Residents took advantage of First District Councilman Jim Kraft’s annual Constituents Breakfast to ask their representative about various topics. Kraft opened the floor to questions after his prepared remarks.
On the Red Line: Canton resident Nancy Braymer said that though she had been assured the Red Line was dead, it was “like whack-a-mole” in that it kept popping up again. Braymer and other residents of the Boston St. area of Canton expressed outrage last winter when they learned that the Red Line would transition from underground to the surface on Boston St. near S. Montford Ave., and that part of Boston St. would be closed for the construction.
Many residents and nearby businesses were dismayed to learn that, according to the plan, Boston St. traffic would be rerouted either through the parking lot of the Anchorage Townhomes, parallel to Boston St., or to the north on Eastern Ave. and Fleet St. via Lakewood Ave. and Conkling St.
“We need you to take a more active role in having our view expressed, even if you don’t agree with it,” Braymer told Kraft.
“I support the Red Line, but I don’t support the alignment along Boston St.,” Kraft said. “It should be underground; building it above ground defeats the whole purpose of the Red Line.”
“I have made it clear to the mayor and to DOT that we’re not going to let that happen,” he said.
As has been stated by several sources, Kraft said that he didn’t believe that Maryland has or will have enough funds to cover the state’s $1.3 billion contribution to the project.
He added that the 46th District state delegates—Peter Hammen, Luke Clippinger and Brian McHale, as well as State Senator Bill Ferguson—would be responsible for securing or not securing the project’s funding.
On Harbor Point: An audience member asked why special consideration is given to developers, especially on the harbor, which the questioner called “a pump that doesn’t need priming.”
Kraft responded that he supports the $107 million tax-increment financing incentive for Harbor Point. In tax-increment financing, known as a TIFF, the city issues bonds to the developer based on the tax revenue the city expects to earn from the development.
Kraft said that he supported the project—and the TIFF—because the Beatty Development Group, which is developing Harbor Point, had obtained letters of support from the affected community organizations.
Furthermore, Kraft said, “everybody is telling us that the site is unlikely to be developed because of the cap on the site and the environmental issues.”
Kraft said that his personal disappointment with the site is the plans for the Excelon building, which he called “quite frankly one of the ugliest buildings I’ve ever seen.”
“They could build a building that people would come from all over the world to see, and they’re building a building that looks like a shoe,” he said.
City cars: Joann Masopust, president of the Fell’s Point Community Organization, asked “why should we continue to pay” for cars used by city employees both while on duty and to take home at the end of the shift.
“The number of take-home cars continues to be reduced,” responded Kraft, adding that 11th District Councilman Bill Cole had taken on that issue.
Kraft said that the City Council only has the authority to cut the budget, not to specify where money is allocated.
“How do we change that?” asked Masopust.
Kraft said that the City Charter would have to be changed. Appropriation decisions are handled by the Board of Estimates, he said, which is comprised of the mayor, the city council president, the city solicitor, the comptroller, and the director of public works. Kraft noted that because the city solicitor and the director of public works are both appointed by the mayor, then the mayor essentially gets three out of five votes.
Kraft said that the City Charter could be changed to have just the three elected officials—the mayor, the city council president and the comptroller—on the Board of Estimates, but that change “would have to not be vetoed by the mayor.”
by Erik Zygmont