Bricks worth more than people?

April 14, 1994

The message that came out of Annapolis on Monday night was clear and troubling: bricks are more important than drug treatment.

In the closing hours of the 1994 session, the House of Delegates finally responded to Annapolis' pleas to share the cost of rebricking Main Street -- a project city leaders herald as crucial. The House put up $2.5 million for the $5 million rebricking; the city will pay the rest.

At the same time millions were being approved for the rebricking, the Annapolis City Council was refusing to approve a relative pittance -- $173,000 -- for a residential drug treatment program for addicted mothers at the Stanton Community Center on Clay Street.

A year ago, Annapolis and Anne Arundel County officials met to map out a plan for saving this troubled neighborhood. They talked a lot about how substance abuse treatment programs were a must. Yet, once again, they backed off when it came time to actually put money into Clay Street.

Once again, resources are flowing to the areas of greatest political influence while the ills of the poorest, neediest part of the state's capital city are ignored.

We are not denigrating the rebricking. Main Street is crucial to Annapolis' economic health. We're glad state lawmakers saw fit to help the city with this worthwhile project.

But drug treatment is just as important -- perhaps more so. It is disturbing that some council members seem so clueless about how desperate the need really is along Clay Street.

They argued that a drug program doesn't belong in a community center. "You don't mess drugs up with healthy little children," said Alderman Sam Gilmer.

But, as Mr. Gilmer ought to know, children already come in contact with drugs and drug addicts every day in that neighborhood, and in a purely negative way.

This program, which would be run by a private firm, would be the best thing that could happen to these kids. Their mothers would get help, and they would be able to stay with them while they get it.

Besides the initial $173,000 for renovations, the program is expected to cost the city $125,000 annually for operating expenses. That is not a lot of money to help save a neighborhood and staunch the crime that accompanies drug use.

Too bad some City Council members don't think Clay Street is worth the price of a few dozen bricks.

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