The federally funded empowerment zone effort is touted as a way to bring hope to some of Baltimore's most neglected neighborhoods.
But it has brought infighting to at least one -- the Poppleton area in West Baltimore, where a member of the empowerment zone "village center" board is threatening to sue his fellow board members.
The simmering dispute could boil over tonight when the board, a dTC group formed to help manage the empowerment zone, is expected to amend its bylaws to extend 10 board members' yearlong terms for another year. Bylaws state that the 10 members were to be replaced by election after a year.
If the board extends the terms, "there will be legal remedies sought," said Micha Dannenberg, secretary of the Poppleton village center board and a Union Square resident. He opposes members' plans to amend the bylaws and says he has candidates to run for these positions. The board's public meeting will be held at 7 p.m. today at Liberty Medical Center's mental health center.
Doris Hall, board chairwoman, would not comment. But some observers say Dannenberg's public dispute with the board reflects infighting that has dogged the board from its inception.
Mostly poor black residents of Poppleton fear that white residents of Union Square and Hollins Market and even representatives of major institutions such as the University of Maryland would dominate decisions. Among the 10 members whose terms would be extended are people whose views are at odds with Dannenberg's.
"People on the [south] side of West Baltimore Street want to tell people on this side of Baltimore Street what they can, and cannot do," said one board member from Poppleton.
Some residents of Union Square and Hollins Market are upset that the board never responded to a proposal for an economic development study of the Hollins Market area that was submitted on July 28 by Jeffrey L. Soule, Union Square community association president.
Soule did not return calls but a copy of the proposal was sent to The Sun. "This board does not have a process of allowing initiatives to be addressed in a fair way," Dannenberg said.
Empower Baltimore, the corporation created to oversee the city's empowerment zones, refuses to become involved in the disagreement. "Our policy is to let them solve it," said Michael Preston, Empower Baltimore's spokesman.
The city's empowerment zone effort seeks to rebuild decayed and neglected areas of East, West and southern Baltimore.
Pub Date: 10/30/96