Op/Ed: PARK HEIGHTS COMMUNITY DEVELOPMENT: : Investigation Moving Forward on Impact Money
Amidst all the conversation and debate over money being spent in the city, we feel it very necessary to bring back into the conversation more money missing from Park Heights and the city's unwillingness to audit or review those funds. I wrote to you in the past about the Racetrack Impact Funds in which $13.1 million was unaccounted for in Park Heights. We have recovered documents regarding those funds in our Public Information Act Request.
Unknown to many people, the Park Heights community, by legislation in 2007(SB-3), has a commitment to receive SLOTS REVENUE for 15 years no matter where slot machines are in the state. In 2011, the first installment of these funds were allocated to Park Heights in the amount of $2,000,000 and was sent to the City of Baltimore. An entire spending plan was submitted to Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake and she signed it in June, 2011(published on the City's website).
In January of this year, we were told by Tom Stosur(Director of Planning) and the Pimlico Community Development Authority, which he chairs, that those funds are now cut to $455,000 and that those funds will be used to pay salaries at Park Heights Renaissance, meaning once again, no funds would go to the community nor the organizations in the community that funds were allocated for in the Mayor's approved spending plan. This has hurt and impacted the community tremendously.
The issue here is that we have no accounting for the $1.6 million that was spent or lost from the Park Heights community for 2011. No answers have been given. We also are now told that NO SLOTS REVENUE will come to the community, even though the revenue is allocated monthly from slots parlors throughout the state, for at least 18 months. This is not acceptable to the community. I currently serve as Vice-Chair of the Park Heights Presidential Council, a coalition and association of 23 community organizations in Park Heights and the community collectively rejects this situation. Yet with little resources or assistance from our elected officials, some of whom serve on the Board of the PCDA, we have very little option but to seek media support and hope for an investigation that will validate our concerns.
The elected officials that sit on the PCDA Board are Senator Catherine Pugh, Senator Lisa Gladden, Delegate Nathaniel Oaks and Delegate Shawn Tarrant. They all have been silent on this issue of where the money is as this Board of the PCDA authorizes the spending of not only the slots revenue, but also in the past for the Racetrack Impact Funds. It should also be noted that members of PHR's Board of Directors are implicit in the spending of the $13 million in Racetrack Impact Funds as some are former members of Northwest Baltimore Corporation, which was disbanded in 2005 and up to that point controlled the funds. Legislation was passed that year to strip the funds from Northwest Baltimore Corporation and called for the creation of the Pimlico Community Development Authority (PCDA). The Chair of PHR's Board, Martha Nathanson (Sinai Hospital), worked for NWBC along with other Board Members. Salima Marriott, who as Deputy Mayor of Human and Community Services, in which her primary responsibility was oversight of the Racetrack Impact Funds, now serves as PHR's Vice-Chair of the Board.
These funds have all passed through the City and were "stored" at Baltimore City Housing. The City Council member that represents the Park Heights community for the most part, is Councilwoman Sharon Green Middleton. She has also been silent on this issue. The very people that represent and/or have represented the community are implicit to this investigation. The State Comptroller, Peter Franchot, has been made aware of this issue and will be revisited with him. We will also, as the Presidential Council, discuss next week our plans to bring suit against the City of Baltimore on behalf of the 33,000 residents in Park Heights. We will seek a Legislative Inquiry from a member of the Maryland House of Delegates and/or State Senate to look into this issue as well as submit new Public Information Act requests to the State Comptroller's Office and the City Comptroller's Office.
We have asked repeatedly for audits or an official review of these funds, only to be ignored. As the elected President of The New Park Heights Community Development Corporation, Inc., it is my duty to represent the interests of the people of Park Heights. As elected officials of this city have continuously ignored the people's interest of this community, it should also be yours.
Your support is and will be greatly appreciated and I thank you in advance. Should you require any additional information, you may contact me directly at 443.415.0076 or respond via email. Thank you.
Will. J. Hanna, II
The New Park Heights CDC, Inc.
Baltimore, Maryland 21215