West-side group demands talk with Balog about trash cleanup

Organization's members call city promises unkept

April 19, 1999|By Jennifer Sullivan | Jennifer Sullivan,CONTRIBUTING WRITER

Trash. It is the subject of complaint upon complaint echoed by frustrated residents in nearly every city section. Tempers have flared, and a group of nearly 50 West Baltimore residents is demanding that the Department of Public Works live up to repeated promises to clean its neighborhoods. Or else.

Members of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), a national community-based organization that claims 200 members in West Baltimore, hand-delivered a letter to the office of DPW Director George G. Balog on Friday morning.

The letter, written by ACORN representative Franklin O'Neil Jr., demanded a meeting with Balog, specifically, to discuss sanitation problems. Members gave Balog a deadline of 5 p.m. Friday to get back to them, or "expect a campaign from our neighborhoods that will not end until we get justice and our fair share."

Kurt Kocher, public works spokesman, responded by promising the group a meeting with Joe Kolodviejski, head of the solid-waste bureau, this Friday.

"They keep sending us these supervisors and they never get anything done. I want to meet with Mr. Balog," O'Neil said, adding that he plans to send a letter to public works refusing the meeting.

But Mitchell Klein, head organizer for ACORN's Baltimore branch, said, "The group will evaluate the offer and still press ahead with the demands to clean the city." ACORN members, who pay $5 a month to be a part of the 100,000-member national group, want to have city officials pay more attention to people dumping in vacant lots and alleys, as well as west-side parks.

While the group has circulated throughout the city for at least two years, Kocher said he first heard about ACORN two weekends ago, when members took public works communications chief Adrienne Barnes on a bus tour of unsanitary West Baltimore areas, including Riggs Avenue, Dukeland Park and Keyworth Avenue.

While Kocher maintains the tour was a success and public works crews responded immediately, O'Neil said only Park Heights' Keyworth Avenue, where he lives, was cleaned.

O'Neil, a clinical associate at Johns Hopkins Hospital, and his wife, Angela, joined ACORN to help their neighborhood get services that should be available to everyone -- not just wealthy communities, they said. "I bet the mayor doesn't have to go downtown to get trash picked up," O'Neil said.

Pub Date: 4/19/99

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