The battle for the Health Care Financing Administration, which pits Baltimore city against Baltimore County, points out more than anything in recent memory how ludicrous it has become to operate two totally autonomous local governments in extremely close proximity.
The fight, which has deteriorated into name-calling, is, however, understandable. HCFA employs 3,000 people who spend $12 million to $15 million a year where they work -- in gas stations, dry-cleaning establishments, restaurants, retail stores. For 12 years that location has been Woodlawn.
County advocates, as such, are right to fight to try to keep HCFA in Baltimore County. But Rep. Helen Bentley and County Executive Roger Hayden go too far in charging that the city is trying to "steal" HCFA from the county. The federal agency, after all, must move to consolidate operations. And Baltimore city desperately needs a financial infusion of the magnitude a new HCFA office complex offers. Moreover, the location the city has proposed, near the Camden Yards baseball stadium, would have broader benefits that other locations cannot offer -- especially given the logical links with nearby institutions like the city's medical schools that could spur development of a wide range of other health-related businesses.