million in tax revenue!”
“Jobs, jobs, and more jobs!”
The cheers were deafening … and somewhat sickening.
However, here is that undercurrent of disconnect I was speaking of, and it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to have some questions. This development isn’t taking anyone to the land of milk and honey—it leads to what the citizens (and many reporters) already know: something is afoul here.
All it takes, though, is a few phone calls to sniff out the odor of this unadulterated support for yet another developer, but even that is becoming a daunting and useless task.
So far, I have spoken with a living person (in person) from Paragon—Ms. Ann Beegle; sent an e-mail to the county traffic engineering department; and called Council Chairwoman Cathy Bevins and Captain Kangaroo seeking some answers.
The results were the same. Silence is golden! The same tune plays over and over, folks.
With that in mind, here is my take on this mess. The Council voted to approve a “mega-boondoggle” that will forever change the landscape of White Marsh, and all of this was done “on the fly” with no studies, stats, maps, or other documentation to assist with making an informed decision.
Why on earth would someone or in this case a whole pile of someones, vote on a bill without documents, coloring books, or other evidence? I interviewed numerous community leaders and got the lowdown on the uptown whitewash vote.
Case in point, Councilman Quirk. If he said it once, he’s said it a thousand times—jobs, jobs and more jobs. Tax revenue for the county in the amount of $15 million.
Sounds impressive, doesn’t it?
What confuses me, though, is that Mr. Quirk is supposed to be in the business of investing money for other folks. To that end, one might think he should know a thing or two about jobs, especially low-wage ones.
Who wants to tell me that a small outlet store is going to pay a living wage? And, if you think I’m blowing smoke, then look at the following information fanning this flame:
As for the $15 million in tax revenues for the County, that huge amount of dough could really just be a big pile of stale bread! Read this about one dollar for 25 years in taxes paid to the city by a builder:
So much for jobs and tax revenues.
Throwing some more fuel on the fire was a Readers Respond piece written in the Sun by John Bishop, who wrote, “So, how can council members Bevins and Quirk get the project approved and not have to consider the adverse effect of the project on so many neighborhoods.” Good question Mr. Bishop. I’ve been asking the same thing.
The answer to that may lie in the $5,000 campaign donation from Paragon to the Bevins campaign because, when asked about her “This is a jobs bill” comment, critics stated that there were no living wage positions.
Mrs. Bevins’ answer boggles the mind. In Devin’s article, her response was that, without this bill, the project could be tied up in the courts “forever.”
Hopefully, before that comes to fruition, Mrs. Bevins will be cast from her lofty perch as the “Council crier.”
Finally, to the Council and the Kamenetz administration, another blatant misnomer is the following quote from our leader taken from the Sun:
“The effort is designed to ‘increase transparency of county government operations’ and was not triggered by the newspaper’s request, spokeswoman Ellen Kobler said.”
In a statement, the County Executive said, “People expect government to be open and forthcoming with information and that is what we are doing in Baltimore County.”
Excuse me while I stifle a chuckle. Or, perhaps it is a gagging noise. Either way, that last quote was the most laughable/disturbing statement I have read in a while.