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The Beginning Of A Tax Revolution?

Some Baltimore business owners have had enough.

More than 30 business and restaurant owners in Fells Point are threatening to withhold taxes if city leaders do not address crime, trash and other issues they say are plaguing the waterfront neighborhood.

The group sent a letter to Baltimore officials Tuesday — two days after three people were shot in the popular and historic nightlife destination early Sunday morning — complaining about blatant drug sales, public drinking and other problems they say are happening in plain sight while police are handcuffed from enforcing the law.

The letter bemoans a “culture of lawlessness” that allows the ” the kinds of violence and tragedy we witnessed (over the weekend).”

The letter is a sharp response not only to the violence of the weekend, but also to the policies of State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby, who earlier this year announced that she will no longer prosecute a host of crimes, including drug possession, public drinking and urination, and trespassing, among others. It also comes as the police department faces mounting questions from residents about its strategies to quell violence as homicides and non-fatal shootings remain at high levels.

The letter was addressed to Mayor Brandon Scott, Council President Nick Mosby, Councilman Zeke Cohen, Mosby and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison.

(Another source is saying the letter is from 37 businesses.)

In case you are wondering,…..

Fell’s Point is a historic waterfront neighborhood in southeastern Baltimore, Maryland, United States. It was established around 1763 and is located along the north shore of the Baltimore Harbor and the Northwest Branch of the Patapsco River. The area has many antique, music and other stores, restaurants, coffee bars, a municipal markethouse with individual stalls, and over 120 pubs. Located 1.5 miles east of Baltimore’s downtown central business district and the Jones Falls stream (which splits the city, running from northern Baltimore County), Fells Point has a maritime past and the air of a seafaring town. It also has the greatest concentration of drinking establishments and restaurants in the city

Map of the Baltimore Harbor
(click for larger version in a new tab)

The Fells Point neighborhood is an economic engine within the City of Baltimore. Between property taxes, business taxes, and sales taxes, it is a “tax monster” and if businesses say “we aren’t giving the City money because they won’t do their job,” that is a big deal.

The letter reads in part: “Our elected leaders have closed their eyes and ears and turned their backs on our community for long enough. We are fed up and frustrated, and we now realize that nothing will change unless we demand action.”

The business owners demand the following actions:

  • Reliable trash removal
  • Enforce traffic and parking laws through tickets and towing
  • Stop illegal open-air alcohol and drug sales
  • Empower police to responsibly do their job

(read the entire letter here.)

The response from the City was rather predicable:

The mayor’s office issued a written statement.

“Mayor Scott shares the business owners’ frustrations over the violence across the city, and has ordered the Baltimore Police Department, Department of Public Works, and Department of Transportation to work collaboratively to address it,” Scott’s spokesman, Cal Harris, said in a statement. “The Mayor is working tirelessly to hold people committing violence accountable, remove violent offenders from our streets, and identify illegal firearm traffickers so Baltimore residents can enjoy a night out without fear of endangerment.”

[….]

Zy Richardson, spokeswoman for the State’s Attorney’s Office, issued a statement saying the fights and shooting in Fells Point had nothing to do with the office policies to cease prosecuting nonviolent crimes.

”The assaults, the malicious destruction of personal and private property, and the shooting that took place in Fells Point this past weekend has nothing to do with our policies to divert those suffering from mental health and substance use disorders,” the statement said. “Our office has and will continue to focus our time, attention and limited resources on violent crime and serious felonies causing the most harm in our city.”

Richardson’s statement comes on the heals of State Attorney Marilyn Mosby announcement in March of 2021:

“Today, America’s war on drug users is over in the city of Baltimore. We leave behind the era of tough-on-crime prosecution and zero tolerance policing and no longer default to the status quo to criminalize mostly people of color for addiction. We will develop sustainable solutions and allow our public health partners to do their part to address mental health and substance use disorder,” said State’s Attorney Marilyn Mosby.

“Reimagining public safety in Baltimore requires innovation and collaborative effort. I applaud State’s Attorney Mosby’s Office for working with partners to stem violence in Baltimore and ensure residents have the adequate support services they deserve,” said Mayor Brandon Scott.

“The Baltimore Police Department continues to work collaboratively with the State’s Attorney Office to focus on violent crimes and reducing violence in our city,” said Commissioner Michael Harrison. “We will continue to be responsive to the public safety needs of our residents and hold violent criminals accountable.”

Mosby claimed that crimes were down due to her policies of not prosecuting criminals. They were not. The crimes were still there, but with Mosby’s office not prosecuting criminals, the stats simply went down as the office was failing to file charges. So a guy who steals from a store still committed a crime, but because the State Attorney’s Office did not charge that person, the crime was no longer counted on the books as being a crime.

(See also our post entitled “A Lesson To Be Learned” for more on the Mosby policies and her legal troubles for not paying taxes.)

A few days after the letter arrived on the desks of City leaders:

The response was swift. Mayor Brandon Scott convened a virtual town hall before about 700 participants and the police department announced detailed plans to flood the area with officers, along with a promise to start enforcing laws such as open container violations that have long been ignored.

The town hall came at the request of Maryland Senate President Bill Ferguson, who sent a letter to the mayor and Police Commissioner Michael Harrison asking for the meeting. Three state delegates and City Councilman Zeke Cohen echoed his request. In addition to the meeting with residents, they demanded “a comprehensive plan for Fells Point that not only aims to deter violence, but that also addresses the other conditions.”

Not surprisingly, that response did not sit well with everyone on the City:

People swarm into Keisha Allen’s Westport neighborhood from around the city and surrounding counties every day, using stoops and backyards of the South Baltimore residents’ homes to buy, sell and use drugs. Her complaints to the city and calls for help have done nothing to stop the problem.

That’s why the head of the Westport Neighborhood Association paid attention to the city’s reaction to recent violence, including shootings that injured three people, in trendy Fells Point. Business owners there signed a letter threatening to not pay taxes if city officials did not provide additional resources for what they described as long-standing problems, including crime, trash and traffic.

[….]

Still, some community leaders say the city has not acted with the same urgency to their concerns.

Allen said she has long tried calling police, City Hall and politicians to get them to focus on Westport’s problems, but the city has not given her and her neighbors the same attention.

“I just want it to be consistent,” Allen said of the city’s response. “I just want to see City Hall and our police department and our politicians respond the same way as you would there.”

[….]

“We don’t get any kind of response like that,” said Marvin L. “Doc” Cheatham, president of Matthew Henson Neighborhood Association in West Baltimore.

Allen, who serves on the Baltimore City Democratic Central Committee and is co-founder of the Westport Community & Economic Development Corp., said she has for years been contacting officials in the mayor’s office and police department. She said she often dials the non-emergency 311 line for various issues.

“It’s no surprise that their voices [in Fells Point] are heard louder than ours even when we try,” Allen said.

Other community leaders agreed. They note differences between their neighborhoods and Fells Point, which is more affluent and predominantly white.

Cyndi Tensley, the Carrollton Ridge community association president, said after she saw the news of the violence in Fells Point, she was concerned, but then quickly thought about the circumstances in her neighborhood.

The reason for the differences in response from the City?

Racism. Of course.

Cheatham said that on the day he spoke to The Baltimore Sun for this article, he received three calls from neighbors about garbage in the community. It’s a persistent issue.

“I point the finger at our elected officials,” Cheatham said. He spoke of “a tale of two cities,” one Black and one white.

Cheatham said the majority of the city’s homicides are Black victims and their killings are occurring in Black communities.

“What if we stopped paying taxes?” he said.

We don’t agree that this is “racial.”

Every major political player and department head in the City of Baltimore is a person of color. Whether it is the Mayor, the head of the City Council, the Police Commissioner, the head of Public Works, the State Attorney for Baltimore, etc., they are all people of color.

This is not a failure of race. This is a failure of policies in a City that has been run by Democrats since the 1950’s.

For example, the school system is a complete failure. Teachers are not held accountable because of a strong union. Money that was supposed to go to new schools and the maintenance of old schools went instead to the unions. It is at the point now where the school district needs billions of dollars to do simple things like run heat in schools. At the same time, over 1300 district employees make over $100,000.

After the Freddie Gray killing, the City experienced rioting, looting and burning of businesses and property after the Mayor told the police to stand down and “give the protestors space” to destroy things. The City later approached businesses that were destroyed with a $50,000 settlement offer per business if the business agreed not to sue the City.

At the same time, State Attorney Mosby made a huge over-reach in charging six officers. That ticked the police union off who responded and continue to respond with a “we don’t have to protect anyone and we won’t” attitude. Baltimore’s murder and violent crime rate continues to rise because cops aren’t doing the job taxpayers expect them to do.

When long time Democratic U.S. Representative Elijah Cummings passed away in 2019, President Trump labeled the neighborhood which Cummings represented as being a “rat infested neighborhood” with trash everywhere. A bunch of Trump supporters went to the neighborhood and cleaned out 12 TONS of trash. While many labeled the cleanup as a political stunt, the fact of the matter is that when the group asked for help from the Baltimore Department of Public Works to haul the trash away, the DPW declined.

Think about that for a moment…..the Baltimore Department of Public Works was willing to allow trash to sit in a neighborhood rather than help clean it up.

Recapping, the teachers’ union is helping the massive failure of the Baltimore education system. The Police – who have paid out more than almost every other police department in the country in claims of false arrests, use of force, etc., and whose “elite” gun recovery unit was charged with Federal charges of corruption with officers and supervisors going to jail, being fired or demoted – won’t “police.”

On top of that, a report from the Baltimore Magazine shows that Baltimore is the “second most Federally corrupt jurisdiction in the country.” (Second only to Richmond, VA.)

This is not a racial issue. This is an issue of the failure of ideas and leadership from the left.

Of course, some people don’t like that failure being pointed out.

After the cleanup of Elijah Cummings’ district, the newspaper of record in Baltimore, the Baltimore Sun had an op-ed piece which stated:

Whatever he says his motives were, Mr. Presler’s presence in Baltimore reinforces the tired image of our failing urban cores. That the poor people in this dilapidated city can’t take care of their own neighborhoods and all the public officials around them have failed as well. The bureaucratic, all-talk Democrats strike again. If a crowd of volunteers could clean up 12 tons of trash in 12 hours, how incompetent and helpless must Baltimoreans be if they can’t manage it in decades, right?

Well, yeah. That’s exactly what the message was.

The businesses of Fells Point are now using the leverage they have – money – to try to force the City to get back on track. We are highly skeptical that will happen because that would mean a sweeping out of office and government jobs many people that need to go. Those people would rather see the City fail than do their job in a moral, ethical, and legal manner.

The residents of other neighborhoods should thank the businesses of Fells Point for having the guts to do this. The Fells Point business and residents should thank the other neighborhoods for chiming in and looking to withhold taxes as well.

The more the merrier.

One just has to wonder whether other city governments and officials are looking at this and thinking….

“What are we going to do if this protest out of Baltimore works? Is this the beginning of a tax revolution?”

What will they do indeed.



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