Demand for concessions risks derailing Port Covington TIF.

Some members of the Baltimore City Council are acting more like kids in a candy store than public officials entrusted with regulating development and safeguarding the city treasury (“Young urges Sagamore to cut deals with unions, BUILD on Port Covington TIF,” Aug. 4).

If Sagamore Development has the money to fund all the community benefit agreements, profit-sharing agreements and project labor agreements the City Council is demanding in exchange for its approval of tax increment financing for the public infrastructure at Port Covington, it should use that money to reduce the amount the city has to borrow rather than spend it on side deals that have nothing to do with the TIF or the merits of the project.

What distinguishes the business environment in the developed world is that there are established, predictable sets of government regulations that have to be satisfied as well as taxes, fees and other charges that have to be paid.

Extending the requirement of a PLA to a private development means that Port Covington will be subject not only to a unique set of fees and charges but also to a unique set of labor regulations. Will the next private development be subject to its own unique set of fees, charges, and laws?

It looks a lot like the city is making it up as it goes along. That is the way things are done in much of the Third World. The city is fortunate that it is dealing with Kevin Plank, who has made a special commitment to Baltimore and Maryland. Anyone else would walk.

I do not know everything about this deal, but I do know this: The City Council needs to keep its eye on the ball, which is reducing to an absolute minimum the long-term financial risk the city is taking.

There is a danger of compromising that objective if the focus is on exacting concessions from Sagamore to sweeten the deal rather than on the deal itself.

I am not accusing council members of seeking any personal benefits, but I am suggesting that their judgment could be influenced by the political attractiveness of the sweeteners.

David A. Plymyer

[Published as a Letter to the Editor by The Baltimore Sun on August 11, 2016.  I did not post the letter until October 2, 2016; the date of posting listed above was backdated to place the letter on the blog in the order that it was written.]

 

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