Politics & Business

Hopkins Academics Write Wall Street Journal Piece on Baltimore’s Economic Troubles


Courtesy of Citybizlist – Steve Hanke and Stephen Walters penned an opinion piece in The Wall Street Journal called How Sunday’s NFL Cities Became Champs in which they argue that three of the four – Boston, New York, and San Francisco – have boasted sustained growth, prosperity, and quality of life due to environments conducive to private capital and the protection of property rights.

Baltimore, by contrast, has lost 21 percent of its population since around 1980 because of the city’s misguided capital and property taxes, they claim.

Hanke is a professor of applied economics at the Johns Hopkins University; Walters is a fellow at Hopkins; Institute for Applied Economics, Global Health, and Study of Business Enterprise.

Some highlights:

– “While no single factor explains any city’s destiny, it is not a mere coincidence that Boston, New York and San Francisco reversed their declines at the exact moment they became favorable environments for private investment in residential and business capital.”

– “Baltimore has blithely ignored basic property-rights theory. When high property taxes chased many residents and business owners to the suburbs, the city raised rates further. When grandiose slum-clearance and transit plans destabilized neighborhoods, Baltimore’s one-party establishment arranged eminent-domain seizures and pushed even more “big footprint” renewal projects.”

– “The results leave no doubt about which strategy is more effective. Baltimore’s real, median household income has been stagnant for the last three decades. New York’s has risen 22% while Boston’s and San Francisco’s have soared by half. Baltimore’s 2009 homicide rate was 4.7 times Boston’s and 6.7 times New York’s and San Francisco’s.”

Read the full story herehttp://tinyurl.com/89kr2yh

O’Malley Takes Second Crack at Wind Energy, Oh, and One Other Thing


After last year’s offshore wind bill failed to pass, Gov. Martin O’Malley went back to the drawing board, lifted a few moves from New Jersey Governor Chris Christie, and returned to the General Assembly today with a modified bill.

The new plan (like the old one) will likely raise residential electricity bills $1.50 to $2.00 per month. The portion of their power that wholesalers would have to purchase from wind farms beginning in 2017? 2.5 percent. Does that seem like small potatoes to anybody else?

And not to get too conservative on you, but how are we going to make a large-scale move to “green” energy if it requires a state mandate and a measurably larger electricity bill just to move wind to 2.5 percent? Just sayin’.

Oh, by the way, after he presents his revamped wind plan, he is going to introduce a bill to legalize same-sex marriage.

Winter Driving Tips from the MD State Highway Administration


A safety bulletin from the State Highway Administration urges travelers to use extra caution on the road today. With freezing rain predicted through Monday morning, the SHA and the Maryland Transportation Authority have crews at the ready to respond with salt. “However, as crews salt, if freezing rain continues it can be hard to prevent icing, particularly on bridges, ramps and overpasses.”

Below, official instructions for safety today and every ice-cold day we’ll experience.

Drivers should check conditions at www.traffic.maryland.gov and www.MD511.org or call 511 (1-855-GOMD511 outside the region) for current travel and weather information.  Once you visit the 511 website, sign up to follow 511 on Twitter with regional alerts and create your own personalized service with MY511 by registering your frequent routes. MY511 will recognize you upon return visits or calls and bypass general information, reporting your route information first, saving you time.

If traveling longer distances, the I-95 Corridor Coalition is a resource to plan ahead by visiting the web at www.I95coalition.org.  For general information, follow @MDSHA on Twitter and visit www.roads.maryland.gov.

SHA reminds everyone on the road BSAFE: Buckle up; Slow down — speed limits are set for fair weather conditions; Always drive sober; Focus on the road and Everyone share the road so everyone gets home.  Additionally, see and be seen by clearing your entire vehicle of ice; allow extra time, don’t rush; watch for pedestrians navigating icy conditions on foot; make sure wipers work and fill washer fluid — an absolute must for visibility.

Please follow key safety laws:
• No hand-held mobile phone use or texting in travel lanes; even stopped at signals;
• Wipers on, lights on!
• MOVE OVER — fender benders with no injuries, move out of travel lanes!
• MOVE OVER to free lanes away from emergency vehicles during incidents, and please force yourself to keep your eyes on the road, not to look at the scene.

Maryland: a House Divided


There are two contentious issues that will likely be on the ballot in November, and each one cuts Maryland voters in half. One is the Maryland Dream Act, and the other is gay marriage.

The Dream Act is a measure that would give in-state tuition rates at community colleges to illegal immigrant students (who have graduated from a public high school in that county and whose parents pay Maryland taxes). It passed in the state legislature, after which Republicans ran a signature drive that put the act up for referendum.

The success of that petition has was a morale-builder for Maryland’s minority party, who have vowed to use the same tactic against a bill to legalize same-sex marriage, were the General Assembly to pass one (and, with the recent support of Gov. O’Malley, they just might).

The referendum strategy isn’t a slam dunk for Republicans, though it’s certainly got to make Democrats uneasy. A recent poll found among likely Maryland voters, forty-eight percent favor the Dream Act; forty-nine percent oppose. Gay marriage is similarly divisive: forty-nine percent favor; forty-seven percent oppose. With a margin of error of plus or minus 3.5 percentage points, that’s a dead-heat for both.

Expect Maryland to get extra tense around November. On the upside, it may bring more people to the polls than in years past.

The Failures of "Smart Growth" in Maryland


Smart growth — the anti-sprawl urban planning theory that encourages transit-oriented development, walkable city centers, and mixed-use development — sounds like, well, an intelligent idea. No wonder our governor is a proponent. But despite the best efforts of O’Malley and other interested parties, Maryland experts think our state’s potential for smart growth is weak, and being threatened from many sides.

The University of Maryland surveyed planners, developers, and land-use advocates — all stakeholders in the growth of our region. For one, the state has designated special areas — Priority Funding Areas, or PFAs — for smart growth development. But UM’s survey found that the planners and developers preferred to work outside of these PFAs, largely because of the various regulations and ordinances they have to follow.

As a result, the current system “is barely moving the needle on most widely accepted measures of smart growth,” says Gerrit Knaap, head of the university’s National Center for Smart Growth. Knaap’s report argues for more flexibility in the system.

What do you think is the best way for Maryland to grow?

Historic Carousel Kicked Out of Inner Harbor


Among the ESPN Zones (RIP) and Luckie’s Liquors at the Inner Harbor, the carousel was the kind of old-fashioned entertainment that charmed children and adults alike. But if you haven’t yet ridden the century-old, hand-carved wooden horses, you may be out of luck — the city has ordered the carousel’s owner to get it out of the Harbor by March 31.

A victim of the sagging economy, the ride’s owner, Richard H. Knight, hasn’t paid rent for five years. At one time, according to Knight, the carousel charged 75 cents a ride, and made over $100,000 annually. But in recent years, as the price of a rise rose to $2, profits started to sink, and Knight has taken in about $25,000 each year. City officials claim that he’s allowing the historic artifact to fall into disrepair. “We have been extraordinarily patient with Mr. Knight,” Jay Brodie, the president of the Baltimore Development Corp., said. “We simply reached the end. We are at this point with regret.”

If you prefer a conspiracy story, consider that the BDC has received several proposals to revamp the Inner Harbor — and none of those plans included the carousel.

“They’ll have to drag me out kicking and screaming,” Knight said. “I mean, this city keeps losing things. They lost the Colts. They lost the ice rink at Rash Field. They lost the trapeze school. How many more things can we lose? This ride is an icon.”

Where Do Maryland’s Elected Officials Stand on SOPA/PIPA?


With the protest “blackouts” of many major websites like Wikipedia, BoingBoing, WordPress, and Mozilla yesterday — Google “blacked out” their logo, but remained open — two pieces of legislation, the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) and the Protect Intellectual Property Act (PIPA), were made instantly famous.

SOPA and PIPA, currently in the House and Senate, respectively, are anti-copyright infringement measures that have entertainment and technology companies divided. On the tech side, Wikipedia editors claim the bills’ use of censorship “could fatally damage the free and open Internet.” The MPAA (which, along with the RIAA and most major television networks, supports the bill) accuses the blacked-out sites of “intentionally skew[ing] the facts…to further their corporate interests.”

Of Maryland’s eight representatives and two senators only Sen. Ben Cardin has taken a position on the sister bills, and it’s something short of a full retreat. Cardin, a cosponsor of PIPA, stated in a recent press release that “there are real concerns still to be addressed,” and he would not vote in favor of PIPA “as currently written.” But he has not completely abandoned the piece of legislation and is instead on the lookout for “meaningful amendments” to it.

Congresspeople, on the whole, receive much more money from organizations that support these bills than those that don’t, and Maryland’s elected officials are no exception. On the other hand, popular opinion seems to be turning swiftly away from these bills. We’ll see which way the wind blows.

Medicare and Medicaid Cuts Bring Financial Woes To…


Health care reform and cuts to Medicaid and Medicare have really hit — wait for it — doctors hard. Physicians are probably not the first people you think of struggling from cuts to social programs, but with a little imagination it’s not hard to see how their practices could be adversely affected.

The major issue is that Medicare and Medicaid have been paying out less in reimbursements to physicians. A large percentage of physicians say they lose money treating patients on Medicare or Medicaid, and 40 percent plan to “drop out of patient care in [the] next one to three years in response to reform.”  It’s already caused many doctors to either restrict the number of Medicare/Medicaid patients they accept or sell their practices.

What does a less profitable medical profession mean for us here in Hopkinsville, I mean, Baltimore?

Mysterious Nighttime Arrest in Roland Park


I’ve lived in some sketchy neighborhoods since I moved to Baltimore nine years ago, and I’m accustomed to hearing police and ambulance sirens wail at all hours. Like most of us, I’m no stranger to the sad scene of a guy (more often, it’s a male in this situation) getting cuffed by cops along the side of the road. But it’s not every day — or ever before tonight — that I’ve witnessed an arrest in my newest place of residence, Roland Park. Roland Park, where most everyone smiles hello on the sidewalks and the illusion of complete safety seems to make even the resident dogs extra friendly. Tonight, at approximately 9, I jogged past Petit Louis and observed a bald fellow in a striped scarf (possibly Burberry) and black plastic art glasses getting cuffed and carted off. Two giant police SUVs hogged the lot, their lights twirling. A call to the restaurant revealed that this man had not stepped inside the eating establishment at any point, but had been spotted “in the neighborhood.” Curious. No further information available just yet, but we’ll follow up as more comes to light.

How Many Politicians Does It Take to Unseat Senator Cardin?


Will eighteen do it?

Maryland Junior Senator Ben Cardin is up for re-election and eighteen challengers have registered to vie for the seat. Cardin will face eight Democrats in his party’s primary, while ten Republican hopefuls will battle it out amongst themselves before the general election.

They may find he’s pretty tough to beat. The guy has been winning elections since 1967! Before his election to the US Senate six years ago, he spent twenty years in the House of Representatives. And before that he spent twenty years in the Maryland House of Delegates.

Cardin is popular for his support of environmental issues and civil rights. And he may see his political capital increase: he was one of only thirteen senators to vote against the increasingly unpopular National Defense Authorization Act, which authorizes the indefinite detention of American citizens suspected of terrorism.

Oh yeah, and he has raised more than two million dollars to fund his campaign, a number that dwarfs the efforts of his challengers.