Joke is on usTo say that city politics is a joke is...

the Forum

September 01, 1995

Joke is on us

To say that city politics is a joke is nowhere more obvious than in Baltimore. As a witness to the recent community sweep-up in Pigtown, I was both irritated and amused. There was a parade four blocks long of city vehicles covering the range of services -- parks and recreation, streets and sanitation, parking patrol, police.

There were vans of crews, even one or two supervisory cars, as well as representatives of the Mass Transit Administration, all riding in full city regalia -- dirty, dented vehicles sporting various official and unofficial bumper "snickers," blowing exhaust fumes in full glory as they traveled east on Pratt Street, down Martin Luther King Boulevard and then into the heart of Pigtown on Washington Boulevard, bringing the message of a new, cleaner and safer Baltimore while observers sat on their front stoops, smoking crack in full view of the police in the parade, and the hookers on the street waved and whistled at public works trucks.

By 5 p.m., the police cars, the big trucks, the supervisors and the MTA were gone. But the hookers were still walking the street, the dealers were still selling their wares, trash was still blowing around gutters and a traffic light or two on Washington Boulevard remained burned out.

At City Hall, there is a record of how many man-hours were used that day. All the supervisors will get letters of gratitude from dignitaries for their specific departments' help. And the politicians will say, "See what we did for you, you should vote for us in this election."

I was stuck in traffic down MLK and Washington Boulevard for the whole show. So, like a good citizen, when I got to work I put in a call to City Hall (they took my name) and to the office of the City Council president (they said call her campaign office). As usual, all I have for my trouble is my irritation from this being election time and my amusement at how stupid the system looks during these times. But the joke in city politics is on us.

William J. Fonshell


City ran it down

The Aug. 26 article about the Edgar Allan Poe House and Allie May Green ("Search for Poe House is full of suspense") mentioned something about the deterioration of the neighborhood and you showed a picture of one of the walkways. Believe me, the neighborhood did not deteriorate, the city brought it down.

This is a neighborhood that was pretty to look at and safe to live in until about four years ago. The city took over the houses on Schroeder and some on Amity. It immediately moved out the tenants and left the vacant property to the druggies and vandals. Safety is now only a word in the dictionary. Property values long ago hit bottom.

I cannot help but think that someone thought there might be a big HUD project to be had that would ''upgrade'' the neighborhood but that first they had to downgrade it. Just a thought.

Priscilla Cook


Back to the trees

The letter by Al Shelton (Forum, Aug. 24) on the obsolescence of the words ''thank you'' brings to mind yet another lapse in social courtesies. I refer to the rule-of-thumb admonition of years past that the customer is always right.

The customer, bringing a mistake to the attention of a public servant, promptly received a courteous apology and rectification remuneration of the matter involved.

Now more often than not, at best, one receives a rebuttal to the effect that the computer can't be wrong. Never mind that the computer is only as dependable as its operator, and at long last our rectification or remuneration, sans apology, is received.

So the customer position of being always right has gone the way of our "thank you." And the human race is just a little bit closer to our beginning, that is swinging from the trees again. It's what one calls retrogression, or decivilization.

lanche K. Coda


Has right stuff

In its editorial of Aug. 27 ("For Comptroller, Joan Pratt"), the Sunpapers endorsed Joan Pratt for city comptroller. This may have been tongue in cheek or intentional, but in advancing the reasons for its endorsement the editorial sets forth explicit evidence as to why voters should cast their ballots for Julian Lapides.

If elected Ms. Pratt says she would be outspoken. And, The Baltimore Sun advises, she should be independent ''from the very first day'' and further she should avoid the possibility of conflict of interest with respect to her accounting firm.

Well, as the editorial observes, Jack Lapides in his two decades as a state legislator, convincingly demonstrated he already possesses the attributes that The Baltimore Sun would like to see in our next comptroller.

Abner Kaplan


Old buildings represent city fabric

It is with dismay that I read about the planned destruction of two 19th Century buildings on Howard Street.

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