'Baltimore Unbound' is way out of bounds

November 01, 1995|By Michael D. Nauton

ACCORDING TO David Rusk and his report ''Baltimore Unbound,'' and Myron Orfield a Minnesota lawmaker, residents of Baltimore City's surrounding counties, Baltimore County in particular, are supposed to cooperate and 1) absorb a few hundred impoverished families from the inner city and 2) share their tax revenues with those who do not pay taxes. And if they don't cooperate voluntarily, Mr. Rusk will ask for a regional body legislated by the General Assembly that will no doubt hold some bogus hearings and eventually vote to force county residents to cooperate.

Well, golly gee, communism is alive and well in Maryland. If you don't think it's communism, read C. Fraser Smith's words from his Perspective article in The Sun (Oct. 22): ''The Rusk-Orfield plan offers order and control.'' (My emphasis) I'm not being paranoid; these were words our old pals Lenin and Stalin used to justify nearly every form of governmental oppression bestowed upon the good people of the former Soviet Union. And if the quoted sentence isn't enough, how about the title of Mr. Smith's article: ''Say 'no'; pay a price.'' Yes, comrade, you have the freedom to refuse, but you will not like the consequences.

Welcome to Maryland, formerly known as the Free State.

Let me tell you about Lansdowne, one of the ''inner-ring'' neighborhoods Mr. Orfield states is vulnerable to ''downmarket pressures'' (lower rents and housing values) due to the arrival of less-affluent families moving from the city. (Note: Beware when those who claim to have the solution speak with hyphenated words. It usually means they are squirming to find a new way to explain an old problem that they failed to fix before.)

A blue-collar community

Lansdowne is a working community, with postal workers, auto ** mechanics, window installers, nurses and small-business owners living quite peacefully as neighbors. My parents moved from South Baltimore to Lansdowne in 1978. Though we probably were what Mr. Orfield might call a ''less-affluent'' family, we merged with the surrounding community without any problem because of one major element in our house: both my parents worked. A working community like Lansdowne accepts those who share similar ethics. What Messrs. Rusk and Orfield propose is an infusion of people who are not used to working, who do not share this one defining ethic found in the greater community. A working community like Lansdowne will not ''absorb'' families with little or no work ethic; such families will only slick the community like oil on water, and it will be the water that will suffer.

Instead of busing impoverished families to Baltimore County's stable communities, Mr. Rusk should promote field trips so that people from the inner city can observe what makes places like Lansdowne so pleasant. The first stop on the field trip should be the library on Third Avenue. ''Observe,'' Mr. Rusk should say to his charges. ''See how the people actually use the library to check out books, research school assignments and study? Notice how parents are taking their young children to the library and exiting with stacks of children's books? This is what a library is for.''

Traveling the length of Third Avenue, preferably during a school day, Mr. Rusk could say, ''Notice the absence of roaming bands of teen-agers. This is because most are in school, where they should be. Of course, there are truants, for no community is perfect. But take note of the silent streets: Even those who hook school have enough respect for their community to keep their deviancy low-keyed. Litter of any sort is not welcome here.''

While on Third Avenue, a stop at the local, family-run convenience store may be in order. Mr. Rusk could point out that there are no Plexiglas panels separating the customers from the cashier, no revolving door through which money and change are exchanged. ''This is how business owners and consumers deal with each other in a civil, working community,'' Mr. Rusk could say, waving his arm over the shelves of Kraft Macaroni and

Cheese and Prego spaghetti sauce.

There would be, I'm sure, several ''oohs'' and ''aahs'' from the dazzled crowd.

And here's the rub: What Messrs. Rusk and Orfield propose is not a simple merging of similar yet geographically separated people. They are demanding, in couched terms, that working communities absorb their ''fair share'' of poor, unemployed people who share very little if anything of the culture already present in the communities.

An insult

It's insulting to the people of Lansdowne and other working communities when people like Messrs. Rusk and Orfield say: ''Hey, we know you people are out in the suburbs working your tails off trying to maintain residency in this fine community so that crime might not touch you and your children might attend decent public schools, but we think you're being selfish and too flaunting of your ethics. So we are going to let people who haven't worked a full year in their lives live in your backyard. What you've worked for, dreamed for and sacrificed for, we are giving away like government cheese and peanut butter.''

Who says we won the Cold War? The war is still alive as long as the cause still burns in the hearts of Stalinists. The only change has been in the location of the battlefields.

Welcome to Maryland, formerly known as the Free State.

Michael D. Nauton writes from Westover, Md.

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