Our Daily Bread move makes sense

This Just In...

May 03, 1999|By Dan Rodricks

I DON'T understand the bellyaching about the way things turned out with Our Daily Bread. Sure, the downtown business crowd overstated things by attributing an array of problems -- aggressive panhandling, shoplifting, car break-ins, empty retail space on Charles Street -- to the hundreds of men who congregate at ODB each day. And sure, the symbolism was vulgar -- wealthy white men (Peter Angelos, Jimmy Rouse, retired T. Rowe Price CEO George Collins) involved in orchestrating the removal of poor, mostly black men from a section of downtown in a struggle to regain its tony edge. It's easy to resent the idea of men with money sweeping undesirables into a civic dustpan and dumping them in another, poorer section of town. But in the end, after the committee deliberations and all the talk, what will happen?

Under the plan announced the other day by the Archdiocese of Baltimore, Our Daily Bread will become the new location of My Sister's Place, a day shelter for women and children. The ODB food operation will move about 12 blocks to the north and east, to a vacant building in the 400 block of E. Preston St., and it will incorporate Christopher Place, an agency that for several years has been successful in preparing unemployed, homeless men for jobs. The Christopher Place operation will double its capacity, becoming a residential job training center for up to 70 men.

How can you knock that?

Angelos bought ODB's new location on Preston Street for an undisclosed sum and donated the building to the archdiocese. He might be a multimillionaire lawyer, but he's our multimillionaire lawyer, isn't he? He invests his money in his city.

With all due respect to the people who work tirelessly for the poor of this city and who have complained that this plan conflicts with Christian values, I don't see how we can bellyache about it -- even if rich, white men engineered it.

By becoming the new site of My Sister's Place, the ODB building, at Cathedral and Franklin, will remain a sanctuary for the poor (not Sotto Sopra II or some other upscale restaurant). And the ODB-Christopher Place twinning should only increase the possibilities of homeless, unemployed men finding jobs and getting off the dead-end panhandler-prison-soup kitchen track.

It gives hope to the idea, anyway.

It's a good plan.

Rouse, Collins, the Downtown Partnership, Catholic Charities, Cardinal Keeler and everyone involved should be applauded. Angelos deserves a standing ovation.

But he should also open his wallet again.

The ODB move and expansion of services will cost $10 million, half of which will come from the archdiocese and half from the archdiocese's solicitations for donations. Ten million.

That's tax-deductible pocket change to Angelos -- less than what he pays Albert Belle for one season of baseball -- and to other individuals and institutions, including the heavily endowed Johns Hopkins University, expecting to benefit from the revitalization of downtown. They want the ODB guys out of sight. Let them pay for it.

A pacifist dilemma

Former U.S. Attorney General and longtime peace activist Ramsey Clark addressed the Maryland chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union last week. He was introduced by Steve Sachs, former Maryland attorney general who served in the 1960s as U.S. attorney in Baltimore while Clark ran the Justice Department. It was a witty, intelligent and eloquent greeting; Sachs has not lost his way with words; the introduction of his old boss made us miss Sachs' presence in Maryland public life all the more.

When it was his turn, Clark was flinty and profound, expressing his strongly held beliefs that the United States still spends too much on defense and that our foreign policy is seldom wise, more often arrogant and too often homicidal. "Are we out of our minds?" he said more than once.

Clark criticized the U.S.-led NATO attacks on Yugoslavia, saying the air war only wreaked devastation on a small nation and did not serve the effort to save Kosovars. But then, he didn't exactly demand a ground war, either. Clark seemed only to offer the dead batteries of diplomacy to light the way to resolution in the Balkans.

That's where I got off the train.

Such are the dilemmas of the pacifist -- he suggests talking therapy when force is the only language leaders such Slobodan Milosevic understand. He believes every American action is a bullying action, part of a sinister grand design. He can't support the use of military force for a humanitarian cause -- he sees those terms as contradictions, I'm sure -- and yet has no other realistic idea for saving innocent people from a murderous dictator.

No bargain there

Spotted in the parking lot of discount retail nirvana, Towson Marketplace: a beautiful white-with-blue-trim Viper. I guess if you spend that much on your car, you gotta economize on everything else!

Howie and Lainie, together

I don't know how we can resist this one, even when the lowest ticket price is $75 -- Howie Mandel and Lainie Kazan together June 2 at Beth Tfiloh Community School to benefit the tuition scholarship fund. My God, Lainie Kazan and Howie Mandel on the same stage! Howie's a very entertaining guy, very funny. But that Lainie! She's huge. She's beautiful. She's a gas. Do yourself a favor and rent a film from the early 1980s, "My Favorite Year," and keep an eye on that Lainie's character: "Mr. Swann, welcome to our humble chapeau."

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