Saturday, September 19, 2015

"Do as I say not as I do" Hogan and his love for Baltimore

Below is what I would say if Hogan would confess his love for Baltimore in person. Several interjections have been suggested by my friends in discussions about Hogan's op-ed piece online and I do owe many insights to those discussions. 
I copied Hogan's op-ed and inserted my comments in italics 

News   Opinion Baltimore SUN 9/18/15

The economic engine of Maryland

Once every three weeks, I spend several days in the heart of Baltimore at the University of Maryland Medical Center for my chemotherapy. On each trip, I pass two magnificent stadiums, a vibrant downtown that includes my own office at the William Donald Schaefer Tower, and thousands of busy workers in a bustling, amazing, beautiful city.

During the riots in April and during my campaign for governor last year, I toured every corner of Baltimore, from Sandtown-Winchesterto Fells Point. Everywhere I went, I met people who talked with me about their optimism for a better future for the great city they love.

When you feel better again which we all hope will be very soon, you should venture outside the stadium and downtown area even when you don't campaign or we don't have riots. It is much easier to find optimism and real dialogue then. 
Urban policies are a very difficult matter and anybody who has tried from Governor McKeldin to any number of HUD secretaries, some presidents and countless mayors, knows that even though cities get the brunt of society's ills, they are largely left to their own devices when it comes to dealing with them. Certain State transfer funds and federal grants notwithstanding. So, your venture into the matter is appreciated! By the way, I wrote a piece about what it takes to govern a city on my main blog yesterday.

Over the next several months, my administration will announce a series of innovative ideas that have the potential to deliver real change. First and foremost, Baltimore must be a livable city — a place that people want to move to and not from. 

Sorry to interrupt again, but don't you think that thought occurred to us in Baltimore before? Or to your predecessors who had been mayors before like McKeldin, Schaefer, and yes, O'Malley?  But hey, we are open to innovative ideas. In fact, some of us really think we need new ideas. So let's hear what they are. 

Recently, the population has stabilized and the tax base is showing improvement. But there is more to be done, and my administration is prepared to take action where the state can make a difference over the long-term.

Fixing what's broken in Baltimore starts with the sea of abandoned, dilapidated buildings that infect entire neighborhoods. These empty, decaying structures are a breeding ground for crime and an impediment to private sector investment. Blight is a symbol of what's wrong with the city, and taking steps to fix the problem can be an equally powerful symbol of Charm City's rejuvenation. Therefore, my administration will advance a plan to knock down blocks of derelict buildings that tarnish communities across Baltimore, replacing them with parks and other open spaces.

Oh vey! That idea of demolition isn't innovative. In fact the city has been doing this since Dan Henson was Comissioner for Housing, which is really very long ago, because the current Commissioner, Graziano, has been Commissioner like, forever. Philly has been doing large scale demolition. "Parks and open spaces" instead of vacant rowhouses? In North Philly you can see whole sections of town abandoned, also in Detroit, weeds as far as the eye can see. To call that "parks" is a real euphemism. Besides, in Baltimore, people still live everywhere. In between vacants. Do you think of forced resettlement? If you do, study the EBDI story. It may make you reconsider. If you look at Boston and DC, they largely rehabbed and refilled their neighborhoods, in my humble opinion a much better option. 

Don't forget, all neighborhoods are places that residents call home. I don't know one single community that can just be bulldozed as simply as many suburbanites imagine that. Sorry, for this lengthy interruption again, but especially after Freddie Grey we need a Governor who "gets" that particular item. 

But addressing blight is just one part of a long process. Another part is jobs. 

I hope you read the Opportunity Collaborative's 2015 report. You seem to agree with it. Not exactly innovative but a very good point, indeed! And let me say, government jobs are jobs, too! Cutting 2% of department budgets across the board does kill jobs with a very uncertain prospect of creating any new ones. 

Without sustainable jobs and competitive industry, no large city can survive. Fortunately, Baltimore has a terrific economic base. The Port of Baltimore sees more than $50 billion in cargo a year, handling more cars, farm and construction machinery than any other port in America. 

Talking about the port: How about money for improved rail connections that allow double stacking containers? How about a temporary truck to rail transfer yard since Morrell Park was botched?  Innovative ideas are really needed to solve this problem!

Meanwhile, world class companies like Under Armour and Amazon are investing in the city and creating jobs alongside Baltimore's great hospitals and world-class universities, which continue to attract the best and the brightest from around the world.

Creating sustainable jobs means doubling down on Baltimore's formidable strengths. Projects like Under Armour's new campus at Port Covington, the expansion of CSX rail capacity at the port, and the redevelopment of Sparrow's Point nearby in Baltimore County have the potential to be transformative — creating thousands of new jobs for decades. My team will be putting our full support behind these projects, and many others, to maximize the impact of essential private sector investments.

Ok, I suppose you are still thinking about how this support would look like? Under Armour is where it is, because a guy named Bill Struever thought to turn a vacant soap factory into an innovation hub. Look up his vision of a "digital harbor". Not really a politician's idea is what I am saying. 

The current job creator Kevin Plank is on record complaining that bad transit is an impediment to finding qualified employees. We'll get back to transit, I suppose. 

The nation's largest industrial redevelopment at Sparrows Point could certainly use a State sponsored masterplan that includes public interest elements. This is an area too big not to have a regional plan behind it or to be left to the private entity to approach only one piece at a time. I know, you think government should get out of they way, but here would be a great place for you to cooperate with Kamenetz and SRB! 

Supporting iconic, growth-oriented industries, combined with tax policies that encourage small business growth and investment, represents a potent combination and is the basis of our entire administration. On the day I was inaugurated, I proclaimed that "Maryland is open for business." Since then, my administration has worked to improve customer service and eliminate burdensome taxes, fees and regulations. The early indications are that it's working: Jobs are coming back to Maryland. I urge Baltimore to follow the state's successful lead.

Lower taxes for the city would certainly be good, if not entirely an innovative idea. But large scale reduction would require the State to secure  the losses, should business and population influx not instantly make up for the difference. California did that for San Francisco once and it worked out beautifully for both. Are you up for that? If you did that for Baltimore and it would allow a, say, one time 20% tax reduction, you would be really a hero for this city! It would likely bring the population influx we need which in turn would fix almost automatically all the other issues you mention!

Improving transportation in Baltimore is critical and is the next part of my vision. The city somehow manages to function on a mish-mash of disconnected rail lines and nonsensical bus routes that don't connect people with jobs. Soon, my Transportation Secretary Pete Rahn will unveil a new approach to transit that includes ideas to better move people around Baltimore, including dedicated corridors to rapidly move people East-West and North-South. While Baltimore's broken transit system cannot be fixed overnight, if the city is willing to consider new ways to utilize buses, trains and other transportation options, we can successfully partner to build a modern system that works for the people of the city.

I am glad you are mentioning transportation an area where many feel you poked your finger in Baltimore's eyes to put this mildly. Regarding the current transit: You surely know that you now "own" the MTA and that it owns the "non sensical" bus lines? Just making sure! 

We can't wait to hear those new ideas, they have been announced so often and then not been spelled out! 

I hope you have visited other cities with bus corridors and you have studied Howard Street which once was a bus corridor. I hope you also have toured Baltimore Street and its recent Westside recovery, in good part led by Howard S. Brown, possibly a supporter of yours. Make sure you talk with him about the bus corridor. 

It will be very interesting to see how the MTA can upgrade its operations with a smaller operations budget and without any capital $ for new projects. If you want to copy Houston's bus reform, don't forget to look how their new light rail lines provided them with the slack in the bus system that is needed to rearrange things. There is no free lunch, not even in transportation, even though hardly anybody wouldn't admit that you and Paul Comfort could, indeed, unlock at lot of efficiency at MTA. 

Finally, and most importantly, is a commitment to improving education. We have invested $6.1 billion statewide into public education — more dollars than under any other governor in Maryland history. Our commitment to good schools in Baltimore City is equally strong, surpassing $950 million annually, or more than three times the average local contribution elsewhere in the state.

Ahem, you just cut school money to the city, your overall expenditure doesn't do the city much good. Just make sure the MSA and BCPS stay on track with their improvement plans and don't cut funds. 

But we all know that funding alone does not produce the results our children need. New, innovative solutions are necessary to ensure that every child has the opportunity to get a world class education. That's why I will continue to advocate for creative new approaches, like Bard High School Early College, and the amazing work in our terrific public charter schools and parochial schools that serve disadvantaged students. My administration will vigorously pursue and support approaches to education that reject the status quo in order to make a real difference for students.

Please study the stats for charter and contract schools. That not so innovative idea has long lost a lot of its luster. Besides, all of that is already going on here. The biggest boost for schools would be new well educated residents who send their kids to public schools. So filling houses more than demoing them. 

Of course, these ideas are just a preview of what I hope to accomplish over the next eight years, and these principles are consistent with the positive changes we are already delivering across Maryland. We can't do it alone, which is why we are eager to work with the mayor, city elected officials, community and faith leaders, legislators, neighbors, parents and anyone willing to put aside partisanship to embrace the possibility of a better future. The traditional approach of just throwing new money at old ideas won't deliver solutions, but I believe that hard work and innovative new concepts can change Baltimore's destiny.

Not throwing any money at anything and still hoping for success is really innovative, downright magic, actually. If that works, we should make you Governor for life! But if you don't give money back to Baltimore and your innovations don't achieve what you say they should, you may just have to settle for four years. 

I love Baltimore and the people who call it home, and I sincerely believe that Maryland's biggest city must serve as the economic and cultural heart of our state. Baltimore residents deserve a commitment from leaders to deliver meaningful changes and the possibility of a better future, and so does every Marylander who loves our great state.

Amen. And speedy recovery to you and to Baltimore that prior to the unrest had been on a pretty promising path. 

Larry Hogan is the governor of Maryland. He can be reached at

Klaus Philipsen is a Baltimore architect who spent much of his 30 years in Baltimore on consulting for MTA transit improvements such as the CRL, the Quickbus, the Kirk bus facility and the Langley Park bus transit center. And, yes, the Red Line. He can be reached at 

Please excuse formatting and spelling. This piece was entirely done on a smart phone. 

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