A lot of people freak out when one of those astronomical Powerball totals (a $1.6 billion record jackpot was recently sliced up three ways) hits the news. The quixotic daydream about what they could do with all of that money, (forget the fact most lottery winners file for bankruptcy ultimately). But, inherent in their excitement is the serendipity of it all.
It’s an unexpected windfall, free money; you don’t have to work for it or kill anybody, it’s big cheese from heaven, no strings attached. The $700 million recently pledged by Gov. Larry Hogan for the revitalization of some of Baltimore’s most impoverished and beleaguered neighborhoods is no such arrangement.
Over the course of four years, $94 million will be set aside for the demolition of 4,000 properties across the city. Another $600 million in subsidies is designated for redevelopment. Demolition in the 1000 block of N. Stricker St. (the same neighborhood where Freddie Gray lived and was arrested on the day that led to his ultimate demise) in SandtownWinchester began the first week in January.
“As I walked the streets of this city, people were repeatedly calling out and begging us to help do something about the blight that is all around them,” said Gov. Hogan during a joint press conference with Baltimore Mayor Stephanie RawlingsBlake the same day demolition began. “We have heard your call for action…,” Hogan added. He called Baltimore the “core” of Maryland.
How convenient. The mission name for the $700 million makeover is, “Project C.O.R.E,” (Creating Opportunities for Renewal and Enterprise). Cute.
But, why is the Maryland Stadium Authority overseeing an integral component of what Jay Brodie (king emeritus of the Baltimore Development Corporation), characterizes as an unprecedented, “infusion of this magnitude,” into Baltimore’s poorest neighborhoods?
The Maryland Stadium Authority was originally formed in 1986 by Gov. Harry Hughes to preside over the construction and operation of sports stadiums in
the Baltimore metropolitan area. The MSA’s crown jewels are Oriole Park at Camden Yards and M&T Bank Stadium (originally PSINet Stadium). And the entity has been in charge of the construction of sports complexes all over the state, as well as the Hippodrome Performing Arts Center, expansion of the Baltimore Convention Center and demolition of old Memorial Stadium.
So , again, why is the Maryland Stadium Authority (of all the state entities) being handed the ball (so to speak) to be at the center of a massive revitalization of the city’s poorest most troubled neighborhoods when they have zero experience in doing so?
The MSA consists of seven members who serve four year terms. Six of those members are appointed by the governor and one is appointed by the mayor of Baltimore. So, the MSA operates almost solely at the governor’s pleasure.
Obviously, the concept of a nearly billion dollar infusion of resources in poor communities should be a cause for great hope. But, putting the MSA in charge seems like a paternalistic gesture at best and at worst a continuation of the plantation like relationship between state lawmakers (including the governor) and the city of Baltimore.
Further, some could see Gov. Hogan’s insertion of the MSA into the process as a rather transparent effort to inject Baltimore’s robust gentrification engine with rocket fuel.
But, on the other hand, the sad truth is we’ve seen billions tossed at Baltimore for decades and we’ve witnessed a feeble and oftentimes corrupt Democratic political infrastructure “mess up” money with great acumen (Think about the original Enterprise Zone for SandtownWinchester).
Ask yourself this question; given Baltimore’s record of fiscal ineptitude and misconduct, who would you hand over a billion dollars to for the resurrection of Baltimore’s poorest neighborhoods who need it most?
Sean Yoes is a senior contributor for the AFRO and host and executive producer of First Edition, which airs Monday through Friday, 5-7 p.m. on WEAA 88.9.