Next mayor needs to tackle city's wish list

This Just In...

September 17, 1999|By Dan Rodricks

Suggestion for the next mayor of Baltimore: Clean up War Memorial Plaza. I walked across the plaza election night and was stunned by the amount of broken glass there. It glistened. For a moment I thought the place had been paved in glassphalt. The big plaza in front of City Hall should sparkle, but only when the sun is out. I suggest the new mayor get with the guys who play chess in the plaza and ask them to commit to keeping it clean.

I could go on, so I will.

More suggestions for the next mayor of Baltimore:

Find a job for Carl Stokes. Many times during the Democratic primary campaign, I heard people say: Martin O'Malley or Carl Stokes -- either way, the city will be OK. Stokes is a good man, enthusiastic about public service, with a lot of good ideas. As a citizen of this city, I'd like to know he's working for us in City Hall.

Have lunch with Sheila Dixon. She's likely Baltimore's next City Council president, and it would be nice, for once, to see a healthy working relationship between the mayor and council prez.

Keep the health commissioner, Peter Beilenson. He's doing an admirable job, especially in drug treatment.

Spend time in city schools. Real time. Talk with principals. Spend one afternoon a week tutoring kids in reading.

Bring back the dollar-house program. Invite men and women to invest in rehabilitating abandoned rowhouses. Lawrence Bell talked about it during the campaign. It's a good idea. It worked during the Schaefer administration; it could work again. You might want to put Stokes in charge of this because he was the candidate who insisted on the city having a redevelopment plan before tearing down more vacant rowhouses. Do it, block by block, in areas on the edge of stable neighborhoods.

Take a walk with Ed Rutkowski, Jim Shetler and Marcus Pollock of the Patterson Park Community Development Corp. (PPCDC). Stroll along East Baltimore Street and some side streets and see what the PPCDC has been doing there -- buying old rowhouses, rehabilitating them and selling them to families willing to commit to the Patterson Park area, an "urban transition zone" that needs the full support of City Hall. House by house, block by block, the PPCDC appears to be making progress toward stabilizing the area. It would be nice if the next mayor had a chat with federal housing officials about quickly and cheaply putting more vacant houses into the hands of the PPCDC.

Consider buying a house in the area through PPCDC. It's a good deal. The Abell Foundation guarantees the value of the house, if you stay for at least five years, and your kids can go to St. Elizabeth's School -- it's not a public school, but at least it's in the city -- tuition free.

Jump-start the redevelopment of Greenmount and North avenues by installing a police koban there.

Get the hike-bike path through the Jones Falls Valley on the fast track. The federal money is available, thanks to Ben Cardin. If you want to see the great potential of such a public trail, go to the Jones Falls Valley Celebration this weekend. Some vistas along the expressway will knock your eyes out.

Save the a-rabs. Don't treat them as a nuisance. The city should help the Arabber Preservation Society rehabilitate stables and turn vacant lots into grassy turnouts for the ponies.

Do away with parking meters that have to be fed after 6 p.m., especially downtown.

Get your economic development people to do something about Belvedere Square in North Baltimore. The way the original market has been allowed to remain vacant and the shopping center allowed to totter is a travesty. The city should find a clever way to wrest control of the place from the developer and get it in the hands of someone who cares about the neighborhood. Turn Belvedere Market into a public market. Let it be a place where you can buy everything from brie to fatback.

Bring back the City Fair. Install it at either Memorial Stadium or around the downtown football stadium with the awful name.

More later.

A little bit of rock 'n' roll

Chief TJI cultural correspondent Joey Amalfitano has been laid up (get better, pal), so here's a report from the culture front by his nephew, Jo-Jo:

"Dan, your readers should know about a rock 'n' roll extravaganza that passed through town last week -- a bar band from the backwoods of Carolina by the name of Southern Culture on the Skids.

"Me and a couple pals paid our $12 apiece, and squeezed into the crowd upstairs in Fletcher's in Fells Point to hear the band. SCOTS plays a style of music I call surfabilly -- kind of like The Ventures meeting Carl Perkins, only louder and kitschier -- though some have called it hick-hop. They do songs like `White Trash' and `Love-a-Rama.' The guys wear bib overalls. The gal on bass wears a blond bouffant wig, and a bowling shirt.

"The climax of the show, their anthem -- their `Rosalita,' if you will -- was a celebration of the simple joys of fried chicken, a ditty called `Eight Piece Box.' For the big song, they invited women from the audience to the stage to gyrate and dance. The band then produced a box of KFC. And the dancing women commenced to throwing fried chicken parts into the crowd. Crazy fun. Everybody was laughing and grinning and boogying.

"It's not exactly The Boss sidling up to the Big Man for `Born To Run,' but I think Bruce would have liked it."

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