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Protesters demand more affordable housing for Port Covington, a project to be funded with a $535 million tax break

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TAYA GRAHAM, TRNN: This is Taya Graham reporting for the Real News Network here in Baltimore City, Maryland. I’m here at Port Covington, where developers are asking for a historic tax break. But this evening, community concerns intruded. If Baltimore is indeed two cities, one rich and one poor, then nowhere was this divide more evident than at City Garage in Port Covington Tuesday Night. Inside, revelers enjoyed wine and cheese prior to a presentation from Sagamore Develop president Marc Weller on the details surrounding his proposed vision for rebuilding the area. Outside, protesters bristled at the notion the that plan comes with request for a $535 million tax subsidy known as a TIF, or tax increment finance deal. KEN SANDERS: For all the money that’s being poured into Baltimore City, it’s just not coming out to us. It’s not enough coming out to us. And we need more. We need more home ownership. GRAHAM: Particularly since the project was deemed exempt from the city’s Inclusionary housing laws, which is why people assembled in the heat, far removed from the festivities, demanded Sagamore increase the number of affordable units in the project, and lower the income requirements to qualify. CHARLIE CARTER: We’re out here today supporting our partners at HON, Housing Our Neighbors, to call on Sagamore development, our city leaders, to make sure that there is inclusionary, affordable housing in the Port Covington development. Right now there is a goal for them to try to reach ten percent. That is woefully inadequate when you’re looking at the amount of taxpayer subsidy that they are looking for for this project. GRAHAM: But the conflict did not remain outside forever. Just as Weller began his speech, protesters disrupted the event. They made their demands clear as a stunned audience sat silent. Eventually activists were escorted from the room without incident, and the proceedings continued. SPEAKER: It’s really tough, so you got to think about that a lot. Kevin went to the board of directors, and what he said to the board of directors, he said hey, I want to build a big campus and I want to keep it here in Baltimore. And they said, you know, Kevin–. GRAHAM: We asked Sagamore development for comment, but we have yet to hear back. For now, protesters say they are both saddened and disturbed that a city asking taxpayers to fund the largest tax break in history has done little to help the residents who will ultimately pay for it. SPEAKER: Working-class people and low-income people deserve, if they’re footing the bill for this, to live in the posh city-within-a-city that Sagamore wants to build. GRAHAM: This is Taya Graham and Stephen Janis reporting for the Real News Network in Baltimore City, Maryland.


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Host & Producer
Taya Graham is an award-winning investigative reporter who has covered U.S. politics, local government, and the criminal justice system. She is the host of TRNN's "Police Accountability Report," and producer and co-creator of the award-winning podcast "Truth and Reconciliation" on Baltimore's NPR affiliate WYPR. She has written extensively for a variety of publications including the Afro American Newspaper, the oldest black-owned publication in the country, and was a frequent contributor to Morgan State Radio at a historic HBCU. She has also produced two documentaries, including the feature-length film "The Friendliest Town." Although her reporting focuses on the criminal justice system and government accountability, she has provided on the ground coverage of presidential primaries and elections as well as local and state campaigns. Follow her on Twitter.

Host & Producer
Stephen Janis is an award winning investigative reporter turned documentary filmmaker. His first feature film, The Friendliest Town was distributed by Gravitas Ventures and won an award of distinction from The Impact Doc Film Festival, and a humanitarian award from The Indie Film Fest. He is the co-host and creator of The Police Accountability Report on The Real News Network, which has received more than 10,000,000 views on YouTube. His work as a reporter has been featured on a variety of national shows including the Netflix reboot of Unsolved Mysteries, Dead of Night on Investigation Discovery Channel, Relentless on NBC, and Sins of the City on TV One.

He has co-authored several books on policing, corruption, and the root causes of violence including Why Do We Kill: The Pathology of Murder in Baltimore and You Can’t Stop Murder: Truths about Policing in Baltimore and Beyond. He is also the co-host of the true crime podcast Land of the Unsolved. Prior to joining The Real News, Janis won three Capital Emmys for investigative series working as an investigative producer for WBFF. Follow him on Twitter.