Tuesday, May 3, 2011

BRAC: Fail

Base Realignment and Closure (BRAC) has brought and will bring thousands of jobs and tens of thousands of residents over the next several years. This has been hailed as a victory for the Greater Metropolitan Area and for Fort Meade and Aberdeen Proving Ground. But what about Baltimore City? Could the City fill the Population Gap caused by a suburban housing shortage? If this were to happen would this be in the best interest of the City? If BRAC residents were to reside in the City, would there sufficient transit to and from Fort Meade and Aberdeen Proving Ground? None of these questions have the answers I'm looking for and through the eyes of somebody who wants to see Baltimore City make a huge come back not only in additional population but additional Jobs; I see BRAC as a "Fail." Keep reading for my explanation.
As stated before, BRAC has been and will be a major victory for Central Maryland. We have one man to thank for this blessing; Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown. O'Malley's second in command has been hailed as the Nation's best and most productive and influential Lieutenant Governors, something that will look good in 2014 if he makes a run for the Governor's Mansion or Congress. The fact that he's an Iraq War Veteran doesn't hurt his future prospects either. When the Military decided to close and consolidate its bases, they could have chosen any base in the Country, but they chose Maryland, thanks to Anthony Brown and his leadership.
With BRAC coming to Maryland, both Fort Meade in Anne Arundel County and Aberdeen Proving Ground will see a huge spike in Personnel reporting for active duty. With the housing market in these areas reaching build out levels it will be hard to live close to work be it Fort Meade or Aberdeen Proving Ground. Active Military Personnel and their Families aren't the only additional jobs that have come to Maryland that are BRAC related. Defense Contracting Firms have been springing up at the drop of the hat near both bases. The Defense Contractors are just as relevant in the population growth as the Active Duty Military Personnel reporting to Fort Meade and Aberdeen Proving Ground.
Now since the suburbs around Fort Meade and Aberdeen Proving Ground are already experiencing massive growth and the associated "growing pains" which include congested roads and crowding in the Public Schools. If only there were a part of the Metropolitan Area that could easily absorb this growth and then some.....Oh wait we do! Between 1957-2011 Baltimore City's Population went from 987,000 to 641,000. Now BRAC won't even come close to 336,000 additional residents even if every single person associated with it took up residence in the City. If that were to happen it could mean a gain of 100,000 residents bringing the population up to 741,000 which was roughly the Population in 1990 (736,000) One encouraging fact about the City's Population is that most of the drop happened in the 1990s going from 736,000 in 1990 to 651,000 in 2000 and the 641,000 number has been the same since 2005 which means Baltimore's Population has stabilized.
Now back to BRAC, it only makes sense that the additional population move to the City right? Wrong! Although the City has launched massive efforts for BRAC transplants including tours of Neighborhoods that have an abundance of affordable housing waiting to be occupied. BRAC Transplants however, have shied away from City living because of its crime and Schools. What they don't realize is that their occupation of these Neighborhoods in the City will bring down crime and may bring up test cores in the Schools. With increased Military Personnel living in Neighborhoods that are "up & coming" which means they're being repopulated and trying to shake off the stigma of crimes past, the crime will go down even further because it would be like having Security or Police living in the Neighborhood which will deter would be criminals.
Now if all these people did decide to move to the City would that be in the City's best interest?
Baltimore has struggled with its location near DC and Philadelphia by having workers in both those City's and their suburbs moving to Baltimore. This has questioned Baltimore's sustainability as a City in and of itself. It seems that with residents working outside the City that Baltimore has become either a suburb of itself or a suburb of DC. In order to combat this, we will have to have as many people both living and working in Baltimore.
So what mistakes were made when it comes to BRAC? Obviously we can't force its transplants to live in the City, or could we have? Who said that the additional Military Personnel and the inevitable defense contracting Firms that come with have to be located at or near Fort Meade and Aberdeen Proving Ground? In the City on vacant land could a third Military Base have been created specifically for BRAC Transplants and have Defense Contractors locate there? Fort Holabird comes to mind, Orangeville comes to mind, the Wilkens Avenue area comes to mind, as does the Carroll Camden Indusrtial Park. These are all former Industrial areas of the City that have been compromised by the fall of the American Rust Belt City. These areas would have benefited so well by the energy created by BRAC and with all those jobs then being in the City, employees would have been much more likely to live there too. So that right there was the fatal mistake or oversight made by Lieutenant Governor Anthony Brown and his staff.
Since the wheels have long since been set in motion for BRAC and its Defense Contract Firms to be located outside the City and the Personnel have decided to live in already crowded and cramped suburbs, I can't put forth anything to give this a "Pass" grade, BRAC will have to remain a Fail.

Sunday, May 1, 2011

New Posts Coming Soon

After a lackluster April filled with a virus ridden computer and writer's block; I'm "back in the studio" as they say, bouncing some new ideas for posts. Look for them soon!