A city divided

March 12, 1991

For those who have come to take pride in their urban roots, it is unthinkable that city dwellers would want -- no, push -- to be part of the county. Any county. But the people who live in the lower peninsula of South Baltimore say they have had enough. Enough of inattentiveness to their needs. Enough of inadequate service. They want to secede from the city. If a bill pending in the General Assembly passes, 14,000 residents of the Brooklyn, Hawkins Point, Curtis Bay and Fairfield area would be residents of Anne Arundel County on Jan. 1, 1992.

Those lawmakers who take this proposal seriously say it has no chance. Nonetheless, the bill raises an intriguing notion for the revenue-depleted, service-poor city: What if everyone decided to secede? What if clusters of precincts from Highlandtown to Guilford banded together and, like those in South Baltimore, crafted bills to make them part of nearby counties?

The first thing that would happen, of course, is that property owners would find their taxes slashed as city precincts were absorbed into county systems. Services, too, would probably be better-funded. The city wouldn't need to find a new schools superintendent, either. Instead, schools in South Baltimore might become part of the Arundel County system; those in Govans would be part of Baltimore County's system. Kids from Edmondson Village might enjoy the benefits of Howard's schools.

The city, of course, would continue to exist as a geographical entity; there would still be an Inner Harbor, a Little Italy -- but the city would cease to exist as a fiscal entity; for the purposes of taxes and services, it would be divvied up. Obviously, neither state lawmakers nor city officials will entertain such a notion with the slightest degree of seriousness. But the fact remains: The city cannot support itself, and the legislature just killed Linowes, the only proposal that provided real help.

Anybody got a better idea?

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