Mayor Schmoke: Consider these development ideas


November 21, 1990|By PHILIP MOELLER


To: Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke

From: Mr. Rockthrower, of

the Calvert St. Rockthrowers

Re: City development issues

Your recent naming of David M. Gillece as acting president of Center City-Inner Harbor Development Inc. raises some significant issues for how Baltimore manages the development process. It also provides a good opportunity to conduct a thorough review of this process. And, should you wish to view this as a strategic issue, your handling of this matter could have a positive impact on your re-election efforts.

Given that the city carries a well-earned reputation, globally as well as nationally, for innovative yet well-coordinated development, your careful attention to these issues has a direct bearing not only on the city's immediate future but also on how it is perceived by a large group of urban experts whose views about Baltimore can have an impact on the city.

Mr. Gillece, who will continue to head the Baltimore Economic Development Corp., has been asked by you to review the possible merger of BEDCO and CCIH. Your concerns about coherent and efficient management of the development process are understandable, as is your interest in seeking possible budget savings by consolidating these two groups, which together employ roughly 50 people.

However, it is hoped that in your careful review of Mr. Gillece's recommendations, you will also consider other management issues at work here, as well as the possibility for seeking funding from the private sector -- funding that could eliminate cost considerations as a major element in the decision-making process. Also, it is strongly recommended that you avail yourself of this transition to implement a significant shift in the city's development strategy that would emphasize the human development issues that have so properly been at the center of your administration's stated objectives.

Specifically, it would be a mistake to combine these development agencies if such a union had the effect of submerging the mission of either group and, in the process, reducing that group's effectiveness.

Physical development of downtown Baltimore, which is the CCIH mission, is a substantially different endeavor from BEDCO's tasks -- attracting new businesses to the city, helping find major tenants for new and proposed office locations and overseeing industrial development projects. These efforts require differing kinds of expertise. They also benefit from visible and empowered leaders -- people who can deal with powerful business and political leaders as equals.

Given the uncertainties facing the city -- revenue shortfalls, an economic slowdown and rising office vacancy rates -- now is not the time to dilute economic development efforts but to intensify them. Even if you feel this can be accomplished by joining BEDCO and CCIH, it is vital that this fact be forcefully demonstrated and communicated to the broader development community. At present, it most likely would be seen as yet another cost-cutting move and not a positive action for development interests.

Financial considerations should not drive this policy decision, but if funds are short, I'd respectfully suggest that now is a good time to allow the private sector to give your administration some above-board financial support. Although the private sector is approaching harder times along with the city, it is difficult to imagine that some creative yet ethical private financing could not be obtained for your administration's development efforts.

In this regard, I am reminded of a remark you made to a prominent Baltimore businessman during your run for mayor. He told it to me shortly after you met with a group of prominent business leaders, and it has stuck with me. " 'I can get elected without your help,' " he quoted you as telling the group, " 'but I can't govern without your help.' "

Unfortunately, you have not had sufficient help from the established business community, for reasons both good and bad. The quality of your administration's governance has suffered as a result. Without engaging in extended finger-pointing, I'd like to suggest that the development process is a good one to use for building new bridges with business interests. If you really do feel you need business to govern, you owe it to yourself to reconsider your tactics toward seeking assistance from the private sector.

Although it is difficult to imagine how merging these development units would preserve their special characteristics, you may still feel compelled to seek such a merger. If so, you should also consider some form of combination with your Department of Housing and Community Development, headed by Dr. Robert Hearn. HCD, as it's known, oversees the development process in most of Baltimore, and certainly should be an integral part of any consolidated approach to development.

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