Empower CommunitiesYour Feb. 3 editorial ("From Public...

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February 20, 1993

Empower Communities

Your Feb. 3 editorial ("From Public Safety to Rent-a-Cops?") misses the most important element in the proposed South Charles Village Community Benefits District -- the unified will of an economically and ethnically diverse neighborhood in North Baltimore. For almost two years, residents, businesses and non-profit groups in the area of Charles Village between 20th and 26th streets have worked together as the 25th Street Task Force.

This resourceful group systematically analyzed the urgent problems of a neighborhood in transition with vacant houses and businesses steadily increasing.

In addition, the area lacked sufficient identity as a definable neighborhood despite its architectural and historic fabric.

Rather than run from a depressing situation, i.e. leave the city, this group dug in its heels and looked for solutions to improve their community's quality of life.

Determined to get beyond the usual hand-wringing and carping about insufficient police resources, the group concluded that it needed to create a vehicle to empower this community and ensure its future.

The South Charles Village Community Benefits District borrows its basic concept from the Downtown Partnership, but breaks new ground in bringing residents and businesses together for a formalized structure. The task force volunteers were the first to realize that voluntary contributions would never sustain the security and clean-up efforts needed on a daily basis.

A surcharge on all business and residential property taxes would generate a predictable fund sufficient to carry out operations for a three-year trial period under the control of a community-based Authority Board for the benefit of all.

Rather than take cheap shots at voluntary citizen efforts, The Sun should recognize that this self-imposed taxing mechanism is a new brand of community initiative with broad grass roots appeal.

This is no mere fad. The people who live and work in South Charles Village are serious about dealing with their urban problems.

Sandra R. Sparks

Baltimore

The writer is executive director of the Greater Homewood Community Corp. Inc.

No More City Aid

Your Feb. 6 editorial, "Can Baltimore Use Clinton's Aid?," hit the nail on the head for me.

Giving Baltimore more aid now will perpetuate the status quo -- an environment that instead of attracting responsible residents and business owners, repels and frightens them.

Billions of dollars have flowed to Baltimore from the federal government to deal with the problems of the poor, the disadvantaged, the drug-addicted and the deprived. It has not flowed to make the city a nicer place to live and do business for those more fortunate. Meanwhile, as the dollars have poured in, whole sections of Baltimore have been abandoned by the middle class and the working poor.

The easy availability of federal aid for urban problems following the declaration of the War on Poverty gave city governments a dangerous independence from the citizen taxpayer.

What did it really matter that businesses and taxpayers left the cities in droves?

What did it really matter that quality public schooling and protection from crime became only quaint memories and political rhetoric?

The poor and powerless have been a good source of income for city governments, for the armies of unionized city workers who provide services, and for the politically well-connected, who get their chance at the gravy train.

In retrospect, government aid should have gone to the cities with the least disadvantaged and the most educated and skilled populations. Maybe then Baltimore would have a good public school system for prosperous and poor alike. Maybe if government aid went to cities with the lowest crime rate, Baltimore's police department would have figured out how best to keep citizens safe.

I shudder to imagine, for example, the consequences of giving Baltimore more money to expand public and subsidized housing. The public high rises have blighted every part of Baltimore they touch. And the high rises are only the most notorious of the many other subsidized housing projects bestowed upon Baltimore.

It's been obvious for years that the whole concept of giving housing to someone regardless of how they treat it or their neighbors is the problem, not who happens to run the Baltimore Housing Authority.

But who cares whether the policy fails or not? The aid increases in proportion to how bad things get.

Baltimore must change if it is to have a future as anything but a vast poorhouse and a killing ground for the potential of generations yet unborn. Use that aid money to balance the budget, save the Somalis, put a woman on the moon, just don't give it to us.

Financial hardship might actually force Baltimore to become a better place to live -- if only because that is the only way to build and maintain a viable tax base. That would benefit those least able to help themselves.

Elizabeth Worthington Philip

Baltimore

Medical Malpractice

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