City is without basics for a young familyFour years ago...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

May 22, 1999

City is without basics for a young family

Four years ago, my family and I moved from downtown Baltimore to a suburban neighborhood just over the city-county line. We put that off as long as we could, and what finally forced us out was the poor quality of schooling offered in even the best neighborhoods.

But just as important, maybe even more so, to our decision to abandon the city was our growing frustration with the lack of basic resources offered to a family with three young children.

Given the city's single-mindedness on developing tourism rather than residential areas, it was apparent that these problems would not be addressed anytime soon.

Life with children includes a lot more than trips to Port Discovery and the aquarium. Cultural amenities like these are important, of course, and such highlights are often the only thing that prompt suburbanites to bring their children into the city.

But what of the everyday activities that make up the bulk of childhood?

In Baltimore, walks are necessarily short, as many neighborhoods are surrounded by virtual no-man's lands. What playgrounds exist are usually on school grounds, unavailable to and often unsuitable for younger children.

Nothing is more crucial to the "village" it really does take to raise a child, and to the sanity of all involved, than regular trips to a clean and stimulating playground.

The most basic requirements of family life: supermarkets, discount stores, even ice cream parlors and hobby shops have all moved to the shopping centers scattered sparsely throughout the city, leaving most neighborhoods without commercial centers.

Give us a playground, a neighborhood shopping district and a walk that isn't cut short by vacant lots and boarded-up row houses -- and a decent school, of course -- and we'd move back to the city in a heartbeat.

But without those amenities, and the sense of community they encourage, we really can't see returning.

We sorely miss city living; but there is, literally, no place for families within it.

Pamela Rickman

Baltimore

'Blow it up, burn it down, start all over'

As a resident of Columbia, I have a simple solution that will guarantee Baltimore's re-emergence as a great place to live: Blow it up, burn it down and start all over again.

Starting over would then allow new residents pleasant living conditions for a couple of hundred years.

The city would eventually go down the tubes again and everyone would move out again. This is an unfortunate and vicious cycle that will never go away as long as our government continues to ignore it.

I would suggest the same for just about every large metropolis in the United States.

Tom Morton

Columbia

`Never seen so much anonymous trash'

Trash, for me, is a significant damper to life in Baltimore. I've never seen so much anonymous trash in one town, and I've lived in a lot of towns.

The solution to the trash problem will always be the same: Someone should pick up the stinking mess.

But who? Sure, cheerful, yet disgusted, residents can fill a bag with the stuff that blows past their doors on an hourly basis.

But doesn't the city government have a larger responsibility to ensure that its Department of Public Works makes a clean sweep of all neighborhoods?

That would certainly keep me here.

R. D. Apperson

Baltimore

`To restore and occupy stately rowhouse . . .'

To restore and occupy a stately old rowhouse in Baltimore City has always been one of my dreams, but concern about crime prevents me from moving to do this.

If I knew that criminals and repeat offenders would be made to serve their full sentences behind bars, and dangerous criminals sentenced to death would actually be put to death, I could be comfortable with city living.

When will our judicial system have enough gumption to put teeth in our existing laws?

Elizabeth Myers

Baltimore

`Encouraging bicycle community'

I am a Baltimore City homeowner who has lived here for nearly 19 years. While I can offer no grandiose ideas for improving city life, I do have one suggestion.

As an avid recreational bicyclist, I would love to commute to work by bike, but Baltimore's heavy rush-hour traffic makes it unsafe. People would bike to work more often if that wasn't such a battle with cars.

Baltimore City needs to be made bicycle friendly. There is certainly plenty of demand for places to ride: on evenings and weekends bicyclists crowd the Northern Central Railroad trail and the recreational lanes at Lake Montebello.

It would not take much to make bicycle commuting in the city a safe and appealing option.

Some helpful changes would include bike lanes on major streets; bike racks in office buildings; and a good advertising campaign to publicize those changes and encourage bicycle safety.

Police would need to enforce bike lane use limits. Local businesses could donate the bike racks. Perhaps a local advertising agency could promote the effort pro bono.

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