Why Not Vote What You Mean?

By Peta Richkus.

(In response to the Nov 20, 2020 Baltimore Sun article “Baltimore County Council rejects bill that affordable housing developer said would kill Towson project.”)

The continuation of the Red Maple Place Development Hearing is next Wednesday, 12/16/2020, before a Baltimore County Administrative Law Judge. The virtual meeting is open to the public: anyone interested in testifying or presenting evidence at the hearing must preregister at least two business days in advance either online or by calling the Office of Administrative Hearings at 410-887-3868 for assistance.

Red Maple Place is the 50+ unit affordable housing project proposed for a 2.5-acre site in East Towson, a historically black community. An African American Historic Survey determined that the comminuity was founded by manumitted slaves and/or descendants of former slaves, many of whom were owned by Charles Ridgely of Hampton Mansion.

Which reminds me – what did Baltimore County Council Chair Cathy Bevins and Councilmen Tom Quirk and Julian Jones, Jr. think they were doing with their November 16th council meeting votes to “Abstain”?

Typical reasons one might abstain are (1) ambivalence about the measure; (2) political expediency when voting against popular sentiment; (3) one does not feel adequately informed or has not participated in relevant discussion; or (4) there is a real or perceived conflict of interest.

But they weren’t ambivalent. They knew they were, in effect, voting Nay. Mrs. Bevins made sure everyone understood that when she had Council Secretary Tom Bostwick confirm the fact, for the record, at the conclusion of the vote.

It is true that the three Democrats voted against popular sentiment. The affected Historic East Towson, the Harris Hills condominium community adjacent to the proposed project, Green Towson Alliance, Sierra Club, Senator Chris West and Delegate Cathi Forbes, who represent the area, and dozens of other concerned citizens testified against the proposed scale of the project and its very real environmental, traffic, and school population impacts during an hours-long Council work session on November 10th. So there had been plenty of information and relevant discussion.

No conflict of interest has been stated.

So why not just vote no on David Marks’s Bill 207-20 and be done with it?

Project opponents look forward to dispelling more “disinformation” during Wednesday’s hearing.

Peta Richkus is a retired State employee. MD Secretary of General Services, Jan 1999 – Jan 2003; Commissioner, Port of Baltimore, MD Port Administration, Jul 2008 – Jan 2014.

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