BDC plans more meetings with Occupy protesters
The president of the Baltimore Development Corporation has agreed to have continued meetings with the protesters affiliated with the Occupy Baltimore movement. The protesters are objecting to what they perceive as BDC's lack of transparency, among other issues.
BDC President Jay Brodie on Wednesday said he plans to talk with BDC board members about the protesters' proposals. "I’m willing to meet and discuss and give thought to all of the things they’ve suggested," he said.
Read below for a summary of a meeting Brodie had with the protesters on Monday evening. This account is provided by Clayton Conn and Casey McKeel, a member of the Occupy Baltimore legal team. Photos are by Noah Bers. --Luke Broadwater
After a call to a public meeting on the steps of their main office, President MJ "Jay" Brodie of the Baltimore Development Corporation (BDC), a quasi-public non-profit development firm that uses public funding for private development projects, came down to speak with a group of Baltimore residents regarding their concerns about its operations. Inspired by the Occupy Movements, this group called "Another BDC is Possible" greeted Brodie with an open-air public meeting in a mock board room setting, complete with plants and an agenda board.
The group cited the BDC's three core problems in regards to its operations as a publicly funded development firm, including a lack of transparency, lack of commitment to economic human rights and a lack of vision and popular participation. This critique was followed with testimonies from representatives of community groups working actively to create a better, fair and sustainable Baltimore.
Brodie was allotted time to respond, followed by Q&A from people in the crowd. The meeting was closed with the reading of measures and alternatives that the BDC should take towards fixing some of systemic problems of the city's development process. These suggestions include: posting meeting notes online for the public, as a simple gesture of adhering to the Maryland Open Meetings Act; having "clawbacks" to take back subsidies from private projects that are supposed to provide public benefit, when those benefits don't materialize; that the BDC commit to providing living wages for all employees of jobs created by BDC projects; creating an Office of Community Participation and Advocacy, and a model of participatory budgeting; and committing to having community representation on the BDC board.
The action proved successful not only in drawing more than 100 people, but also in that it was an unprecedented event that emphasized the importance of community involvement in city development. Facing the public pressure, President Brodie committed to continuing open dialogue as long as he's around, and that he would meet with a diverse, representative group to further negotiate solutions to the issues that arose. Furthermore, the action serves to demonstrate how yet another regional Occupy group is turning its attention to pressing issues on a local level.