Anyone who thinks Baltimore's population and property tax base are shrinking solely due to the exodus of the white middle class need only look at the Fourth District to be proved wrong. Block upon block of West Baltimore row houses, which once were the pride of the city's black lawyers and doctors, teachers and letter carriers, are showing the signs of neglect and abandonment.
As the black middle class moves out of the city, once vibrant institutions deteriorate. On the border of the district on Druid Hill Avenue, the Mitchell family law office that once was a beehive of civil rights activism now is selling bail bonds. The Sphinx Club on Pennsylvania Avenue is padlocked because of tax problems. And the old Red Rooster, now renamed on Westwood Avenue, bears no resemblance to the popular gathering place that was once the 19th hole for golfers and sportsmen.
The Fourth used to be the heart of black political activism. Election campaigns were veritable slugfests as candidates tore one another apart. But many of the political clubs are gone. So is their activism. This year, only three candidates -- none of them of any consequence -- are challenging the three City Council incumbents, Lawrence Bell, Sheila Dixon and Agnes Welch.