Devil’s Dance

Baltimore Democrats wish Sheila Dixon’s legal troubles would just go away:

The new indictments issued last week in the City Hall corruption probe has many of Baltimore’s political leaders impatient for resolution to a case that has spanned three years and left the city’s reputation in limbo.”Most people I talk to are saying ‘Let’s just get this over with,’ ” said Baltimore Del. Curtis S. Anderson, a Democrat… “It is not something we are proud of,” Del. Talmadge Branch, a longtime state delegate from East Baltimore said of the new indictments. Branch, a Democrat, said many were hoping the cloud over City Hall would “blow over.” But it hasn’t, leaving Branch “waiting and seeing” what happens.Others just didn’t want to comment. Gov. Martin O’Malley had nothing to say about the new indictments, said his spokesman Rick Abbruzzese.

Of course they wish this inconvenient prosecution was over or don’t want to talk about it. This case has ripped the scab off the sore that is the shady manner in which business is conducted in Baltimore. Back in January I wrote in Baltimore Examiner—may she rest in peace—about the devil’s dance between machine politicians and city developers. Given the ostrich act Democrats are pulling I think it is apropos to revisit a portion of that column today to remind those who would have us forget what is going on.

The allegations involving Dixon and Lipscomb [and now Paterakis] highlight the symbiotic relationship between city developers and machine politicians. In a nutshell, developers, through campaign finance loopholes, funnel hundreds of thousands of dollars to city politicians. The politicians in turn put that money into their machines to turn out the vote. In return for their donations, developers expect huge tax breaks and public largesse for their projects. While this dance may not be illegal, it definitely appears unseemly…

Developers get tax breaks while an ever-shrinking middle class is squeezed to foot the city’s bills. Meanwhile, Baltimore’s political elites arrogate more power for themselves. The political machine and the developers feed off one another, all the while perpetuating the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Power is concentrated in the secretive Baltimore Development Corp., and the powerful Board of Estimates, the latter on which Dixon sits. Both entities determine which projects get city tax breaks and, therefore move forward. The authority to decide on those projects, along with the strong executive powers of the office, make Dixon a powerful woman. That kind of concentrated power in the hands of any one person makes for a heady and dangerous cocktail…

Real reform would mean ending city-subsidized development to allow natural economic growth, where Baltimore’s ever-shrinking middle class and small businesses no longer bear the overwhelming tax burden to finance city programs—which come Election Day, create reliable voters. Ending the development-political complex would mean giving up power, and politicians never give up power on their own volition, especially a machine politician like Dixon. Unfortunately, even if she is convicted and removed from office, the dance will continue, just with different partners.

That ladies and gentleman is why Baltimore Democrats want this case to recede from memory. It’s a reminder of how they are part and parcel of the planned, controlled, and subsidized decline of Baltimore.






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