And Now, The Rest of the Story

Looks like even folks at Russia Today have taken notice of the bifurcated society that is the city of Baltimore.

Only, much like their local media counterparts, Russia Today fails to identify the political culprits, who enabled this travesty: the Maryland Democratic political machine.

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Baltimore has been under Democratic rule for half a century and their reign has fomented the development-political complex:

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…

Baltimore-based researchers Stephen Walters and Louis Miserendino, in their 2008 report, Flawed Renaissance: The Failure of Plan-Control-Subsidize Redevelopment, exposed the choreography of this shady dance. For the last half-century, city politicians have secured land and tax breaks for developers like [Ronald] Lipscomb in return for redeveloping the land. The research clearly shows that this has created what John Edwards would call two Baltimores: The bustling and vibrant Inner Harbor known to tourists and the blighted neighborhoods reflected in “The Wire.” 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 of one another, all the while perpetuating and increasing the gap between the haves and the have-nots.

Baltimore’s two most recent mayors the disgraced Sheila Dixon, and Governor Martin O’Malley deserve a great deal of blame for perpetuating and exacerbating the problem. It was Dixon, as City Council President, who secured city tax breaks for the projects of her then-boyfriend and city developer Ronald Lipscomb. Prior to copping a plea to aid the state’s prosecution of Dixon, Lipscomb was a generous contributor to Dixon, O’Malley, and Maryland Democratic politicians.

In 2007, despite an independent panel recommending a different development group, Dixon awarded a contract to Lipscomb’s group, which included Michael Cryor, who at the time was chairman of the Maryland Democratic Party. Cryor made $3 million on the deal.

Of course, it was Mayor O’Malley who presided during the bulk of these public-private partnership development shenanigans, including another Lipscomb project, the taxpayer financed Baltimore Hilton Convention Center hotel. Taxpayers are on the hook to the tune of $900 million for this boondoggle that racked up $30 million in losses and failed to generate the economic benefits upon which it was sold.

In fact, it was O’Malley as mayor, who heaped effusive praise on Lipscomb saying the developer was “a man of vision, talent and commitment to the greater good. The citizens of Baltimore are very proud and appreciative of what he is accomplishing…”

Perhaps Baltimore residents are indeed appreciative of declining population, a shrinking middle class, and high property taxes, they keep electing machine politicians like O’Malley and Dixon.

Unfortunately as governor, O’Malley is repeating the same feat for the state with his California-style policies

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