As politicians try to persuade people to move to Baltimore with catchy marketing slogans and the seductive promise of a $3,000 check, a hearty band of cyberspace crusaders is touting city living on the binary byways.
Welcome to Baltimore on the World Wide Web.
Turn on your computer and take a tour of the Tuscany-Canterbury district.
Send electronic mail to neighborhood leaders in Belair-Edison.
Or stroll through South Baltimore.
Committed city dwellers, distraught by the loss of thousands of residents a year, are using the Internet as a state-of-the-art public information machine to attract potential homebuyers and new businesses.
It's a far cry from the "Live Where You Work" pilot program that pays people $3,000 to buy a home in targeted "revitalization" areas throughout the state, but the electronic campaign seems to be working.
"We get e-mail from all over the world. We've even had a handful of inquiries about housing opportunities," said Kelley Ray, president of the Belair-Edison Community Association. "It's a free and easy way to market our neighborhood."
Ray, a neighborhood activist who ran an unsuccessful campaign for City Council in 1995, was the first person in Baltimore to go online with a community Web page. That was more than two years ago. Today, a half-dozen Baltimore neighborhoods have Web sites.
Most are free of fuss and filled with text. You won't find a lot of photographs; simple graphics are the only eye-catching elements on most community pages.
"We're not out to display the latest technology," said Jeffrey Adams, who has launched a Web page for Tuscany-Canterbury, a neighborhood of Tudor and Colonial homes nestled between Guilford and Roland Park. "We just want to provide information about the communities we live in."
Most of the neighborhood Web sites post information about community meetings and cultural events. The majority tell visitors how to get in touch with their elected representatives. But that's where the similarities end.
"No two Web sites are alike," said Barry Glassman, a former Wall Street executive who left New York nine years ago and lives in East Baltimore's Butchers Hill, where he designs the community's Web page on his personal computer. "Each neighborhood has come up with its own ideas."
Glassman promotes Baltimore restaurants and Butchers Hill's annual house tour. Adams writes about community concerns. And Ray describes neighborhood attractions, such as Herring Run Park.
On the peninsula where Cross Street separates the yuppies in Federal Hill from the working-class residents of South Baltimore, Riverside Park and Locust Point, a Web site was deliberately crafted to promote healing.
"In South Baltimore, there's a wide gulf between the neighborhoods," said Thom LaCosta, president of the South Baltimore Improvement Committee. "I started the peninsula page bring people from different cultures and economies to the same table."
Across the country, more than 1,300 communities lay claim to a )) Web page on the Internet, according to Alaina Kanfer, who manages a technology research group for the National Center for Supercomputing Applications at the University of Illinois in Champagne-Urbana.
Most of the sites, like the ones in Baltimore, were created within the past three years by people who saw the opportunity to gain access to a worldwide audience, Kanfer said.
But, she cautioned: "To create a truly viable Web site, a community has to have resources and broad-based support."
Both seem to be absent in Baltimore.
Despite repeated requests from the city's community "Web masters" and a state delegate, Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke has not established links from the official Baltimore Web site to the neighborhood home pages.
"The mayor asked his Web team to look into it," said Clinton R. Coleman, spokesman for Schmoke. "They determined it would be too difficult to establish and maintain links to every community Web site. Although there are only a few Web sites now, it could become an unwieldy undertaking as the number of sites grows."
As an alternative, city officials are studying the possibility of creating a page that lists the addresses of community Web sites, Coleman said.
"I think the benefits the city would get from the links far outweigh the inconvenience of maintaining them," said Democratic state Del. Samuel I. Rosenberg of the 42nd District. He has asked Schmoke to reconsider his position.
For his part, Glassman has launched an electronic campaign, asking visitors to the Butchers Hill home page to e-mail the mayor on his behalf.
"The mayor's page and my page exist for the same purpose -- to promote Baltimore City," Glassman said. "His address is on my page, and I think mine should be on his."
Baltimore community Web page can be reached from http: //www.baltimoremd.com/ community.
Pub Date: 8/26/97