Practicing real change for development in Baltimore’s Oldtown?

The press release below from Change4Real, the grassroots organization working on rebuilding Oldtown for the past years, suggests there might be real change in how the next big development happens in Baltimore. We remain hopeful but realize that change does not happen without pushing the powerful to share their wealth. Are we ready to have a more equitable process and outcome in Oldtown, than the public exploitation that happened in Port Covington, Harbor Point, Johns Hopkins Biotech Park?

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logo1432 May Court
Baltimore, MD 21231
Change.4Real@yahoo.com

Released:  Friday, October 7, 2016
Contact:  John Morris – (443) 838-7193

City Planning Commission Updates Oldtown Redevelopment Plan to Recognize  Change4Real

On Thursday afternoon, October 6, 2016, the Baltimore City Planning Commission unanimously approved an update to the Oldtown Redevelopment Plan adopted in May 2010. The approved update addresses changes to the community proposed as part of the response by the developers engaged in negotiation with the Housing Authority of Baltimore City (“HABC”) and the Baltimore Development Corporation (“BDC”) to the Request for Proposals (“RFP”). The current RFP concerns redevelopment Oldtown Mall and Somerset Homes.

In addition, the Planning Commission reaffirmed the Human and Economic Development recommendations of the 2010 Redevelopment Plan by recognizing the emergence of Change4Real Development Corporation as a community-based organizing presence since 2010 and its commitment and specific plans to promote the development of Oldtown’s human capital.

In May 2010, the Planning Commission approved a redevelopment plan for the Oldtown community comprising an area of East Baltimore located south of Madison Street, West of Broadway, east of the Jones Falls Expressway, and north of Fayette Street. After more than 2 ½ years of working through a plan for the revitalization of a community that the plan itself acknowledged to be “still dominated by public housing,” the Planning Commission adopted a plan intended “to create a community in which the existing residents can thrive within the ‘mixed income’ environment.” Working to address the concerns and vision of local individual stakeholders, churches, and community-based institutions, like Sojourner-Douglass College, organized as the Chang4Real Coalition, the planners came to understand a critical reality for any redevelopment in Oldtown – “the development of human capital must be as much a priority as the development of vacant land.” As a result, the plan joined with the planning of new construction comprehensive recommendations for human and economic development.

Since the adoption of the 2010 Redevelopment Plan, a number of new circumstances necessitated an update of the 2010 document. The development rights for the area, places with one real estate developer ultimately lapsed before that developer could undertake any of the planned developments. To promote new development in the community, BDC and HABC combined the land each controlled respectively in the lower Oldtown Mall and the then vacant site of the former Somerset Homes, to expand opportunities for development. In April 2014, BDC and HABC issued a RFP to develop the combined site to spur revitalization of the community. The consideration of the submitted proposals resulted in exclusive negotiation with a group of developers that included the Beatty Development Group, the Henson Development Company, and Commercial Development, Inc., and Mission First Housing Development Group.

On March 30, 2016, the new developers submitted a clarification of its 2014 proposal, identifying, in general terms, proposed uses of the land not included in the 2010 Redevelopment Plan. In addition to the new construction proposed by the developers, changed circumstances since 2010 had also affected the comprehensive recommendations of the 2010 Redevelopment Plan for Human and Economic Development.

In September 2012, the local stakeholders and community-based planning group at the center of the Change4Real Coalition formally chartered the Change4Real Community Corporation as a not-for-profit membership entity under Maryland Law. Change4Real was designed to contain, organize, coordinate, and mobilize the multitude of local stakeholders so that together they can form a working partnership with any governmental, philanthropic, or corporate actor in the transformation of their own community. Since its formation, Change4Real has organized about 175 members, with plans to expand the membership significantly. Effective June 26, 2016, Change4Real secured its IRS Section 501(c) (3) status as a tax-exempt corporation.

In the summer of 2014, Change4Real refined its human and economic vision informing the 2010 Redevelopment Plan to design The Promissorium™ as a platform for optimizing and monetizing the social capital embodied by the 16,000 to potentially more than 20,000 local stakeholders associated with the Oldtown footprint variously as residents, workers, students, alumni, worshipers, and others identifying themselves with this geographic area.

Key elements of The Promissorium™ consist of
(1) Change4Real Community Corporation – organizing the people to “organize the pennies” – the small sums of money these stakeholders may control that aggregated exceed more than $141 million in annual income (2012 Dollars)
(2) WiFi connection to create a seamless communication network where communication becomes a community asset
(3) Database of local stakeholder resources, an electronic archive of needs and skills to provide the basis for an economy of human exchange to be managed for and to benefit the local stakeholders
(4) New work systems based upon an entrepreneurial framework of micro-enterprises where people can own and market their own capacity for their own benefit, at their own articulated value and
(5) A financial system customized to serve a micro-enterprise economy, to facilitate the purposeful “organizing of pennies” to finance the enterprise aspirations of the poor.

Change4Real is now part of a Human Development Team, including Ingoma Foundation and REDDOVE Partners LLC, working with the new developers since 2014 to build an infrastructure enabling local resident and existing non-resident stakeholders in the Oldtown Community to participate in the development and in the prosperity to result from the development on terms satisfying to the existing stakeholders. The Human Development Team will work to connect local residents to employment opportunities associated with the construction, provide support for the development of housing affordable to a range of existing residents so as to allow as many residents as possible to remain within the greater Oldtown footprint to add their unique value to the development, and to create a range of entrepreneurial opportunities for local residents, including a small business incubator.

Change4Real is constituted to remain in the community long-term and to assure the stability of that community as a mixed income community where all stakeholders can remain and prosper long after the construction has been completed.

On October 6, 2016, by unanimous vote, the Planning Commission adopted an update to the 2010 Redevelopment Plan that included the above additions to the earlier human and economic recommendations set forth by the Plan.

For more Information:
Check out Change4Real on Facebook

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” My role has been to ask architects to use their skills to bring equity into society.”

While Dr. Mindy Fullilove is well known for her role in research on urban redevelopment and serial forced displacement and its public health impact, not many know of her role in the world of architecture. Recently I had the pleasure of speaking to Dr. Fullilove about her honorary membership award from the American Institute of Architecture (AIA). The question of “what does a social psychiatrist have to do with architecture” was on my mind at the award ceremony at the 2016 AIA convention in Philadelphia.

Mindy Fullilove: I was elected to AIA as a public director because of my research/publications and interest in public health and equity and society. After 3 years on the board I was nominated to be an honarary AIA. My role has been to ask architects to use their skills to bring equity into society.

Marisela B Gomez: Why are architects important for equitable and sustainable development?

MF: They are important because inequity has been designed into cities due to segregation and redlining. So everything is involved, infrastructure, landscape, land use …all involved in how people are knit together. Architects have skills in analyzing systems, thinking through how to solve spatial problems, are profoundly committed to ecology.

MBG: Why is ecology important for changing inequity?

MF: With inequity it’s impossible to create sustainability which is urgent. Inequity has organized the social landscape, implicates everything, all the systems. If we don’t understand how the ecosystems work, we make plans that undermine the functioning of the whole system.

MBG: Share with me how Redlining and segregation affected how people interacted with their environment, with the places they lived. And the role of architects in this

MF: Redlining is a policy instituted by the US government in the 1930s. It used race, racial exclusion clauses, and income to stratify neighborhoods then suggested that banks invest in the “best” places, and avoid the “worst” places. People acted in the same ways, and with the same assumptions about good and bad. This has meant that our environment has developed unevenly – some places have had the money and the “good” reputation to prosper, while others have suffered from lack of investment and the imposition of a “bad” reputation. We can walk around any American city and see this pattern. Architects have “participated” by not fighting this system and the inequity it creates. Civil rights leader Whitney Young told the AIA that they were “irrelevant” – and that remains all too true today.

MBG: As you move around the country talking about your books “Root Shock” and “Urban Alchemy” are you seeing any changes in the understanding and practice of ecology and development? If so can you share an example?

MF: My books challenge the ideas that places are interchangeable and disposable. The biggest impact this had had is to make people look at what they have and try to make it better. One of the people I interviewed for my book Root Shock is writing a forward for the second edition. He said that naming what had happened to him helped him to move forward emotionally and helped the neighborhood of the Hill District to fight to stay.

MBG: I noticed how many white people and men are present in this award ceremony. Besides you, there were two other persons who appeared to be black recipients, amongst the more than 40-individual and 25-firm. In my opinion part of changing the ecology of development toward sustainability will require including the people who bring a different experience-racially, class, etc- into the process. In your opinion is this important?

Award recipients at the AIA 2016 Conference.

Black Award recipients at the AIA 2016 Conference.(Left to right): Steven Lewis, http://www.aia.org/practicing/awards/2016/whitney-young/r-steven-lewis/, Dr. Mindy Fullilove,http://www.aia.org/practicing/awards/2016/honorary-membership/m-fullilove/, Denise Everson, http://www.aia.org/practicing/awards/2016/associates/everson/

MF: It’s very important to have many voices at the table. We each have a piece of the puzzle, so we can only solve it if we put our pieces together.

MBG: We just had the first verdict against one of the 6 police officers indicted in the death of Freddie Grey. He was found not guilty of all charges. Could you talk about how laws and policies enacted differently for white and black/brown communities is a legacy/outcome of inequitable community/neighborhood development?

MF: Inequity has been created and intensified by laws and policies, like segregation, redlining, urban renewal, planned shrinkage, deindustrialization, mass incarceration, and gentrification. Each of these policies has disrupted the political capital of minority and poor communities, making it harder for people to fight for equity. Inequity feeds inequity. What is essential for all people to understand is that inequity is a threat to health and to democracy. We are all implicated in the oppression of some.

Who belongs in Baltimore? Community rebuilding must happen for everyone

I attended a conference several weeks ago at the Hyatt Regency on Light Street in Baltimore. So I took the free Circulator bus from Middle East Baltimore and walked along the water to the Inner Harbor. This was pleasant. But along with the pleasure came the awareness of the challenges facing our city. For example, the number of police officers at the ready in the Inner Harbor, ready to remove anyone who did not “look” like they belonged, was questionable. At one point when a person who “looked” like they may be homeless sat down at one of the empty tables in the Inner Harbor, there were 3 police officers who came by and harassed him: “what was he eating? where did he get it? The man said “I’m going, I’m going”. After this harassment they left and a few minutes later the gentleman got up and left. I suppose he would finish eating somewhere he belonged?

Exactly where is that? Is it somewhere where those who “look” like they belong can’t see him, won’t be distressed by his appearance? The saying “out of sight, out of mind” is deep and true. If we don’t see the despair and the obvious separation of how we exist in society, we don’t have to think about it and question why it is some have access while others don’t. Is Baltimore city able to be a home to all of us? Those with means and those without? Those who look like they belong? Those who don’t? What does “belonging look like these days? Obviously the Inner Harbor is being secured for those who “belong”.

The challenge of homelessness and poverty, racism and its continuing legacy, and its root causes continue in Baltimore. The different incidents on my walks through the Harbor and nearby areas confirmed this. Other incidents occurred at the bus stops. One man was sleeping at one stop. Another was sitting with his bag. I wondered how he could exist with only that one bag. I asked about his family: he had 4 children, the first two were twins and now 24 years old. He saw them regularly but not the other two. I offered him an orange then the bus came; that was across from the Reginald Lewis museum. At a stop near University of Maryland, someone asked me for change. I told him about the clutch for my 17 year-old car in the shop and how much that was going to put me back. He then said, “how are you doing?”. We had a conversation about challenges in life and how we take care of them, and ourselves. I offered him a peach and he accepted and left. At one of the 4 stops around Johns Hopkins East Baltimore campus, someone asked me if it was free to ride the Circulator. I responded yes but thought we should have to pay; “why should we ride free when folks taking the MTA have to pay?” We shared that maybe those with an MTA ticket could ride the Circulator for free, the rest pay. This conversation begs the question: who exactly is the Circulator bus for? As we rebuild Baltimore are we all clear as to who we want in the city?

One morning, about 730am, as I was walking across the skywalk from the Inner Harbor pavilions to the Hyatt Regency, I came across a woman sleeping on the steps. sleepShe had 2 paris of socks laid out on the cement to dry. Did she wash them in the fountain water near the steps? She had a sign next to her that said something like, “I lived with my father, then he died, then I lost the house and now am homeless”. Not 20 steps away, I entered the Hyatt Regency, its posh, air conditioned-chilled, and politeness stung me and I thought of the woman on the steps. There seemed so much space in this hotel, taken up with aesthetically-placed chairs to assure its occupants a spacious and easeful feeling. I wondered why couldn’t she access these spaces for the night, to rest. I recognized how artificial the built environment was for some; how much it seeks to create incubators, bubbles of separation and insulation from each other. Eventually we justify it as safety, not questioning the origins of separate and unequal that paved the road to today’s poverty. We don’t want those with access to have to think about those without. How are we rebuilding Baltimore to continue this legacy of separation?

As I walked through Harbor East, just in case the path favoring Baltimore’s inequity and separation did not penetrate enough, a reminder was provided by the recent signage in Harbor East: “Baltimore’s Luxury District: right this way”. luxuryThe cranes to the right and left of this sign, a timeless indicator of economic development and job opportunity, confirm that the city is growing. But for whom? The Harbor Point development on the left will usher in a high-rate cost of living while the expansion of the Four Seasons on the right will usher in luxury condominiums for those with means. In this era of privatization of public services, government gifting of tax incentives to the rich to develop, global permeation of local markets, we still have no plan for how we will assure that everyone who wants to stay in Baltimore benefits. Weak policies for affordable housing with no follow-up for implementation currently exists in Baltimore. No plans for equitable education and social services for our existing residents and no living wage policy exists. The trickle-down economics we believe in hasn’t quite trickled down into majority Black Baltimore where 37% of young Black men are unemployed, compared to 10% young White men. Still our politicians and public officials maintain that the generous benefits of our tax dollars to the wealthy to develop and live in Baltimore will trickle down to the masses. To fulfill this plan of trickle-down economics, we have a Circulator bus running in circles in areas that house the professional and “creative classes”, we have Zip Cars and bike lanes serving the same class. The Mayor’s plan for 10,000 new families in 10 years focuses on rebuilding of houses for $150,000. Low income people cannot afford this. Who will “belong” to Baltimore in the next 10-20 years? The City Paper’s annual “best of” series remind us of what our city leaders consider equitable and sustainable development: best example of gentrification seen in Middle East Baltimore shepherded by EBDI (East Baltimore Development Inc.), Johns Hopkins University and Hospital, Forest City, Annie E. Casey Foundation, and our local and state government. In this development of an 88-acre area just north of the Johns Hopkins Medical campus, our city and state leaders and its well-resourced profit and non-profit leaders are quite comfortable determining who belongs as they assured displacement of more than 750 majority African American and low-income families to make room for a different race and class of people. They know who belongs in our city!

Courtesy of BRACE

Courtesy of BRACE

One morning one rider on the bus reminded me of Baltimore’s resilience: “we can’t wait for them to give us jobs, we have to make our own jobs”. He went on to describe how his cousin made money by dressing up as Santa Claus, buying a camera, and making money during the Christmas season. He had a couple other local entrepreneurial stories like this. Baltimore’s residents need jobs, and support structures which help them to become business owners and not forever at the whim of capitalist anchors such as hospitals, universities, and non-profits. Jobs must provide a living wage so people can afford to live in the places being redeveloped. Only with living wage-jobs will low and middle-income people be able to stay in Baltimore and enjoy the fruits of this economic development occurring around the city. Instead of steering Baltimore city residents into the county-with housing vouchers not being accepted in the city- the city’s economic and community development plans must plan for affordable housing, self-employment, and living-wage employment. Anything else will continue to create the conditions of one-check-away from homelessness increasing around our city. As we prepare to vote for city officials, let’s ask each of them, whether new or old to the position, what they will do about affordable housing and integrative economies that assure local entrepreneurship and living wage-jobs. If our elected officials are not ready or willing to address our housing and employment, education, recreation, transportation, and health challenges in Baltimore, so everyone benefits, vote them out. It’s really simple, we have to vote with our feet and hearts, and not with our mouths.

While we act individually on the political front, we must continue to build our collective movement across multiple issues on a path toward equity for all. In support and elaboration of the Black Lives Matter movement, the southern movement, the Standing Up for Racial Justice movement, and all the university-based movements happening nationwide, we can build a movement to take back our cities so all can participate. Baltimore belongs to everyone who wants to be here.

Building equitable communities: Black women and girls lives matter

Fragmentation of community affects policing and is affected by policing: the lost of black lives to violence, and black women and girls lives to violence continues to fragment our communities. Recognizing, respecting, celebrating to rebuild communities toward equity, the matter of black women and children lives is a critical part of this transformation.
Join us to create a powerful collective energy that will assure change in Baltimore, and beyond!

Saturday June 20 3pm Rekia’s Rally
Sunday June 21 2pm Natasha’s Jubilee

Rally and celebration for black women and girls lives

Flyer.BlackwomenandgirlslivesmatterSolidarity through spirituality

Baltimore and beyond: where are the affordable housing?

A recent repot from Mc Kinsey Global Institute warns us “… Decent, affordable housing is fundamental to the health and well-being of people and to the smooth functioning of economies. Yet around the world, in developing and advanced economies alike, cities are struggling to meet that need. If current trends in urbanization and income growth persist, by 2025 the number of urban households that live in substandard housing—or are so financially stretched by housing costs that they forego other essentials, such as healthcare—could grow to 440 million, from 330 million. This could mean that the global affordable housing gap would affect one in three urban dwellers, about 1.6 billion people.”
McKinsey Report

Nationally the lack of affordable housing has been reported on by multiple sources, in Baltimore and beyond. The most recent figures suggest the largest lack of affordable housing in the US. “Like many American cities, Baltimore faces a serious housing crisis. Vacant lots and homes pervade the landscape, yet a large number of residents are struggling to find affordable places to live. Close to 50 percent of metropolitan Baltimore households are “rent-burdened” — defined by the federal government as paying more than 30 percent of income on housing. The once thriving industrial economy that powered this city, like so many across the country, has all but vanished, leaving in its wake a shrinking population and a dearth of well-paying jobs to afford the ever-increasing rent. Of 80 low- and moderate-income Baltimore jobs analyzed by the Center for Housing Policy, less than 35 percent make enough to meet the threshold of rent affordability for a two-bedroom apartment.”
alternet

The Atlantic

Baltimore Brew

And yet, we continue to build housing for the wealthy, gentrify our neighborhoods, displace our social challenges into someone else’s back yard, and guarantee profit for the rich.

Tonight neighboring cities Baltimore and DC are fed up. At a rally this evening in front of city hall in Baltimore residents and advocates called for a negligent city government to resist the continued privatization of public services: the most recent being water in the city of Baltimore. But the lack of affordable housing and living wage jobs due to corporate take-over of our public servants and and inadequate funding of our programs runs a close tie to the issue of water privatization.

water rally

In DC today, long-time residents are participating in a sit-in at Councilman Bowsor’s office. Why? Because their public housing rent has been increased more than 50%, some as much as $600/month, after the limit on affordability expired and city representatives allowed market forces to run public housing. This pattern of privatization is running like wildfire in our cities as strapped governments turn over their duties and responsibilities to corporations. In effect, they are continuing their negligence to the public by not only assessing lower tax rates on the wealthy, but also offering additional tax breaks for developers and corporations to build unaffordable housing, take over property and land with generous government subsidies, ignore equitable hiring practices, treat social challenges like dirt to be hidden from the eyes of the elite, and build schools which discriminate against the poor. When will we end these persistent injustices that sustain inequity? Perhaps we can take a lead from our DC sisters and brothers!
ONE DC

Speak out about what fair and ethical development means to you!

United Workers and Eastside groups organizing, marching and rallying this coming Saturday, March 29, 10:30 AM:

Raising awareness to the history of abandonment and inviting you to contribute to the solution!!

600 N. Patterson, Tench Tilghman

More information

Audience feedback on ‘Planning to Stay’ in Baltimore

Hello folks,

IMG-20140320-01382At the presentation with Mindy Fullilove and myself last week Thursday March 13,(held at Red Emma’s and co-sponsored by Red Emma’s and Baltimore Racial Justice Action) the focus on ‘planning to stay’ in our cities and the elements of urban restoration were discussed (featured in her latest book Urban Alchemy: Restoring Joy in America’s Sorted-Out Cities). Participants were invited to stand up and take the pledge of ‘planning to stay’ by turning to their neighbor and speaking this out loud. Folks were then asked to write down on a piece of paper the things they wanted to change and add to Baltimore to make it a place they would want to stay. There were 75 responses from approximately 150 people in the audience. The categories of what should be added included better schools, housing for all incomes, employment that sustains families, better transportation, increased safety, diversity, solidarity, recreation centers, arts, political engagement and competence, and increased co-mingling of our sorted out city in all its areas of living.

The categories of what should be changed were similar with an additional 3 responses that the vitality and culture of the city should remain the same. Individual responses are here: What would you change/add in Baltimore.

A recording of the presentation and discussion is here: Presentation

This was such a thoughtful, comprehensive, and spontaneous contribution of what parts of Baltimore want to see happen for them to enjoy and celebrate their city, making it a more equitable and sustainable city for all to enjoy. We are contemplating sending a letter to the editor of one of the periodicals with a summary of your responses. Our voice as part of envisioning and implementing a democratic process-a revolutionary step- of claiming, changing, and maintaining the city is vital for us who all plan to stay and participate in making Baltimore a city we are all proud to call home, today and tomorrow for the old and the new!

Thank you for participating!!

Join the discussion about bringing ‘community’ into community rebuilding: how would you do it?

at Baltimore’s Enoch Pratt Free Library-
Today, Tuesday at 6:30pm, February 25, 2014

Race, Class, Power, and Organizing in East Baltimore: Rebuilding Abandoned Communities in America

Enoch Pratt Free Library Black History Month Book event

Interview: Maryland Morning with Sheilah Kast, WYPR

Audio of presentation/discussion; Q&A starts at 45 mins, discussion starts at 61 mins

Audience discussion/suggestions in regard community rebuilding for better outcomes: Audience disucssion Pratt Library.2.25.14

PDF of presentation: Send a contact request!

Study Circle Pamphlet: Race and class determine ‘who gets the land’

Dear friends,

The link below will allow access to a web version of a pamphlet developed for study circles addressing community organizing and community rebuilding in Middle East and East Baltimore. The ‘points of reflections’ on the last pages uses the book as a resource.
There is also a print version of this pamphlet which will print into a 2-sided pamphlet, front to back, and can be stapled for convenience. Please be in touch with me if you would like access to the print version.

Please use as a tool on this path of changing the status quo of rebuilding disinvested and abandoned communities for the white and middle and upper classes while neglecting low income and historic communities of color-and the acute and long-term trauma caused by these oppressive and discriminatory practices.

In spirit!

RebuildingMEBaltimore_PamphletWEB_FINAL2.pdf>

Rebuilding Middle East Baltimore:
Race and class determine ‘who gets the land’
Marisela B Gomez
www.mariselabgomez.com

Images: Groundbreaking for Hopkins student housing during 2 rebuilding projects in East Baltimore (1956 Broadway Redevelopment Project, black and white photo; 2001-current Johns Hopkins and EBDI Development Project, color photo). In both, more than 800 households, of low income and African American people, were displaced to make room for Johns Hopkins expansion. The legacy of this history of power imbalance continues today, in the people and the spaces of East Baltimore.

Harbor Point development points to powerful corruption and inequity again: let’s change the tide!

The project

The data we have on this current development is this: Harbor Point developers are proposing a 1 billion dollar price tag and expecting 107 million dollars in public assistance (in the form of tax increment financing, TIFs) to build an office tower for Exelon, housing, and a park subsidized by the city (another 21 million). Payment of property taxes back to the city would not begin until 2025. The promise from the developer is that the Harbor Point project would benefit the pockets of poverty nearby. Nearby is the Middle-East/Perkins Home Community with some of the worst social and economic indicators across Baltimore city. Demogra.Perk.Balt At the first public hearing on this proposed public subsidy, residents from nearby Perkins Home testified that the past developments in the Harbor-Inner Harbor and Harbor East- are not accessible to them because “we can’t afford the $6.00 ice cream cones sold there?”. They wanted to know how this proposed development would be one that was accessible to them and from which they could benefit.

Harbor Point subsidy hearing, Baltimore City Hall, July 10, 2013

Would these majority African American people be able to walk the sidewalks of this new development without scrutiny by police on segways or tourists. Or will it be another addition to the growing gentrification of Baltimore city with walls of police and manicured parks separating the rich and the poor? Would there be jobs with living wages which offer apprenticeship training and a career ladder out of poverty? Would there be affordable housing for low-income people? Would there be amenities priced for people of all incomes or would the pricing select out those who are welcomed to the new development? And would there be appropriate vocational and job readiness and treatment programs addressing all the social and health determinants of unemployment, homelessness and risk of homelessness, and poverty?

The promises

Will the new mixed-income housing which the developer promises will have teachers as neighbors of the wealthy be the extent of affordable housing? In the past years low-income housing has been conveniently replaced by work-force housing-targeting teachers, firewomen and others- affordable to a different income level than that of a family of 3 living on $19,000/year-considered poverty-level income by the US Federal Register. Will Harbor Point include housing to accommodate a family of 3 living on $19,000 per year? To this end will there be amendments to the Harbor Point tax incentive legislation requiring a percentage of housing accommodate this low-income population? The need for low-income housing is urgent as Baltimore continues to demolish existing very low-income and public housing in East Baltimore for gentrification projects (Johns Hopkins/East Baltimore Development Inc; Jefferson Luxury Apartments at Wolfe and Fayette; Brentwood Village). A report by Joan Jacobson in 2007 showed a 15-year period of decrease (42%) in occupied public housing in Baltimore city with little concrete plans for replacement. Housing Report Meanwhile the percent of female single headed households have increased over this same period.

The developer also promised 6000 new jobs from the Harbor Point development. Sounds familiar? Remember that 8000-job promise from the Johns Hopkins/EBDI project which delivered approximately 1000 in 12 years? Again, what will the city council legislate to hold this private developer accountable to the public subsidies that could otherwise be spent on recreation centers and parks in neighborhoods affected by closed recreation centers and firehouses and unkept parks? Instead this project is proposing subsidy for a park; similar to the public subsidy for the 7 acre park in the Hopkins/EBDI development.

Harbor Point developer promising jobs at hearing, Baltimore City Hall, July 17, 2013

Strategies for change

The promise to benefit the surrounding community by the developer for Harbor Point must be legally binding and specify strategies to address readying a workforce to access employment offered by the development. If the plan is to benefit the unemployed then the social and health determinants that lead to unemployment must be identified and remedied. Those unprepared to enter the workforce must be prepared; those addicted to drugs and alcohol or affected by mental illness must be offered opportunity for treatment and retraining. A comprehensive community development project must include programs and processes identified through Health and Environmental Impact Assessments implemented during the planning phase to prepare the local community to benefit from employment opportunity and determine the effect of building on a buried and capped chromium hazardous waste site. “Chromium testimony at July 16 Harbor Point public hearing”>

The patterns are stark as we continue to watch our public dollars subsidize the wealth of the powerful 10% while the gap between the rich and the poor grow. This continued trend of growing income inequality, racial and spatial segregation and its correlation with unstable economies continue to be documented both nationally and internationally. (Residential Segregation, Spatial Mismatch and Economic Growth across US Metropolitan Areas. Urban Studies. March 1, 2013 Urban Stud-2013) A growing body of evidence proposes improving these social inequities to improve rapid economic growth. It is time for Baltimore elected representatives and appointed government officials to stop corrupt and uninformed practices that continue to marginalize people of low-income and color by giving the ‘right of the city’ to a majority white and middle and wealthy class. A community reinvestment contract or community benefits agreement could target funds to the surrounding community to assess and address its needs. Unlike the failed promises of the Hopkins/EBDI project of ‘channeling 3 percent of any city bonds and other eligible public funds and up to 2 percent of income from commercial leases in the [biotech] park, along with a percentage of the money from the sale of any land to developers, into community reinvestment projects’ to benefit the surrounding community, a legally binding contract must be enacted to assure fulfillment. (Baltimore Sun, 16 April 2002)

Inequality leads to social tension and political instability, thus lowering certainty, investment, and economic growth. (Washington, D.C: Brookings Institution Press. Been Down So Long: Weak Market Cities and Regional Equity. (2008) Been_Down_So_Long. Therefore social and economic subsidies which address the causes of social tension, income inequality and its causes, should be as primary as tax subsidies to the wealthy to incentivize economic growth in cities with high rates of health and wealth gaps. Instead of large tax incentives and government-private bonds to the developer, social impact bonds (SIB) can be investigated as credible ways to invest public and private trust in remedying social indicators which in turn lead to a competent workforce and communities ready to learn and become self sufficient. http://harvardmagazine.com/2013/07/social-impact-bonds And the return on this investment is no longer than the return on current tax subsidies to developers. More stable and equitable communities in housing, income, education, and race/ethnicity leads to an economy which can maintain resilience from changing market forces, regionally, nationally, internationally and stem the tide of growing inequality.Resilience in changing times The Harbor Point project, if used in a way to target much needed funds to the city’s most needy communities, could be the beginning of Baltimore moving away from its past and current history of race and class corruption and exploitation to one of shared economic benefit and good health for a broader population.

Changing the tide

History shows us that private interests take public subsidies and grow their wealth with little benefit to the surrounding communities of poor and low income. Or maybe we should call it by the more acceptable term of ‘neoliberal take-over of the city’: the continued takeover of community rebuilding processes where government gives up its responsibility to assure that public dollars in a community and economic development project assures that ALL the public benefits. Instead our government ‘leaders’ have been turning over subsidies to private developers who ‘say’ they will rebuild an area to benefit the city with no analysis or evaluation of whether they deliver on promised outcomes. Case in point is the debacle of continued inequitable growth in the Johns Hopkins/EBDI development in East Baltimore made transparent through the Daily Record’s investigative series. The inequity was evident by the lack of construction, jobs for local residents, affordable housing, and non-transparent financial accounting and embarrassed the city council to hold the private:public development board accountable for more than 500 million dollars in public subsidies.

If the city is willing to continue to subsidize private interests with public funds then it must be ready to mandate that the private interests subsidize government’s role to the public in addressing its responsibilities to the public. It’s the only just and economically sensible solution in a neoliberal state! Let’s make our voices heard and NOT let the Baltimore City Council off the hook on this public subsidy legislation by demanding legislation that assures equity to the communities most affected by wealth and health disparities. This type of political action is not only just, it is good for the economy and the health of the community. Let us point the way to equitable and sustainable development in Baltimore. The third public hearing on the Harbor Point development will be held August 7, 2013 at 5pm at City Hall.

Waiting in the heat outside Baltimore City Hall’s closed doors for the Harbor Point subsidy hearing, July 17, 2013