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  April 2, 2017

The Real Baltimore: Take-Home Cars for Cops, No Water for Kids... How Baltimore's Policies Heighten Inequity


In this episode of The Real Baltimore our panel of journalists dissects the long-term consequences of giving tax breaks to developers and poor oversight of police for a city that can't adequately fund education by Taya Graham and Stephen Janis
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Full Episode

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Baltimore's Mack Lewis Gym: Uplifting Youth through Boxing
Trump Administration Fails to Silence Police Reform Advocates
Mayor's $15 Veto has Unions Rethinking their Support of Democrats
The Real Baltimore: Take-Home Cars for Cops, No Water for Kids... How Baltimore's Policies Heighten Inequity
UPDATED: With Veto Override in Jeopardy, Advocates Say Action Needed to Save $15 Wage Effort
Maryland Black Caucus Votes Against Rollback of Bail Reform
Democrats Must Take on Corporate Power If they Want to Win
LGBTQ Activists Call for Accountability Following Murder of Trans Woman of Color in Baltimore
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Baltimore Public School Funding Pales in Comparison to Private Education Spending
Baltimore Mayor's Veto of $15 Wage Protects Policy of Subsidizing Wealthy, Councilperson Says
Baltimore Public School Funding Pales in Comparison to Private Education Spending
Whistle Blower Teacher Says Charter Schools Draining Students, Resources from Public Education


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transcript

The Real Baltimore:  Take-Home Cars for Cops, No Water for Kids... How 
Baltimore's Policies Heighten InequityTAYA GRAHAM: For years, Baltimore has forged a path that city leaders promised would save the city. Tax breaks for developers, and aggressive investments in policing. But that policy mix seems to hit more than a few roadblocks. The city police department has been under fire from the Department of Justice, while crime has skyrocketed.

Meanwhile, the tax breaks that were supposed to lure residents in the city ran into a major piece of bad news. A recent census bureau estimates that the city lost 6,000 residents, and all those shortcomings don't even touch the $130 million structural deficit facing city schools. But it's the policies themselves that has brought us here, and to help me understand the path the city has forged, and its impact going forward, are three people who covered the city, and these issues in detail.

Melody Simmons is a reporter for the Baltimore Business Journal, who covers real estate and development. Luke Broadwater covers City Hall for the Baltimore Sun, and Stephen Janis is an investigative reporter for The Real News Network.

But first, we have a package from Stephen on recent developments.

STEVEN JANIS: The story of how the city finds itself on the declining population, and a fiscal crisis begins with this seemingly unremarkable piece of paper, that has more implications for the city of Baltimore than its surface reveals. It's a new overtime slip, recently issued by the Baltimore Police Department obtained by The Real News.

It requires officers to justify extra pay, which has skyrocketed this year by checking a series of boxes. But it's not as innocuous as it seems. That's because for years, the Police Department told us, a detailed slip like this did not exist.

In other words, getting overtime was easy. A point hammered home, when seven Baltimore cops were indicted, bragging about how easy it was to get overtime without working.

KEVIN DAVIS: You know, we know that our city is challenged with revenue sources, and we have many competing interests. Not only within our own public safety community, but throughout the city, education, etcetera. The allegations of time and attendance, and overtime fraud and overtime abuse, it's disgusting.

STEPHEN JANIS: In fact, in a series of whistleblower interviews with city teachers, we learned that schools lack water, were infested with rodents, and often went without heat. Meanwhile our cameras caught this, rows of take home cars for police sitting in a lot gathering dust. We asked police about them, but they would not comment.

It is a juxtaposition of largesse and decay that has defined this city for decades. The question is will it ever change?

This is Stephen Janis reporting for The Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland.

TAYA GRAHAM: So, Luke, let me start out with you. You recently sent out a tweet talking about police funding over the past decade. What did you say?

LUKE BROADWATER: Well, if you look at the police budgets over the past seven or eight years, you'll see that there's a pretty rapid increase. Back in 2011, when the city experienced its lowest homicide rate in modern history, which was 197 homicides, the police department spent about $350 million, and that's including overtime and all other expenses.

Today the police budget stands at $480 million, that's $130 million more. So, you can see that there's been quite an increase over that time. And interestingly enough, that $130 million more, is the exact size of the school budget deficit currently. So, there is a movement now, in city government, among city council president Jack Young, members of the city council, and even Mayor Pugh herself, to shrink these police costs, and to give some of that money to the school system.

Jack Young has said he wants to cut $10 million from the police budget. He hasn't said exactly where that will be. Mayor Pugh has said that she wants to cut about $5 million from the police budget. So, we're looking at about a $15 million cut.

TAYA GRAHAM: Now, why do you think the City Council and the City Council president is taking this new direction?

LUKE BROADWATER: Well, I think they see a real need. You know, when you're talking about $130 million deficit in the school system. And the potential for one thousand layoffs of many teachers, that means classroom sizes would increase by some estimates of 10 students per classroom. Already the city is having a hard time keeping population.

And if class sizes rise in the Baltimore City Public Schools, many believe that you will see more flight of parents, and families, who are worried about sending their kids to the public schools.

TAYA GRAHAM: Now Melody, we've heard from the Census Bureau that the city's population is declining, but when I look around Baltimore city I see apartment complexes going up everywhere. How is this possible?

MELODY SIMMONS: There's been a big boom in building up the multi-family developments here. And a lot of millennials are moving into the city. A lot of empty nesters are moving in. I did a story recently that said that it could be a bubble, and the bubble could burst, because they have overdeveloped. There's close to eight, or 10,000 new units within the one-mile radius of Harbor Place, of Pratt and Light, which is a lot. And there are more coming online.

If you look over in Locust Point, you have Anthem House, 300 plus apartments going to going to open this summer. And then, I was just down there this morning, and 414 Light, that giant tower, is very much coming out of the ground. So, that will probably deliver late next year. So, there's a lot of new luxury high-priced apartments coming up.

LUKE BROADWATER: Melody, how much do you think that has to do with the tax break that Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, -- what was it -- two, three years ago about multi-family where you have sort of a pilot for 10 years. How much do you think it has to do with the building boom?

MELODY SIMMONS: I think it has a lot to do with it. I think a lot of the developers latched onto that, and ran with the ball, and I think that sun sets, sometime in the next year or two. So, that's one reason that there was a big rush to develop a lot of these properties. It's not only in that one mile radius from Pratt and Light, but if you go north, you're going to see a lot of building in Station North, Remington, further on up in the Jones Falls Valley, with the old mills.

So, there's a lot of new development heading north, south, east and west. So, you're seeing it just starting to come online now.

TAYA GRAHAM: So, are the developers seeing something that we're not? Because the Census Bureau just said that we've lost up to 6,000 people. How do they feel so confident to keep building?

MELODY SIMMONS: Well, I think the Census Bureau is probably a shocking figure to a lot of the developers. I think that the newest data, and of course we're a little over mid-way for the next big census. But, this is kind of a canary in the coalmine, to see what's happening. Who's moving in here, you know what kind of population the city is going to have.

LUKE BROADWATER: And I think what we're seeing, if you look at the census data, as we do see still good numbers in the young people coming into Baltimore, which is like 18 to 35. And then you have plus 55. Where we're really seeing the middle hollow out is from people from 35 to 55 with children, who are leaving for the counties.

And, largely, if you want to look at it racially, the white population is increasing or staying the same, where it's really the black families that are leaving to go to the counties. And I think, if you look at the city's investment strategies in development over the past 10 years, where are you seeing the growth, where are you seeing investment, where are the big tax breaks going?

They're largely around the waterfront and in the majority white areas, and if you do not the same investment in those other communities, well, it makes sense that people would leave.

TAYA GRAHAM: That's really interesting that you mentioned the racial demographics of this. Now to switch gears slightly, but also might play into why people are leaving, policing, police over time abuse. Now you said, you recently received an overtime slip, a new one, to improve on the previous pattern and practice.

STEPHEN JANIS: Well, it's interesting when you listen to what's going on with all the tax breaks that have been given out, we obtained an overtime slip that the police department just issued. But what's remarkable about it, is not that they have an overtime slip, but I asked the police about it and they said, "Well, this is different because it asks officers to detail why they need overtime."

In other words, they have to give some sort of justification, with some sort of detail, what they're doing. Now why is that remarkable? Because as Luke has reported over and over again, the city's overtime has been unbelievably out of proportion, to what the city has budgeted for. It has consistently gone over this year, you know, as about 40 million was budgeted, roughly around 15 million, something like that.

So, what's remarkable about it, when we think about it in the context a city with declining population, a city with a declining tax base, and a city with structural deficit in schools, is that they never asked police officers to give any sort of detail in terms of what they were doing to earn this extra money. And it's even more funny, or I guess and more sad, excuse me, sorry, that you have six, seven officers who were just indicted, who were making jokes about how easy it is to get overtime, and you don't even have to work.

Well, I mean, one guy was on vacation in South Carolina, right? I mean, but Luke and I have talked about, we've written about this, 10 years ago we wrote about this, and it was the same kind of stuff. And as Luke points out in 2011, they actually reduced overtime. But they come right back and get it.

And now the city is finally, after that decade period of time that we know of, actually asking people to give us some detail of what are you doing. So, it kind of shows a disconnect, given the physical challenges this city is facing. Given the fact that they're giving out so many tax breaks.

TAYA GRAHAM: You know, it's interesting, overtime is a privilege that costs the taxpayers money, but so are take-home cars. And you also, in that video package, talked about take-home cars and you had some video of it.

STEPHEN JANIS: Yeah, we went over to the Police Education Training on North, Northern Parkway, and videoed some take-home cars that just had been sitting a lot for an extended period of time. We've asked the police about it, and they wouldn't comment. But one of the reasons we asked about it is, because that same unit that was indicted by the police recently, they had multiple take-home cars.

Several of the officers had multiple -- we have heard up to three or four take-home cars, situated throughout the city -- the expense is tremendous. And we've been asking for more information. But I did a story a couple of years ago where there were 22 cars going to Pennsylvania. Now, what does a take-home car mean? It means that a police officer has a free car, with free gas, and free maintenance, at their disposal whenever they want it.

Supposedly, this unit had tons of them. And the fact that we are dealing with the type of deficits, the type of loss of population, but the police department continues to, sort of, what I would say, I think many people have said and told you, these take-home cars, and not righted this issue, again shows some of the disconnect in the city's fiscal situation, compared to maybe where it should be.

MELODY SIMMONS: I think other city agencies have had the take-home car controversy, as well. The Housing Department and with the lead paint, the settlement, they really got a judgment against them, and were going to go and repossess the cars.

And a lot of the inspectors, and some of the executives in the Housing Department, had Jeep Cherokees, and were driving them all around town.

TAYA GRAHAM: These types of perks are one of the reasons why we had these budget shortfalls. But casino gambling money was supposed to help take care of that.

Now, Luke, you wrote a story about casino gambling, some of the concerns people had with using that money for school funding. And since we have a structural budget deficit, it seems like the money isn't being used wisely. Can you talk about that a little bit?

LUKE BROADWATER: Yes. So this has been a controversy since casino gambling was approved. Many people said at the time, yes all the ads say this money's going to go to the schools, but let's look at the fine print. Does it actually say more money for schools on top of what would already be budgeted, or not? The Bill that was passed did not require more money to go to the schools, just that casino money went to schools.

So, right now we have about $2 billion that have been raised through the casinos. That's $2 billion (over-talking) within the education trust fund. But what has happened is the state is required to fund the schools according to a formula, it's called the Thornton formula.

And what has happened is, they've just used the money to fund that formula, and then taken percentages of the budget that would have gone to schools previously, and used that on other things.

So, this might get a little wonky, but before the casino money came in, it used to be 21% of the general fund went to schools, and now it's 18%. So, they've taken three percent that would have gone to schools otherwise and now they spend it elsewhere, thanks to this casino money.

MELODY SIMMONS: And that's the legal mandate. So, they're working within the mandate.

LUKE BROADWATER: It's the bill that was passed, and that's how the law works...(over-talking)

STEPHEN JANIS: And you know, as you pointed out Luke, you know, the ads really made it seem like this was going to be some sort of benefit. There was going to be increased funding, and that's why people feel... And now we've got a casino, which obviously -- a teacher was just indicted, right? For stealing school funds and gambling in a casino.

Gambling has a lot of social cost, and yet what are we getting out of it? We 're not getting increased funding, just maybe getting the social cost here.

LUKE BROADWATER: And this problem is most pronounced in Baltimore. Because there actually is no connection between casino money and school funding in the law, Baltimore's casino has brought in now close to $300 million, has pumped this out for the education trust fund. At the same time, the city schools have gotten less money each year it's been opened from the state. So, what's happening is the city's casino's actually funding all the other schools across the state, and not the city.

STEPHEN JANIS: That is just. That is just... really...

MELODY SIMMONS: That's the funding formula.

TAYA GRAHAM: And so, if I understand correctly, the casino money isn't supplementing, it's just sort of replacing. So, that they can just that money elsewhere. So, it's not additional money being added to the school-funding budget.

LUKE BROADWATER: Now the proponents of this would say, "Hey, look, schools are a big cost. It's a big state we've got lots of other priorities to fund. We've got to build roads, and give money to hospitals and pensions, and people's salaries and all this other stuff. So, we can't just fund schools." So, the casino money helps free up money for other things.

MELODY SIMMONS: As much angst is going on right now about the funding, I think people should keep also, eye on the prize, that there are some new schools coming online. There will be some great opportunities for educators, and students, coming up in the next five years in the city.

TAYA GRAHAM: Well, I just want to switch gears for a moment to talk about tax breaks for developers. Because I know there is some impact of that on our school budget. Now, in Baltimore it seems like the rich keep on getting richer. Wealthy developer Paterakis, just sold his Legg Mason building for a profit, and Baltimore City was supposed receive some benefit from that. What happened?

MELODY SIMMONS: Well, what happened was, they developed the Legg Mason building, Harbor East Management, which is H&S Bakery, an offshoot of the bakery, the Paterakis family, and of course, it's in Harbor East, which has become very successful, the gold coast and the city. And they didn't sell the whole building; they sold a stake in the building. They remain a partner and owner of the building.

They won't confirm the percentage; we think it's about 56% that the new CBRE global investors have purchased in the building. Brought in a record price for real estate in Baltimore, close to $460 per square foot. Which is a lot of money. But we're talking about the waterfront; we're talking about Harbor East.

The flip side of that is, that building had a pilot attached to it, and the new investors CBRE did not want to purchase the stake in the building with the pilot, so they went to the city and they asked to write a check to the city, $2 million, to have the pilot relieved, which passed.

And so, the building sale went through, it went to settlement, sans pilot. Pilot, of course, being a payment in lieu of taxes. So, it does raise a lot of questions about how these tax deals operate, who they benefit.

There was no public airing of that. There was no hearing on that. It was not brought before the BDC, which is where the pilot is first introduced and discussed, and then into the city council chambers, we had none of that discussion at the time.

STEPHEN JANIS: Why would they not want the pilot? I mean, what was the motivation?

MELODY SIMMONS: I think, my understanding, they won't really talk about it, but my understanding is that it was just a drag on the building, a drag on the value of the building, and the future possibilities for it.

STEPHEN JANIS: Because of the profit sharing aspect of it, or...?

MELODY SIMMONS: There was a profit sharing attached to it and I think that was part, in the long run. That was the hold up, that they didn't want to sign into, and buy into, and invest in that building with the profit sharing with the city.

TAYA GRAHAM: Stephen, speaking of tax breaks; there is a tax break known as a TIF that has been very controversial in Baltimore. Can you talk a little bit about TIF?

STEPHEN JANIS: Well, just so people understand, this is my understanding of TIF, but of course, there's a bit debate. It's called a Tax Increment Finance. And the idea is that, you know, a sort of abandoned piece of property has very little value. The city allows the developer to put the real estate, the taxes they would normally pay on property, into the building by capturing the value that is created by the actual TIF, or by the tax rate itself.

But, of course, as Melody's point out and Luke has pointed out, these TIFs have not gone to places, generally, that you would consider to be where... I think the original idea would be in a place that's kind of run down. I mean, and that's not what's happened. And so, you've seen a heavy concentration of TIFs in places that already have a lot of value.

And the controversy is that, you know, we just had huge TIF with Kevin Plank, who's the billionaire owner of Under Armour, shortly after the uprising of Freddie Grey, and the constant narrative about the city.

MELODY SIMMONS: Right. It's one of the biggest TIFs in Baltimore City's history.

STEPHEN JANIS: Yeah. Is it like the third biggest in the country, or something... or fourth...?

MELODY SIMMONS: Yeah, Second or third of the nation, but definitely the biggest.

STEPHEN JANIS: What's fascinating about it is, it shows how the city's been cemented to this policy that you talked about at the beginning about policing, and tax rate. Surely, after Baltimore City became the macrocosm, or microcosm of poverty, and inequity, in the aftermath of the death of Freddie Grey and the uprising. They approved one of the biggest TIFs ever.

Now you know, Kevin Plank would argue it goes in the infrastructure, it builds buildings, but the bottom line is that all of us probably would like to put our real estate taxes into our property. And so, this policy also, you ask Luke about it, he reported on it, it's going to have an impact on schools down the road.

So, it is something that locks the city in, many of these deals, for decades. And, as like Mason showed, even if the city has some protection... they don't.

MELODY SIMMONS: It's almost like an easement, say a rural easement. It's supposed to be permanent. And the pilot when it's set, and a TIF when it's set is done so contractually. And it is for a set period of time. There are repayment schedules made up. And really it's supposed to for 30 years. It's very rare, and interesting to see, how they were allowed to come in and just jettison, from the pilot. And, of course, no public debate, no public communication.

STEPHEN JANIS: Especially when the city would have benefited, I think, tremendously from, if they had profit sharing. They probably would have done more.

MELODY SIMMONS: Right. Right.

LUKE BROADWATER: And what we see, as you mentioned with the school's funding, is that when you do these 30-year deals, and 10 year or 20 year deals, as an example, Port Covington. Port Covington's supposed to be $5.5 billion, right? That's going to be paying a ton of taxes, supposedly, should be. But if you do a 30-year TIF with them, now all the tax money goes to improving the infrastructure down at Port Covington, instead of doing things like funding the schools, because of these special deals.

And we're seeing pilots, TIFs, the enterprise there and apartment tax credits, there are so many all across the city, that so many developers are not paying into the general fund, which can be used for the schools, that we see some of these school budget shortfalls.

TAYA GRAHAM: Yeah, I just wanted to ask you, can you tell me a little bit more about the impact of TIFs on school funding?

LUKE BROADWATER: Yeah, and this is something that the general assembly's going to grappling with. Unfortunately they haven't really done anything of substance yet on it, and so we're still seeing the impact. This year alone about 12 million of the 130 million deficit, is due to the rising wealth of the city, but at the same time, not having the corresponding tax revenues because of all these special deals.

So, it doesn't fix the whole school budget problem, but it does fix some of it. So, right now there's debate over whether we can change the law, change the funding formulas, to prevent some of that from happening.

STEPHEN JANIS: You know, I have an interesting thought. I know Cark Stokes kind of did a report about it a couple of years ago, about TIFs. But is there any sort of collective assessment of what all these different programs are costing the city, in terms of tax revenue. I mean...?

MELODY SIMMONS: There is. It lives in the Finance Department. Do they update it? It's very rare.

STEPHEN JANIS: I mean, I've seen that one-page report, is that what you're talking about?

MELODY SIMMONS: The taskforce report?

STEPHEN JANIS: Well, I saw the taskforce, yeah.

MELODY SIMMONS: Yeah, right. Well, what's happened is, and BDC, is supposed to really be a shepherd of this, because that's the development, and also in conjunction with the Finance Department. But we don't see it, and they claim they don't have the staff to monitor. So, it's very difficult to see how that path goes, once it is voted on and signed, and the bonds go to market to private investors, it kind of stops there.

There have been several instances with TIFs in the city, where they couldn't make the payment. They didn't have enough tax revenue to pay the bondholders. So, they had to have a special tax. And this is something that is, you know, it's the last case scenario in a TIF, when you structure it together, but it has happened. And I think that this is always a big worry.

I believe this is why they put the apartments in the Exalon Building, to get some rental revenue. Those apartments just appeared at the UDARP. Boom. We're putting a -- 100 apartments in. What? So we had that, and really the reason is to get the revenue to repay the TIF so it was a financial decision.

LUKE BROADWATER: And this year, it's either this year, or next year, there's new accounting standards where the city will start to have to include in its annual financial audit, how much money it foregoes from all these special tax deals.

(over-talking)

I'm going to be very interested to see what they calculate that number as. I can do my own calculations, but with so many projects all across the city getting this wide area of tax... it's very hard to do. So...

STEPHEN JANIS: That's amazing, so, and before they just didn't track it really. And...

MELODY SIMMONS: Well, yeah, they didn't.

STEPHEN JANIS: I've seen that report; it was a very meager report. It wasn't like they've got four or five analysts. You'd think the city would... It's almost like they don't want to know.

MELODY SIMMONS: Well, we've been to countless meetings on these topics, and the question was asked. It's a valid question, and the answer was, "We don't have the staff." And I think a lot of people in the room, kind of sat back. But I will say that the Port Covington TIF, is going to be run through the State, not the city.

It was too much money for the cities debt load. Because the TIFs do count against the debt load of the city, and that impacts a lot -- your credit rating and your bond rating –- So, it has a rollover affect on Baltimore, which is why it's gone up to the State. And the State will guarantee those bonds.

STEPHEN JANIS: Which really speaks to the problem of, why don't we just reform the entire tax system because, obviously developers are using our double high tax rate as leverage to negotiate deals for themselves. It's almost like we're trapped, because you move over a little line and you're paying one-half the property taxes, it has trapped us in this horrible cycle, it seems like.

MELODY SIMMONS: It's a valid argument. They use it, and they can pull the figures out to show it. And so this is what happens and this is what you hear, there's two sides to the story and that's one side right there, is that the city's tax rate is too high.

We need an incentive and this is the infrastructure that a TIF puts in. It's something that is the city's responsibility. Even though, in the county, the developers do pay for their own infrastructure.

STEPHEN JANIS: And they pay an impact fee.

MELODY SIMMONS: And a fee.

TAYA GRAHAM: Do you think this is sustainable for Baltimore City? It seems like we're giving away our revenue.

MELODY SIMMONS: I don't know. Overall, I think the development has been great for the waterfront. But you see what it's created, and a lot of people say there are two Baltimore's, possibly three. And I think that if you look directly to where some of this TIF money has gone, and where it hasn't gone, you can make that argument. And it's valid.

TAYA GRAHAM: Let me ask you the same question. Do you think that the city's tax break policy, handing out TIFs; do you think this is sustainable?

LUKE BROADWATER: Hmm, sustainable... That's an interesting question. I don't know. Obviously, the main problem here is that Baltimore has twice the tax rate of its surrounding jurisdictions, as we've all said. So, I do understand the desire of city officials to try to stimulate the economy with different special deals. Right?

The problem is that when you start picking winners and losers, now you're inserting the city's hand, the Mayor's hand, into the economy and saying, "Well, this business is favored, this one's not. This neighborhood's favored, this one's not."

And so you are in fact, as Melody says, helping to create divides. So, to me, is there a way to bring down the tax rate, give out fewer of these deals, and have a more fair playing field for everybody? I think if that were done, a lot of people would appreciate that.

STEPHEN JANIS: Well, to Luke's point, which is a very important point. One thing that's never anticipated, all of us who sat in those meetings, is the possible failure of any of these projects. I mean, Melody can tell us that the vacancy rates downtown, are what, 20%, 18%?

MELODY SIMMONS: It's been hanging around 20.

STEPHEN JANIS: Okay. So, we have got scheduled not only empty apartment buildings, but empty possibly office buildings. We're building three million square feet in Port Covington. And some of these projects might fail. There's a company called MuniCap, which does the analysis, but I think they're paid for by the developer, and if they're already saying we can't monitor these things, the idea going forward that somehow all these projects are going to pay off, and pay all the debt, and that Kevin Plank is making sneakers and T-shirts is suddenly going to be able to develop a massively complex development with total efficacy, I think is really...

If you want to look an example, look at the hotel. The hotel was built as it was going to be a net positive. The city was just going to rake in money, because no private person wanted to do it, no private company. But the city, because the city's at advantage in terms of municipal bond rates, so they'll be able to do it. And we're going to make millions of dollars. Well, guess what? The city is now supporting those bonds.

So, that's the problem with this. As Luke points out, they're playing free-market god, without really any of the precautions that are true free-market decisions. These are all political decisions, and sometimes, political decisions really fail. And the city could be on the hook for tens of millions of dollars.

MELODY SIMMONS That hotel, the Hilton?

STEPHEN JANIS: The Hilton, hotel.

MELODY SIMMONS: I think you could do a doctoral thesis on that. I mean, it's still rolling; it's still a story, that's very much viable. But just go back to square one, when it was proposed by Mayor O'Malley at the time, and then he really had to strong arm and make promises to get everything passed through the council. I remember one of the councilwomen --

STEPHEN JANIS: It was a close vote.

MELODY SIMMONS: It was very close. He promised a new rec center, she got it. It closed a year later. But he got it. Things like that, and that's how they got that legislation through, and built the hotel. And we're now seeing everything that people predicted on that hotel, it's in living color right there.

STEPHEN JANIS: Yeah, well, everything was wrong. The consultant hired by city said it was just going to make so much money they wouldn't know what to do with it. But the exact opposite happened, which people like Haywood Sanders, who is a professor of Public Policy at University of Texas, San Antonio, said, "Look, it's not going to work. There are too many hotels." And he was right. I mean, the city's basically subsidizing it at this point.

TAYA GRAHAM: That's going to have to be the last word.

And during this episode of The Real Baltimore, we diagnosed some of the problems, and I'm hoping in the next one we can delve in more deeply into the solutions.

I want to thank my guests, Luke Broadwater, Melody Simmons, and Stephen Janis, for joining me. I'm your host Taya Graham.

Thank you so much for watching The Real Baltimore.

-------------------------

END



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