Three neighborhoods in S. Baltimore talk of forming alliance Group would replace coalition founded in '76

August 20, 1996|By Joe Mathews | Joe Mathews,SUN STAFF

In hopes of pooling their power to improve their area and lobby the government, three South Baltimore neighborhood organizations quietly are talking about forming a new peninsula umbrella group.

The proposed group, tentatively called the Peninsula Alliance of Community Associations, would include groups representing three working-class neighborhoods: Locust Point Civic Association, Riverside Action Group and South Baltimore Improvement Committee (SBIC).

SBIC President Thom LaCosta said last week that the community needs a group to replace the once-powerful Coalition of Peninsula Organizations.

The coalition, founded in 1976, fought property reassessment and plans to bring Interstate 95 through the peninsula, but has been less active since it lost its United Way funding three years ago.

The coalition's president, Mary Frances Garland, says that her board of directors still meets and that she knows little about the new effort. "We're less active, but we have been of service to the community," Garland said.

But in recent years, some neighborhood leaders have complained that the coalition promoted social services such as the South Baltimore Homeless Shelter at the expense of basic neighborhood issues. Neighborhood groups also have stopped electing senators to the coalition. "They do not work closely with anybody in the neighborhoods," LaCosta said.

Without an active umbrella group, many South Baltimore residents say city officials have neglected the peninsula, where the majority of voters chose Mary Pat Clarke over Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke in last year's election. LaCosta and others involved in the discussions say a new alliance would give them greater influence on issues from taxes to trash.

"If this new umbrella group gets off the ground, we would be able to work together more on issues that affect the whole peninsula," LaCosta told members at a meeting last week.

Neighborhood associations in Sharp-Leadenhall, a neighborhood west of Hanover Street, and in Federal Hill, near the Inner Harbor, have not been invited to participate in the discussions.

Leaders of the three participating groups said they may invite other neighborhood associations to join the alliance. But LaCosta and Riverside Action President Jack Williams said they wanted to work out details first among three groups that "have a history of cooperation and a lot in common."

Federal Hill leaders said they would like to participate in discussions and any new alliance.

"We will be part of it, I'm sure," said Dick Leitch, past president of the Federal Hill Neighborhood Association. "If you get together only three groups that are fairly homogeneous, it won't be a true umbrella organization."

Williams says the alliance probably will require unanimity from members before it can take action. It also would not have a paid staff, like the old coalition had. "More of a loose confederation," says one of those involved in the discussions.

Organizers say the prospect of new, large bars opening in the community, particularly along Key Highway, has lent some lTC urgency to the discussions. The board of the Locust Point group has given preliminary approval to the alliance, according to organizers. Members of the Riverside Action Group and SBIC likely will decide next month whether to establish and join the alliance.

"We need some action and cooperation," said Williams. "We're very worried that this place will become another Fells Point."

Pub Date: 8/20/96

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