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The Dripby Brew Editors7:15 pmJun 2, 20160

Reutter and Steiner talk Port Covington

A conversation about TIF financing: What it does and what the risks are

Above: Port Covington’s one-time sprawling export coal pier. (Baltimore Planning Department)

The Brew’s Mark Reutter didn’t mince words today on the Marc Steiner Show, where he gave the WEAA host and listening audience a primer on his reporting about the $535 million Port Covington TIF.

Is it or is it not a subsidy? “A TIF is a subsidy.”

Are the bonds floated to pay for the financing solid? They are costly to underwrite and more like “junk bonds.”

Will there be a loss of citizens’ tax dollars arising from TIF financing? That seems to be just what is happening with the last TIF that the city approved three years ago –  for Harbor Point – where the waterfront project is now facing “huge cost overruns,” Reutter said, discussing a story The Brew published today.

“The city said at a closed meeting that they are expecting down the line that the cost overruns will be paid out of the general fund,” Reutter explained.

(This was a reference to a closed-door meeting held by the Baltimore Development Corporation that The Brew and other news organizations protested in a formal complaint.)

Hours of Reporting

If you feel confused or intimidated by discussions of the Tax Increment Financing package being sought by Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank to build a city-within-the-city on Baltimore’s south shore, take a moment to listen to this half-hour segment.

Over the past few months, Reutter has devoted long hours to reading documents, talking to sources and reporting as best he can on Plank’s Port Covington plans.

Reutter walks though the subject explaining how TIFs work, how the idea of such public financing evolved, and how a nub of land on the Middle Branch of the Patapsco River – a former rail yard and coal pier – came to be the site of one of the biggest TIF packages ever proposed in the nation.

A transformative game changer for Baltimore? A financial millstone for a city suffering from poverty and disparity?

It’s a conversation that requires solid information and analysis. Hopefully this radio segment and The Brew’s reporting provides some.

– For more Port Covington coverage, see our special series.

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