ANNAPOLIS – Johns Hopkins University receives millions of dollars from the state each year, but isn’t giving enough back to the community, said Treasurer Richard Dixon at Wednesday’s Board of Public Works meeting.
Before the state gives the “rubber stamp” to the Baltimore university’s requests, it should create more scholarship programs for the state, particularly in the minority neighborhoods surrounding the school, Dixon said.
Comptroller William Donald Schaefer defended Hopkins’ history of public service to the state, but drew the treasurer’s ire when he referred to blacks as “Afro-American.”
“It’s African-American,” Dixon corrected.
Schaefer then muttered in frustration about how the black community was the only issue Dixon seemed to know about.
After the meeting, Dixon defended his position as treasurer, saying he represents the entire state, and not just the black community.
“I’m concerned about African-Americans because the state hasn’t done its job,” Dixon said. “I’m not sitting in this position to be a stooge.”
However, Schaefer says Maryland is moving at a faster pace than most other states. While many states have rolled back affirmative action measures, Maryland has actually moved forward.
Just this year, the state voted to increase the goal of contracts with minorities from 14 percent to 25 percent, a measure he thinks is unworkable and unnecessary.
The Board of Public Works must approve state spending. Dixon, Schaefer and Gov. Parris N. Glendening comprise the board.
When Glendening, who sits between Dixon and Schaefer at board meetings, tried to cool his colleagues’ rhetoric, Schaefer redirected his vitriol towards the governor.
“Why don’t you try to be more generous to the mentally ill,” he said, referring to Glendening’s failure to provide funding to move mentally ill people from nursing homes to the community in compliance with a Supreme Court decision.
Dixon’s lengthy comments against Hopkins were unusual. Schaefer is normally the one to grill contractors and government officials. However, when a contract to give Hopkins more than $2 million for construction at the School of Hygiene and Public Health came on the agenda, Dixon expressed his concern that the school wasn’t giving back.
He wants the school to work harder to give scholarships to students in surrounding high schools, which are predominantly minority, before the state grants it more money.
“They’ve been accustomed to receiving money without any questions asked,” Dixon said. ” . . . If we didn’t have any problems at other . . . public institutions I wouldn’t ask these questions. But now this money is on automatic.”
Officials from Johns Hopkins, who didn’t know about Dixon’s remarks until interviewed for this article, had a “good conversation” with the treasurer later, said university spokesman Dennis O’Shea.
However, the school also wants to inform Dixon of what it already does in the community with its health clinics and education programs.
Glendening, who supported this year’s increase in minority contracts, expressed support for Johns Hopkins’ past contributions to the state, but said he found Dixon’s idea “interesting.”
In other action, the board approved a series of large projects, including $11.7 million for the Ripken Stadium and Baseball Academy in Aberdeen. The complex will feature a 6,000-seat minor league stadium and eight smaller replicas of major league parks such as Camden Yards, Memorial Stadium and Fenway Park for youth baseball. It’s named after famed Baltimore Orioles infielder Cal Ripken Jr.
Mass transit received a boost when the board approved a $21.9 million contract to install a Smart Card fare system, which will integrate Maryland Transit Administration buses and the Metro subway system. Eventually, the state hopes to link Baltimore light rail as well.
The board also approved $1.9 million, which in addition to $6 million in federal funds and private contributions, will protect 300 acres of property along the Chesapeake Bay in Anne Arundel County.