ACORN presses city to do more to get rid of rodents, garbage

Community group, officials plan to meet within 2 weeks

October 26, 1999|By Laurie Willis | Laurie Willis,SUN STAFF

Like many people who live in the Walbrook neighborhood, Bernice Johnson and Beverly Stewart say they're tired of rats and trash.

They want the city's Department of Public Works to do something about it.

City officials say they know rats are a problem in West Baltimore, but they've significantly reduced the number of vermin scurrying around from 750,000 to about 320,000.

As for the trash, they say residents exacerbate the problem by not putting trash in garbage cans and by leaving it out when there's no scheduled pickup.

The two sides, city officials and members of the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN), plan to meet within two weeks to hash out differences.

In an effort to get the meeting, ACORN members held a protest Saturday at Walbrook Avenue and Poplar Grove Street in which they produced a report card for public works director George G. Balog and gave him poor grades.

About 30 ACORN members, Baltimore City Council Vice President Agnes B. Welch, council candidate Katherine Pugh and city employee Eric Brown attended.

"Balog got an F- in responsiveness, a D for roll-offs [trash containers], a U for rats and an F for trash pickup," said Jerome Lebleu, an ACORN organizer.

Kurt Kocher, public works spokesman, called the grades unfair. "We certainly don't agree with those marks, but if we can do better, we're certainly going to try to do better," Kocher said.

It seems a communication breakdown between the groups has been a problem.

Lebleu says ACORN has tried to reach Balog for several weeks, but calls have gone unreturned. Kocher says ACORN members are supposed to call Shell Stokes, who was appointed as their liaison at a meeting last spring. Furthermore, Kocher said, Balog's office doesn't have a record of a call from ACORN since June.

Mitchell Klein, ACORN's head organizer, said members stopped calling after the city failed to make good on its promises to pick up trash regularly and get rid of rats. Calls resumed about 10 days ago, he said.

"As far as I know, all complaints that were forwarded were handled," Kocher said. "We've been doing monthly cleanup and have even gone back to some areas twice."

Perhaps the city needs to beef up its efforts, ACORN members said.

Johnson, 66, said rats run rampant along Walbrook Avenue, where she has lived for more than 30 years. "I don't think the city cares," she said. "I'm really fed up."

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