Blinded by the past Opponents may be looking out for their own interests rather than those of Clay Street.

June 02, 1998

WHOSE INTEREST is served by stopping any effort to renovate Clay Street's public housing units? It's not the residents, who are living in units that were built during and shortly after World War II. It's not the community's children who have to live in an environment where drugs and prostitution flourish.

Given the history of Annapolis' urban renewal projects, residents of Obery Court and College Creek Terrace have every right to be skeptical about the promises being made. Annapolis' use of urban renewal projects to break up established black neighborhoods in the past justifies a very close examination of current proposals. But some of the wariness about the Annapolis Housing Authority's plans goes beyond concern that history might repeat itself. The most vociferous opposition is coming from people who are looking out for their own interests.

People living at the bottom of the social scale don't have much faith in others' good intentions. They have heard many platitudes about improving their lot, yet little changes. If anything, their situation has deteriorated. They are also susceptible to demagogy that feeds their mistrust.

While residents are asking the proponents tough and appropriate questions about displacement of current residents and the sale of public housing units to tenants, they should also ask the opponents equally tough questions about their plans to improve this neglected community.

Do the opponents have alternative plans to replace the aging housing? Do the opponents have plans to make tenants homeowners or to attract small businesses to the neighborhood? What are their plans to improve this impoverished neighborhood?

If HOPE VI opponents have satisfactory answers to these and other questions, then they deserve a hearing. If references to past abuses are all the opponents offer as arguments against plans for the HOPE VI project, the community is under no obligation to listen or to follow them.

Pub Date: 6/02/98

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