Baltimore County officials turned up the heat on the U.S. General Services Administration yesterday, announcing a coalition that will lobby the GSA to keep the Health Care Financing Administration and its 3,000 jobs in Woodlawn.
County Executive Roger B. Hayden, Rep. Helen Delich Bentley, R-Md.-2d., and leaders of business groups and the union representing HCFA workers said they are trying to keep the HCFA from bowing to political pressure from city officials and moving into the city.
They say officials including Rep. Benjamin L. Cardin, D-Md.-3rd, have pushed for a city site. But Mrs. Bentley acknowledged using her position on the House subcommittee that oversees the GSA to lobby for Woodlawn, meeting with GSA's regional administrator last fall.
"If the county should lose HCFA -- and we won't let that happen -- the rest of the Social Security Administration could eventually go downtown," Mrs. Bentley said. HCFA, which oversees the Medicare and Medicaid programs, is not part of the Social Security Administration but, like Social Security, has its headquarters in Woodlawn.
The GSA is considering two sites in Woodlawn and a third in Baltimore. The HCFA is now housed in several Woodlawn buildings and wants to consolidate. A decision is expected this summer.
Mr. Cardin denied that he is pushing for the city site, saying he is neutral. His district includes parts of the city and parts of the county.
"I'm not aware of any political influence being exerted by any federal people other than Helen," Mr. Cardin said.
Mrs. Bentley responded that Mr. Cardin has stopped advocating the city because of opposition from HCFA employees, many of whom live in parts of southwestern Baltimore County that are in his district.
She and Mr. Hayden said the GSA never would have considered areas outside Woodlawn without Mr. Cardin's 1989 intervention, a claim a GSA official said was hard to assess.
"It's a good question, actually," said Steven Peters, a GSA contracting officer in Philadelphia. "I can't say we would have never looked outside Woodlawn, but I don't know how far we would have looked."
John Gage, president of Local 1923 of the American Federation of Government Workers, said 93 percent of HCFA employees surveyed prefer to stay in Woodlawn rather than move to a proposed site near Oriole Park at Camden Yards.
Mr. Gage said HCFA workers are planning a rally March 13 at the current headquarters to pressure the GSA to keep them in the suburbs. Another rally at nearby Security Square Mall is set for the following week.