Saturday Mailbox

SATURDAY MAILBOX

August 13, 2005

Building boom offers chance for fresh start

As I look and ride around Baltimore, I see that the town is booming. Developers obviously find our city appealing. There are construction sites all over. The city has issued permits for 735 new residential construction units in the first six months of this year, a sevenfold increase from the first half of 2000 ("Developers discover charms of Baltimore," Aug. 7).

But when I consider all this development and then ride by the construction sites, I often see few, if any, African-American men or African-American youths working at these sites, and I'm concerned.

With the number of African-American men coming out of prison who need work, and the number of juveniles who are not in school and not working, this construction boom is an opportunity.

If more of the young men and women who are involved in some way with the drug trade could be given an opportunity to make a decent wage, many of them would consider leaving the drug trade.

In construction trades, they could make from $20 to $24 an hour. Their life expectancy would increase, they would get real benefits (not just fancy clothes and jewelry) and they would learn a valuable skill.

I am also very concerned about the current state of juveniles in the custody of the Department of Juvenile Services. Many of these young people have time on their hands.

Let's start apprenticeship training programs in all of these facilities so that many of the youths can become productive citizens.

I have worked with young people nearly all of my adult life, and the ones who are getting into trouble and selling drugs are not going to stop for minimum-wage jobs.

If we can teach them a trade, get them certified, they can make a decent wage, and I believe many would turn away from their current lifestyles.

We are simply losing too many to drugs, gun violence and other social ills.

Apprenticeship programs would offer hope.

Cameron Miles

Baltimore

The writer is director of Mentoring Male Teens in the Hood.

City convention hotel likely to finance itself

Several recent letters have stated basic and significant misconceptions about the convention center headquarters hotel's financing that the O'Malley administration has proposed to the City Council.

Here are the facts:

The hotel project would be expected to finance itself: first, through its own revenues; second, through payment of full property taxes (which can be used to pay for debt service if necessary); and third, through its own hotel occupancy tax (which can also be used to pay for debt service) - all of which would support the revenue bonds that would pay for the hotel's construction and also create additional reserve funds.

Only to satisfy the demands of bond rating agencies (and to obtain the lowest possible cost of funds) has a pledge been included against the citywide hotel occupancy tax. But this pledge is limited to 25 percent of the bonds' debt service (or approximately $4 million per year).

The funds (the revenue bonds) proposed for the hotel are not city general obligation funds; they can be created only because there is a revenue stream to pay the debt service on the bonds. So these bonds are not available for other city purposes.

However, the jobs (construction and permanent) from the hotel would be available to city residents (as in other successful projects in the past, including Harborplace) and the profits from the hotel (and there are no downtown Baltimore hotels not making a profit) would not go to subsidize a private developer but would go to the city treasury - to be used as the mayor and City Council decide - and to support such services as public schools and public safety.

When facing the same challenge - how to build a downtown headquarters hotel in the current economic climate - the city councils of Sacramento, Calif.; Austin, Texas; Houston; and Denver concluded that the same kind of financing structure was the only way their hotels would be built.

If the Baltimore City Council agrees, our citizens will benefit likewise from the new hotel, which will be publicly owned but designed, built and operated by the private sector with bonds totally insured by a private sector insurance company

M. J. Brodie

Baltimore

The writer is president of the Baltimore Development Corp.

Long-time owners deserve a tax break

After reading letters about inequities in Baltimore's property taxes between those for newcomers and those of us who have lived here in Baltimore for some years ("New homeowners hurt by assessments," Aug. 7), I have to ask why the newcomers think they should get a tax break when they weren't willing to take a chance on the city when it wasn't a popular place to live.

When I bought my 1941 rowhouse (please don't gentrify the name by calling it a "townhouse"; this is Bawlmer, hon, let's not put on airs), 10 years ago for $76,000, people asked in stupefaction, "Why would you want to buy a house in the city?"

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