When Mayor Catherine Pugh handed off a letter to Donald Trump at M&T Bank Stadium on Saturday, she was making an appeal for help from Trump’s incoming administration for several of Baltimore’s most pressing infrastructure issues.
The letter, made publicly available last night, outlines a series of investment pitches for money from to government to boost transportation, water and internet infrastructure in Baltimore. Pugh took a different approach than the City Council by not focusing too much on his racially subversive rhetoric of the past. Instead, she tried to appeal to his sensibilities as a New Yorker who might be familiar with urban issues, and more importantly as an investor seeking returns on whatever he throws his money at. She even attempted to fall in line with his past disparaging comments on the state of the country’s cities, Baltimore included, writing that he has “so rightly spoken at length on the need on the need for both urban renewal and sizable infrastructure investment.”
She kicked off her pitches by naming the one Baltimore development project that anyone outside of the area has most likely heard about: Port Covington. With a major shift set to take shape in South Baltimore, Pugh noted that the city will need to vastly improve I-95 and the connecting roadways leading to Port Covington to accommodate the increase in traffic headed toward Kevin Plank’s newly transformed spectacle.
She also pointed to a $155-million dearth of federal investment needed to jumpstart the expansion of the Howard Street Tunnel so that Baltimore can take advantage of the modern advent of double-stacked cargo containers. With that money, developers and the city could proceed with expanding the old tunnel, which would create thousands of new jobs and allow for more containers to head to the harbor. That would in turn provide a boost to the country’s shipping industry, she wrote. For those projects, Pugh said the federal government could provide FASTLANE grants that would generate returns in the long run.
(The federal government already declined once this year to invest in either of the major transportation projects Pugh referenced.)
The mayor also pointed out the city’s glaring problems with its sewers and drinking water infrastructure that create an endless flow of sinkholes and water main breaks and make life hellish for some residents. The fixes for those issues are projected to cost the city billions to fix in the near future. “Without the help of federally funded State Revolving Loan funds, tax exempt revenue bonds, public-private partnerships, and innovate projects, we will not succeed in saving this critical infrastructure,” Pugh wrote.
Her third enumerated issue in the two-page letter was broadband internet infrastructure. According to Pugh, City Schools in 2017 will be applying for approximately $8 million in federal E-Rate funds, which the Federal Communications Commission administers to schools and libraries to offer them discounted internet access, according to the FCC’s website. Pugh wrote that the city and private investors are spending money to install fiber to make internet widely available, but could benefit from those funds as well as other federal grants “to help Baltimore realize its goal of having the most robust broadband infrastructure possible.”
There are many items Pugh didn’t touch on, including poverty or the highly delayed consent decree being negotiated for the Baltimore Police Department by the Department of Justice and attorneys for the City. However, there’s only so much a mayor can fit into an appeal handed off at a football game. It was already at two full pages anyway, since she had to use up a chunk of space appealing for federal aid for the city from a man who’s slowly creating a cabinet made up of private businessmen.
Click here to read the full letter.