Bring millions of dollars into Baltimore neighborhoods in need.
This petition had 283 supporters
The Poe Homes community has some of the highest concentrations of poverty in Baltimore City. Fourteen years ago when the University of Maryland BioPark moved in just 1 block away, they used statistics from Poe Homes in order to get financing. They also made promises to create jobs and help to address issues of poverty. To date, none of those promises have been fulfilled.
The developer for the UMB BioPark, Wexford Science and Technology, was recently gifted $17.5 million dollars by the City of Baltimore, in the form of Tax Increment Financing. For months prior to the cities decision representatives from Poe Homes had met with the BioPark and Wexford to request a community benefits agreement which would create jobs, train people for jobs that exist, and invest in the youth. Those request for inclusion were ignored by the BioPark, Wexford, and finally the Baltimore City Council. We are requesting the repeal Ordinance 15-0587 which allows the money to be given so that it may be amended to include the communities common sense pleas, which would create access and opportunity for those most in need.
The Community Benefits Agreement does not give enough to the residents when compared to the tens of millions of dollars the BioPark and Wexford will receive. We do not have enough money to fix our roads or provide heat in our schools so why give our tax dollars to multi-billionaires?
See Full explanation below:
On behalf of the Poe-Terraces Tenant Association (Poe) and Baltimore Street Commercial Business and Property Owners (CBPO), we would like to request your assistance with a matter that is of grave importance to the residents of Baltimore in general but Poe-Terraces residents particularly. The issue is the Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) that is attached to the TIF application of Wexford Science and Technology (Wexford) and the Health Sciences Research Park Corp. (BioPark). Poe is opposed to the CBA and would like to marshal support to demonstrate to the public the deficiency of the CBA as well as the improper procedural safeguards created by the Baltimore City Council that ensured passage of the TIF legislation without meaningful debate or opposition.
Let me explain briefly the definition of TIF. Tax Increment Financing (TIF) is a gift to a developer. The City makes a loan to the developer. Instead of the developer paying back the loan, the taxes collected on the improvements to the property will repay the loan.
This is relevant to all residents of Baltimore for two (2) reasons: a) this is a TIF, therefore tax dollars of all residents are at risk and b) the President of the City Council stated that he would like to use this TIF as a model for all TIF's in the future. There are too many flaws in this transaction to allow its use as a model, not the least being the attached CBA was not created or agreed to by the community that was suppose to benefit when the Poppleton Urban Renewal Plan was modified. Essentially, there has been no transparency or inclusion of interested parties in the creation of a CBA that is scheduled to last for 20 years and have a substantial impact on our community.
The goal of Poe-Terraces was to have included in the CBA, the following language:
1. Poe-Terraces or its designee will become joint-venture partner to the prime contractor for the construction of 873 West Baltimore St. (the subject of the TIF application).
2. The TIF Applicant(s) will fund the creation and development of Poppleton Training Academy, which will train Baltimoreans in construction, green jobs, and hospitality.
3. The TIF Applicant(s) will renovate the James McHenry recreation center to a state-of-the-art facility.
In summary, our request for your assistance is to help us inform the residents of Baltimore about the lack of transparency in this process and how our politicians are using their positions of influence to benefit the powerful while ignoring common sense pleas from the community. We are requesting your support through repealing the ordinance that gifted the developer these funds.
Ordinance 15-0587 authorizes the City to issue bonds to finance infrastructure and other costs at 873 West Baltimore St. for the University of Maryland BioPark. See the attached explanation why the community wants to repeal 15-0587.
The Poe-Terrace Tennant Association is opposed to Ordinance 15-0587 for the following reasons:
1) 14th Amendment violation:
a. Amendment Number 1 to City Council Bill 15-0587 violates 14th Amendment rights to Equal Protection of the laws. Amendment Number 1 is a Community Benefits Agreement (CBA) that was agreed to by the University of Maryland BioPark. The CBA only includes input from a particular segment of the community.
b. On 1/21/16 The Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee held a public hearing whereby 5 individuals in favor of the bill and only 1 individual opposing the bill were allowed to speak. The Council President discontinued the hearing with only 1 individual opposing the bill having the opportunity to speak, yet many others waited in line to speak. The Council President’s decision violates the 14th Amendment right to Due Process.
2) 1st Amendment violation:
On 1/21/16 the Taxation, Finance and Economic Development Committee held a public hearing on Bill 15-0587. Those in attendance who followed the Council’s process for speaking favorably or in opposition to the matter before the Council were vested with 1st Amendment protections, meaning the Council’s regulation of the speech was limited to a few exceptions (breach of the peace, going over the time limit, not speaking to the subject, not within protective speech [obscenity, child pornography, fighting words, etc.]). The Council’s decision to discontinue the public hearing without allowing those in opposition to speak is a curtailment of their 1st Amendment rights.
3) UMB BioPark and Wexford Science and Technology’s Application for Tax Increment Financing (TIF) does not comply with Baltimore’s Tax Increment Financing Policy.
a. In accordance with Baltimore’s Tax Increment Financing Policy, applicant (BioPark & Wexford) must be able to demonstrate that “but for” the financial assistance from the city, the project would not be feasible. By Wexford’s own admission, the “but for” test has not been met. Wexford’s parent company has “$670 million of availability under its unsecured line of credit [w]ith over seven billion dollars in gross assets”. Also, Blackstone Group recently purchased Wexford’s parent company for approximately $8 billion.
b. The City’s TIF policy requires an investment from the applicant of $8.00 to $12.00 for every $1.00 invested by the City. The BioPark and Wexford are investing less than $5.50 for each dollar invested by the City.
4) The Community Benefits Agreement does not give enough to the residents when compared to the tens of millions of dollars the BioPark and Wexford will receive. We do not have enough money to fix our roads or provide heat in our schools so why give our tax dollars to multi-billionaires?
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