Stepchildren of the counties Suburban revitalization: New focus on poorer areas abound around beltway.

January 31, 1996

FORGOTTEN STEPCHILDREN. That's the way people in working-class communities such as Essex, Edgewood and Glen Burnie have long referred to themselves. Their hometowns were once among the most vibrant places in their counties. But for a generation, they have watched public attention, resources and pride flow elsewhere. It's premature to say that condition is changing for good. But there are signs suburban leaders are realizing that neglect of poorer areas will drag down their jurisdictions.

C. A. Dutch Ruppersberger III's plans for a "mini-Harborplace" on the water in Middle River and an enterprise zone to spur manufacturing in North Point were welcomed by Baltimore County community leaders. Renewal efforts have come and gone before, at about the frequency of 20-inch snowfalls. But residents remain optimistic that the executive won't neglect them, due to actions such as his recent opposition to a public LTC housing shift from Baltimore. He's continuing a focus on revitalization begun by his predecessor, Roger Hayden.

A few miles to the north, Harford County Executive Eileen M. Rehrmann is working to repair Edgewood, an area beset by the most poverty and crime in her county. She opened a new sheriff substation after a haunting night ride in a patrol car, in which she came across a scene out of "Pulp Fiction" -- the bloody remnants of a machete battle from a drug deal gone awry.

In Anne Arundel, County Executive John Gary is fulfilling a campaign promise to give more attention to North County, which often feels it gets short shrift compared to Annapolis. His administration is negotiating for waterfront property to help assemble a regional 200-acre North County park on Stony Creek, and has proposed a public ice rink in Glen Burnie.

The governor himself well understands the challenge these leaders face. The "inner beltway" revitalization that Parris N. Glendening pushed in Prince George's County years ago is being continued by the current executive, Wayne Curry. These leaders know the suburbs, like the cities that spawned them, are collections of disparate neighborhoods. While decay in a particular area might not drive out residents without the means to leave, it may convince other middle-class residents and businesses to move to another jurisdiction.

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