The Maryland Public Policy Institute
MPPI IN THE NEWS
Last week, abruptly and without explanation, the state put on hold its decision to move the Department of Housing and Community Development from Anne Arundel County.
Until now, Gov. Martin O’Malley has been adamant: Moving the agency from a state-owned building in Crownsville to a rented Prince George’s County structure would provide economic stimulus by promoting development near a transit hub. But we’re not the only ones to have suspected all along that this decision had far more to do with pleasing the politicians and voters of a county that is exceptionally loyal to Democrats.
How else do you explain the state getting ready to spend $1.7 million a year on rent in excess of what it costs to operate the state-owned Crownsville building — not to mention the cost of moving the DCHD, estimated at $3 million?
So after weathering a storm of protest from Republicans, Anne Arundel officials and fiscal experts, why did the governor suddenly announce last week that the deal is on hold so the selection process can be redone?
We suspect the timing is linked to the pending release of documents that may be embarrassing to the governor.
Some time ago, Del. Ron George of Arnold and others in the county delegation grilled officials from DCHD and the Department of General Services about the proposed move’s fiscal justification. They were told the documents on this couldn’t be released until after the bidding process was complete — in other words, after it was too late.
George and this newspaper filed requests for the documents under the state’s Public Information Act.
The delegate and his attorney have just been told by the DCHD that those documents will be available in a couple of weeks. Is it a coincidence that the governor took a step back from the move now?
Also, there has been a recent, damning disclosure by the Maryland Public Policy Institute that the state had filed liens against the developer of the Prince George’s property, Carl S. Williams, who allegedly had not paid business taxes. The institute feels this may have influenced the state’s decision to reopen the bidding.
The stubborn insistence of the state on moving this department and its employees from a perfectly good building to one that would cost more money never made sense. While we’re glad the state is taking another look at the decision, we are unhappy that the governor’s office has been so vague about the reason. Its only comment was that after a significant period of time had passed it’s in the “state’s best interest to cancel the procurement.”
O’Malley’s office insisted that the governor still supports the decision to move the agency.
Taxpayers deserve to know why the governor reversed direction. It should not be up to us to interpret the state’s gibberish.
We eagerly wait to see the public documents that we hope shed more light on this ill-conceived decision.