On State Center, ends don't justify the means

May 31, 2011

As government officials obligated to represent the public's interests and follow state laws, it is troublesome to think that Michael Gaines and Christopher Patusky are so far off the mark regarding State Center in their recent letter ("Setting the Record Straight on State Center," May 16, 2011).

Contrary to setting the record straight in this $1.5-billion gamble, Messrs. Gaines and Patusky distort matters by attempting to justify the circumvention of competitive bidding laws by asserting the plan's claimed benefits.

Yet no amount of after-the-fact justifications can alter the reality that this project bypassed a competitive bidding process that was forged by our own General Assembly in the 1970s specifically to protect the public's interests and the proper use of our tax dollars.

Messrs. Gaines' and Patusky's assertion that we should look past that pesky problem and focus on their claims that their plan will somehow benefit us is tantamount to simply saying that "the ends justify the means." Many a politician has deployed the same tactic to divert public attention from the real issues.

We have every right to ask why our state's hard-won competitive bidding process was not followed. How were the developers changed at the last minute? Who picked them and why? Should state taxpayers even be footing the bill for such expensive office space — which even Messrs. Gaines and Patusky acknowledge starts at a staggering $36 a square foot, far above the going rate for existing office space downtown?

And why should a million square feet of such glitzy new office space even be built when the number of state employees is declining amidst an existing glut of over 2.2 million square feet of vacant space in Baltimore's central business district?

We believe our officials should be reinvesting in the core downtown business district — not diverting more businesses and employees away from it. That's what troubles us most.

We've not heard anything from these two public officials about the effect of their grandiose plans on people like us who have invested our own money in our properties, our restaurants and our retail facilities. We've already seen business diverted to Inner Harbor East. Another leapfrog development like it to the north will be devastating.

Don't our interests matter to Messrs. Patusky and Gaines? After all, these are our laws and tax dollars, too.

Ramsey Flynn, Baltimore

The writer is a spokesman for the Coalition to Save Downtown Baltimore, a group of business and property owners who object to the proposed State Center redevelopment and have sued to stop it, alleging that the state failed to follow procurement law.

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