BUILD presses coun­cil to vote

Ac­tivists want deal for Port Cov­ing­ton ap­proved on Mon­day

Baltimore Sun - - FRONT PAGE - By Luke Broad­wa­ter

An in­flu­en­tial group of Bal­ti­more min­is­ters is call­ing on the City Coun­cil to force a vote next week that would green­light the Port Cov­ing­ton de­vel­op­ment, by­pass­ing the com­mit­tee where nec­es­sary leg­is­la­tion has stalled. Sev­eral coun­cil mem­bers say they would sup­port such a move.

“We’re ter­ri­bly frus­trated,” said the Rev. An­drew Foster Con­nors of Bal­ti­more­ans United in Lead­er­ship De­vel­op­ment, which ne­go­ti­ated a $100 mil­lion com­mu­nity ben­e­fits deal with the devel­oper. “We’ve de­liv­ered an un­prece­dented deal. It needs to be brought to the coun­cil for a vote.”

The Tax­a­tion, Fi­nance and Eco­nomic De­vel­op­ment Com­mit­tee, chaired by Coun­cil­man Carl Stokes, un­ex­pect­edly stopped short Thurs­day night of ap­prov­ing $660 mil­lion in bonds for Un­der Ar­mour CEO Kevin Plank’s Port Cov­ing­ton de­vel­op­ment. Af­ter ap­prov­ing two of three nec­es­sary bills, Stokes abruptly called the meet­ing to a close.

Stokes later told re­porters he was con­cerned that the pub­lic had not had time to thor­oughly re­view the $100 mil­lion deal Plank’s Sag­amore De­vel­op­ment Co. made with the city. The agree­ment had been an­nounced hours ear­lier.

Stokes also ex­pressed con­cern about

“We’ve de­liv­ered an un­prece­dented deal. It needs to be brought to the coun­cil for a vote.”

pro­jec­tions that show city schools could lose mil­lions of dol­lars in state fund­ing. But Foster Con­nors and other pro­po­nents of the de­vel­op­ment say the deal with Sag­amore ad­dresses those con­cerns. It states that the devel­oper will not re­quest any bonds be is­sued “if there is a pro­jected nega­tive im­pact on State ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing for Bal­ti­more City Schools.” “We did ev­ery­thing Chair­man Stokes asked us to do, in­clud­ing pro­tect ed­u­ca­tion fund­ing,” Foster Con­nors said.“We have no idea what he’s do­ing at this point.” Two of three bills au­tho­riz­ing the bond deal for Port Cov­ing­ton are up for a vote Mon­day be­fore the 15-mem­ber City Coun­cil. Stokes’ com­mit­tee passed them, 3-0, Thurs­day night. The bills cre­ate a spe­cial tax­ing district for the Port Cov­ing­ton de­vel­op­ment. The bill that didn’t get a com­mit­tee vote would au­tho­rize the $660 mil­lion in bonds, which would pay for roads, util­i­ties and other in­fra­struc­ture. The bill could be forced out of com­mit­tee if eight mem­bers of the City Coun­cil vote to do so. Sev­eral mem­bers told The Bal­ti­more Sun on Fri­day that they sup­port such amove. “It’s time for the full coun­cil to vo­teonit,” said Coun­cil­man Eric T. Costello, who rep­re­sents the area. “It’s a great project. We spent a great time in ne­go­ti­a­tions. I’m hope­ful the project can move for­ward.” Sag­amore, the Rawl­ings-Blake ad­min­is­tra­tion, key City Coun­cil mem­bers and BUILD— which had op­posed the project— spent weeks ne­go­ti­at­ing the com­mu­nity ben­e­fits deal, thought to be key in win­ning the coun­cil’s ap­proval of the Port Cov­ing­ton project. The $100 mil­lion deal builds off a $39 mil­lion agree­ment be­tween the devel­oper and six neigh­bor­hoods near the project. That agree­ment in­cludes $25 mil­lion to train work­ers at a new Port Cov­ing­ton train­ing cen­ter and $10 mil­lion for noin­t­er­est loans or other fund­ing streams for mi­nor­ity- or women-owned startup busi­nesses. The de­vel­op­ers also agreed to hire at least 30 per­cent of all in­fra­struc­ture con­struc­tion work­ers from Bal­ti­more, pay a min­i­mum wage of at least $17.48 an hour, and set aside 20 per­cent of hous­ing units for poor fam­i­lies — though 40 per­cent of such hous­ing may be built else­where in the city. City Coun­cilVice Pres­i­dent EdReisinger said the way Sag­amore ne­go­ti­ated with nearby neigh­bor­hoods, in­clud­ing Cherry Hill and West­port, en­cour­aged him to sup­port the project. “It’s sad that the lead­er­ship is not there in the com­mit­tee,” Reisinger said. “In all the years I’ve been on the coun­cil, there’s never been a devel­oper who was in­vest­ing like this. And they have to deal with this crazi­ness and lack of lead­er­ship? “I apol­o­gized to them for what hap­pened last night. Who is go­ing to want to come into Bal­ti­more to in­vest if they have to deal with this? It’s frus­trat­ing. It’s crazy and it’s stupid.” Stokes said Thurs­day night that he be­lieved the deal re­quired more study, and he planned to bring the fi­nal bill up for a vote within a week. He said Fri­day that he would op­pose any ef­fort to by­pass his com­mit­tee. “The com­mit­tee has asked for an­other week,” Stokes said. “I voted for the first two bills. I stand by what I said. I’m good with that.” City Coun­cil­woman Mary Pat Clarke agreed, say­ing she does not sup­port any move to force the bill out of com­mit­tee. Clarke said she be­lieves the leg­is­la­tion needs more work and plans to in­tro­duce amend­ments re­quir­ing the Port Cov­ing­ton de­vel­op­ers topay a$23-an-hour “pre­vail­ing wage” to all con­struc­tion work­ers. She also plans to in­tro­duce an amend­ment that­would re­quire all com­pa­nies that move into the de­vel­op­ment to pay their em­ploy­ees a “liv­ing­wage.” “I think the com­mit­tee has acted re­spon­si­bly,” Clarke said. “This is giv­ing every­one a win­dow to say, ‘Let’s take an­other look.’ This is a big, big deal. We’re de­fer­ring decades of tax rev­enue. This is a rea­son­able thing and it’s an ap­pro­pri­ate thing. We de­serve to have this timeout.” Sag­amore has pro­posed a mixed-use wa­ter­front de­vel­op­ment that would in­clude a new head­quar­ters for Un­der Ar­mour, restau­rants, shops, hous­ing and man­u­fac­tur­ing space, among other fea­tures. The land in­cludes the site of The Bal­ti­more Sun’s print­ing plant, for which the news­pa­per has a long-term lease. Sag­amore has asked the city to float $660 mil­lion in bonds to build in­fra­struc­ture for the project. The devel­oper would have to pay back the bonds through fu­ture taxes. Crit­ics con­tend such deals di­vert money for decades from the city’s gen­eral fund, where tax rev­enue could pay for ser­vices, such as fire­fight­ers and schools. Bar­bara Sa­muels, an at­tor­ney with the Amer­i­can Civil Lib­er­ties Union of Mary­land, ar­gued that the coun­cil should not vote on the Port Cov­ing­ton deal with­out more­work— cit­ing what she views asweak guar­an­tees for af­ford­able hous­ing, lo­cal hir­ing and good­wages. “I can’t be­lieve any­one is even con­sid­er­ing vot­ing on a bill, given they don’t know what they’re vot­ing on,” Sa­muels said. “They don’t have the profit-shar­ing agree­ment and the new [mem­o­ran­dum of un­der­stand­ing] hasn’t been made pub­lic yet. Clearly, Coun­cil­man Stokes felt un­com­fort­able with the­way thingswere go­ing.” But City Coun­cil­man Robert W. Cur­ran said he’s met with pro­po­nents and op­po­nents of the deal, and sup­ports by­pass­ing the com­mit­tee. “In five years, will the city be bet­ter off with this or with­out this?” Cur­ran said. “I think the city will be­much­bet­ter off with it. It will be a nice place to live and a nice place to shop.” Coun­cil­man Bran­don Scott agreed. He said the com­mu­nity ben­e­fits agree­ment at­tached to the project could serve as a na­tional model for de­vel­op­ment. “I am very pleased with howthis project is so­muchd­if­fer­ent than the ones be­fore it,” Scott said. “The way this project was ne­go­ti­ated will change how these projects are dealt with, not just in Bal­ti­more, but around the coun­try.”

The Rev. An­drew Foster Con­nors

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