In my Sun column last week I called upon billionaire Michael Bloomberg to do as he has pledged and give away a bunch of his money — and I specifically suggested that he make a donation of $1 billion to Baltimore Community Lending, an independent, nonprofit, federally-authorized lender that has been financing small businesses and housing in neglected neighborhoods for more than three decades. The CEO of BCL, Watchen Bruce, was very pleased to read my suggestion.
“Yes,” she wrote in an email, “Baltimore Community Lending would definitely use $1 Billion to revitalize and redevelop Baltimore city’s disinvested neighborhoods and develop vibrant businesses. Our mission is to support the revitalization and strengthening of under-served Baltimore neighborhoods through innovative and flexible financial assistance designed to promote community development.
“This kind of money would be transformative for BCL and its work in housing and business development. We will set up a special fund for accountability and reporting to the funders and all stakeholders.”
I haven’t heard from Bloomberg, but I have heard about the presumed growth in his wealth. Forbes reports that the number of billionaires grew during the pandemic and their wealth continued to accumulate to obnoxious levels while millions in the U.S. and around the world experience economic hardship due to the coronavirus.
Banks are fat, too, and I mention that because of my most recent column — available online from baltimoresun.com — about a new grassroots campaign to get 11 major lenders in Baltimore to invest billions in the city neighborhoods and people they’ve ignored for decades. Watchen Bruce is one of the women leading the effort, called the Community Reinvestment Act for Blacks and Latinos in Baltimore. If you want more info, you can register at this link for a free webinar on the campaign at noon on April 14.
By the way, on that Bloomberg column: I got some strange, almost incoherent pushback that we (the collective Baltimore?) should not be asking billionaires for money. This makes no sense to me. Bloomberg and others are planning on giving away billions — they took The Giving Pledge — so why not ask them for some for specific purposes?
Ms. Bruce, of course, agreed. “If you do not ask a billionaire, who will you ask? They have the money to impact a city.”
Yes, and then some.