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Commentaryby Brew Editors12:00 pmMar 9, 20140

Best of Brew Comments

Privatizing public housing, auditing grants to the city, turmoil at the BDC – some of the stories that our readers hash over

Housing advocates seek details about plan to privatize public housing

“I have some trouble with the statement about proposing guidelines for financial and criminal records checks. So people with insufficient funds for the open market or criminal records are just supposed to be homeless? Or is it, in their heart of hearts, that they really believe that poorer people and people who’ve made mistakes are not entitled to decent housing.”
– bmorepanic

“I applaud the mayor for doing this! Why should Baltimore City be an island of poverty?”
– Eric

“The reality is that most of these buildings have been neglected for so long that they are high rise slums. If they are not reinvested in soon, some of them will need to be abandoned and the residents will be displaced. We need some transparency and serious discussion and advocacy, but the status quo won’t work.”
– BMiller
Housing authority workers threatened with layoffs

“I am totally sympathetic to anyone losing a job. But I have to say, having spent a good amount of time in two of these high-rises, the conditions were very poor. I have no idea how much any of that blame should fall on the current employees, but it really is an untenable situation as it exists. If someone could find some real money to repair them and staff them appropriately, I’d welcome it. But that doesn’t appear to be on the horizon.”
– Rocky_Ground

“This is definitely bad news for the workers. Not all will be re-hired and their pay and benefits will, I’m assuming, go down for most. Unfortunately for them, the move towards private and not-for-profit organizations taking over and rehabbing housing via the low income housing tax credit program and grant programs is a big net-benefit for residents and the City government.”
– Day_Star

“God I hope that a non-profit does not end up acquiring the buildings – that makes a bad situation worse. The last thing the city needs is more folks making money off the contracts and not paying taxes. How are schools and roads supposed to be maintained, police and fire people paid etc. if the landlords of such large complexes don’t have to pay property taxes?”
– Matthew Reisner
Graziano defends housing privatization in a surprise call to radio station

“Back-in-the-day, long enough ago for the statue of limitations to be exhausted at least 3 times over, I worked for a local slumlord for a while doing general bookkeeping. $25 up to around $125 per inspection was the going rate paid by the property manager to an inspector to approve something that shouldn’t have been approved – or sometimes just to ransom a good inspection. How do I know? The manager would put in for reimbursement on his expense report and I asked about it.”
– bmorepanic

“Of course the residents are happy for this program, it’s their ticket out of substandard housing which has been poorly maintained at best, criminally at worst (anyone remember the lead paint poisoning cases against HABC??). I fail to see the controversy of allowing people the choice of where to live?”
– thatguysonheroin

“The loss of units is the biggest concern, particularly because there is a long waiting list of people seeking subsidized housing and people who are or are in threat of becoming homeless without it.”
– BrownSide

“I don’t think you fully grasp the issue. . . The people currently in units move into privately owned homes in better neighborhoods which are not currently set aside for low-income only. The units which they moved from do not disappear into thin air, they simply have the option of subsidized or unsubsidized tenants.”

– thatguysonheroin

“I understand the scenario, and the vouchers disappear once the recipient is no longer eligible. If the recipient leaves the area, the voucher slot leaves as well. Meanwhile the brick and mortar unit that is subsidized is now gone. As you can see from this thread, a vocal minority think that landlords should be able to discriminate against the poor who have vouchers and not accept the split payment. Public housing doesn’t HAVE to be in poor shape. That is a policy decision and priority. People should have the option to get a housing voucher if they wish, but the thousands on the waiting list should not be deprived of the option to live in public housing units that are kept in good shape rather than try their luck with the market and end up homeless.”

– BrownSide

“I worked on a highway project requiring the demolition of such a building. Some of the residents (not owners, but renters) could only be compelled to move out by being offered tens of thousands of dollars in cash from the federal highway administration, and even upon signing the agreement and cashing the check, I recall it took another 6-7 months to get the last folks out of there. Human inertia is the damnedest thing.”
– River Mud

“Poor people have a sense of neighborhood and community that is likely no different (or perhaps more developed) than that in the rich suburbs. Losing that without being given a choice is part of what people fight against. Fighting for your rights seems the antithesis of inertia, enit?”

– BrownSide

“How DARE Marc Steiner and Melody Simmons ask His Honorable Housing Commissioner Paul T. Graziano to answer QUESTIONS about his plan to sell off public housing to the highest private bidder! What do they think this is, some kind of DEMOCRACY.”
– gctommy
Inside City Hall: Another accounting “black hole” revealed in unpublicized study

“Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me 300 million times, shame on me.”
– Barnadine_the_Pirate

“Will the Mayor and the Comptroller, right now, today, meet and jointly announce they are going to hire special, independent auditors to go in and dig through all of these records – the supposed ‘dots’ – and begin to reconcile these books? Or will this mess just sit at the public door’s edge, smouldering?”
– axbca (Chris T. Delaporte)

“I think that Federal/State inspectors are just as much to blame here. If you give grant funding you are supposed to inspect/audit records of the receiving agencies. Why wasn’t this done?”
– Mugsyj

“Is there a way to break this down by agency within the city government? To see where the grant amounts are being met versus overspent?”
– VictoryG

“The study specifically calls for an audit of the city’s Grants Revenue Fund Deficit, agency by agency, to find out what funds have been overspent by the city. But the mayor hasn’t uttered a word about doing that – or has even mentioned the report itself.”

“The real scandal is that the city is spending hundreds of millions a dollars a year from grant money and has very little progress (if any) to show for it. The entire City of Baltimore is a black hole where gravity pulls money in never to be seen again.”
– Sean Tully

“Here’s an idea: Why don’t we just cut our losses by giving the whole damn thing back to the Piscataway Tribe. We can vacate the landscape, meet somewhere in Canada and figure out a way to pool our funds to invest in some kind of  ‘American Municipality Failure Derivatives.’”
– Citizenpane

“’Most agencies tend to focus more on the programmatic oversight?’ But in the Homeless grants they weren’t doing that either. I don’t believe Baltimore has ever done much on this front, as Willie Don’s philosophy, as taught to him by Chicago’s Mayor Daly, was to get the grant, spend it on whatever you want, “then convince them it’s legal. Probably worked pretty well in the 1970s and ’80s, when cities – and the votes within – mattered.”
– Edward Ericson Jr.

“Once again, The Balto Brew, they rock the City boat,
and since the boat is sinking anyway, and will not stay afloat,
why not shake the structure,
cause a bigger rupture,
and while you’re at it, puncture
the massive, gassive, less than fantastic
astounding City bloat.”

– davethesuave

Part 2: City agencies follow their own path in accounting for grants

“The City That Never Audits. I like that. Or The City That Bleeds Money.”
– Chris, via Twitter

“This is so much to digest, and just so depressing (& unsurprising). Baltimore is the least ‘professional’ large city I have seen. The lack of professionalism of the local government employees I have interacted with has been quite stark. I guess it persists right up the administrative layers.”
– lanas

“To my local government – please stop living in the stone age! Become the government you could be – agile, responsive and predictive by using integrated, quality information. Stop hiring many vendors that each only do pieces of accounting for issues and dollars. Please stop budget planning using the same basic methods from the 1940s and stop saying what you use is fine. They are making a mountain out of a molehill by continuing to use quite elderly software – and I’m sure against all advice of the many MOIT directors.”
– bmorepanic

“non in perpetuum audits.”
– Timmy Gelles, via Twitter
City’s point man for Harbor Point projects resigns

“With any luck McKenzie’s incompetence will lead to the collapse of Baltimore’s most notorious illegal backroom deal making organization.”
– Tom Gregory

“Sorry, Tom. It is not a time to be happy. McKenzie’s incompetence will lead to the collapse of economic development efforts in Baltimore. And the Maryland counties, as well as the cities and counties in the other states, will not stand down in their economic development efforts while Baltimore dilly dallies. Maybe you did not like everything BDC did. That’s your right. Are you sure you want to live in a City with an ineffective, paralyzed economic development agency?”
– Lizzie 58

I’m not happy and not endorsing a stand down of economic development. Accountable to no one, the BDC hides in the shadows of a corrupt City Hall to conduct business. I want to live in a city where the people’s business is conducted in the light of day.”

– Tom Gregory

“There are so many agencies that don’t work yet we continue to beat on the one that more times than not has helped to produce real, on the ground change and improvement for the city. No, BDC is not perfect, but having worked with BDC and many other city agencies I can tell you first hand that BDC has/had many very talented people who worked hard and were consistently more responsive, attentive, and competent than any other agency I dealt with.”

– Renew Baltimore

“It seems the Mayor should take a page out of corporate America – you apparently have a staff that is not happy and can’t get anything done, all because of one person. Come on, this isn’t that hard to figure out. You have to feel bad that people have to work in an environment like that!”

– James Wieder

“From what it sounds like, the BDC is cracking faster than the City’s water mains!”

– MugsyJ
BDC headed in right direction despite staff turnover, mayor says

“What direction is that, though?”
– Parag Khandhar, via Twitter

“Why can’t she come out and admit that something so obviously negative is, well, negative? Why is every damned thing that happens a sign that rainbows are just around the corner? I am so tired of SRB being such an obvious BS’R.”
– Smiley

“Sounds like they are gonna have to change the locks and institute a new secret handshake at the Baltimore Development Cabal. While change is definitely needed at BDC, this has more of a feeling of rats getting off of the sinking ship.”

– Asteroid_B612

“The best thing that could come out of BDC and city hall would be an audit.”
– Richard Herbert, via Facebook

“The number of people who have left BDC since the start of Ms. Mackenzie’s tenure is even greater than outlined in Reutter’s original article, and they are dedicated, talented people who were ready to embrace the change that they knew a new leader would bring. The exodus is not simply a reflection of what normally happens with a new leader, but a deeper and more troubling reflection of the lack of direction, vision, and decisiveness from the new president. The Mayor is doing a disservice to the citizens of Baltimore, as well as the people who own businesses in the city, by refusing to acknowledge that a mistake has been made.”
– Anythingiwant

“Read Brew BDC story this morning. Without a doubt some of the best investigative journalism in the country is being done by this organization. If you’re not reading it – you are really uninformed.
– Anthony McCarthy, via Facebook
City school advocates press gubernatorial candidates at forum

“Is this Gansler out of it – lacrosse gear costs a lot of money. Will Charm City Lacrosse provide Castafieda with money for the gear or the gear itself? Or the transportation?. . . Anthony Brown is a glib and formulaic man who is very establishment. Mizuer is fun. She speaks the common man’s language and she has grand ideas. Can she implement them? How clever will she be when working with the Maryland legislature? “
– ushanellore

“I don’t agree with possible-future-Governor Mizeur on much. I’m voting for her anyway. She’s honest and, as you say Ushanellore, speaks the common person’s language. As contradictory and asinine as this sounds, I would rather have someone in office who I can respectfully disagree with than the status quo.”

– davethesuave

“Were the Republican candidates also invited and just didn’t show up? If not, will the same opportunity be given to them as well?”

– Steve

“Added to the story now (thanks Steve and Katie) this from BEC: ‘Six of the leading candidates were invited to individually answer education-related questions submitted by Coalition members. Democrats Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown, Attorney General Douglas Gansler and Delegate Heather Mizeur attended. Republicans Larry Hogan, David R. Craig and Delegate Ronald George were invited but did not attend.’ -fs”
– baltimorebrew

“Mizeur seems to break the mold of rote political talking points. Refreshing.”

– jamjamm

Violent crime drops in southeast Baltimore, center of January surge

“Things really seemed to be getting so much better. Instead of being afraid to enter Patterson Park, we could finally enjoy walking through it. I think that is what has caused many Highlandtown residents so much distress lately. The feeling that we may be losing the good things that we worked for. The fear that all the neighborhood clean ups and tree plantings, and all of the efforts to drive out the drug houses, may still end up being in vain.”
– peterfrombaltimore

“Let us not rejoice and make too much noise. When warm weather returns the criminals may come out with a vengeance determined to make up for time lost. “
– ushanellore

“Yes, knew about those stats, but the telling two are homicides and police involved shootings. Way up!!”
– Paul Behler, via Twitter
City Paper sale and censorship reverberate from Manhattan to Austin

“I disagree with the decision editor Evan Serpack made when he caved to pressure from a source he won’t identify, and deleted the review. He’s only telling us half the story by bashing the people who ‘made him do it,’ but not naming them. Funny how that truth isn’t coming out after the sale of City Paper.”
– Carver

“PullEEEZ! City Paper is and never was serious journalism. People need to stop crying about how one trashy paper was bought up by an entirely spineless and guileless paper that’s about to go out of business.”
– Andrew
Still more City Paper content censored

“The ad man will not advertise
if you do not bowdlerize–
Journalist, please think it out, before you carry on and shout–
that this is a country free, where a right to write is guaranteed,
when the ad man withholds his fees-
he can make you beg upon your knees
for a measly loaf of rancid bread–
and a cup of cold and watery tea…..
unless you give him what he needs–
two thumbs up for his runaway greed.”

– Usha Nellore

Baltimore Arena, not Under Armour, was prime complainer about City Paper review

“Who did it doesn’t make any difference. Leslie Grim committed the cardinal sin of journalism, allowing advertisers to make editorial decisions. The blame is 100% on Grim and she should never find work in journalism ever again.”

– Barnadine_the_Pirate

“Any newspaper worth it’s weight in ink will not buckle to anyone when publishing what it perceives as the truth. Advertisers will come and go but the truth must live on or we will have, well, the society we are getting today.”

– Sean Tully
On one-year anniversary of Camp 83, advocate speaks out

“Incredible woman. Would be so excited if she ran for mayor.”
– Chloe Herman, via Facebook

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