I have posted several times about this project in Baltimore, where the city's public-private redevelopment authority is using eminent domain to seize a huge swath of property for redevelopment--despite the fact that the owner is an enormously wealthy foundation that has plans to... uh... redevelop the property. The foundation has sued, and things are getting nasty.
Now things are really getting interesting, as Peter Angelos, influential billionaire owner of the Baltimore Orioles, has also filed suit against the city's plan. (The article has lots of good background on the case.)
Things are getting weird in Baltimore, where quick-take condemnation and enormous redevelopment projects have been SOP for decades. Just the other day, the Baltimore Sun came out against plans to subsidize a new HQ for Legg Mason. And I wondered if that indicated that the worm had turned.
And now this: A columnist for the Sun is arguing that it's time to get companies off the government dole:
After a lull in lavishing dollars on selected businesses in the name of growth, Maryland looks ready to renew its corporate-welfare tradition. Gov. Martin O'Malley has asked to add $2 million to the Sunny Day incentive fund, the first new money in years.
And Baltimore, which never got out of the incentives business, looks ready to double down with its contribution to H&S Properties and the planned Legg Mason building in Harbor East.
Incentives are political heroin. When an economy is down and out, as Maryland's was in the early 1990s, they feel great, create a delusion of prosperity and give the governor a few ribbons to cut. But these days Maryland is as high as a kite (to belabor the comparison) and still shooting smack.
The state's unemployment rate is 3.9 percent, less than the nation's. We have added 500,000 jobs almost without stopping since 1993. The need to pay for growth is a primary cause of the projected $1.3 billion gap between state revenue and expenses next fiscal year.
Maybe it's time to re-equip the development toolbox. Thanks to base realignment, a fine university system and promising sectors such as health care and biotechnology, employers will add Maryland jobs in the next few years no matter what happens. Why not make every company pay its way?
Does that mean government officials are going to rope off the trough? I doubt it. Which is worth noting. Pols typically justify these subsidies and other incentives in the name of jobs and growth. But because of military base realignments, Maryland is going to grow no matter what. And grow so fast that the biggest concern is that there will be too much growth.
And still, officials just can't stop writing checks.
It's what they do.