Forum on city violence draws 600

O'Malley, Jessamy attend `solutions summit'

August 07, 2002|By Laura Vozzella | Laura Vozzella,SUN STAFF

Religious leaders, professors and ordinary Baltimoreans offered their solutions to the city's violence at a forum that drew more than 600 people to the War Memorial Building last night.

Organized by City Councilman Kenneth N. Harris Sr. amid a recent surge in fatal shootings, the "solutions summit" asked participants to chart a way out for the city.

The discussion featured a diverse group that included the president of the Baltimore Council of PTAs and a representative of Nation of Islam leader Louis Farrakhan. Their suggested cures were also diverse - removing lead paint in housing, improving mass transit to expand job opportunities, putting aside racial divisions and teaching children to say "sir" and "ma'am" to their elders.

The audience embraced many of the ideas, which will be compiled in a report.

"You have a lot of people who would like to have their communities back," said Larry Anthony, 45, who works as a mechanical inspector for the city school system and lives in East Baltimore. "It's been so long since people were able to go out and sit on their steps."

The event drew the city's top elected officials, including Mayor Martin O'Malley and State's Attorney Patricia C. Jessamy, who in the past have blamed each other for the city's crime problem but recently declared a truce. For the most part, the politicians said they were there to listen.

"None of us has all the answers," O'Malley said.

Like the rest of the panelists, Tyrone Powers, director of the Institute for Criminal Justice, Legal Studies and Public Service at Anne Arundel Community College, addressed the crowd for about five minutes. But Powers also handed out a 12-page paper called "A Ten Point Plan for Crisis Intervention in Baltimore City."

Among other things, the paper called for using state police to supplement foot patrols done by city police, using billboards to convey messages of peace, and slashing the number of liquor licenses granted.

Mike Hamilton, president of the Baltimore Council of PTAs, said better education holds the answer. He urged more public support for every aspect of schooling - Head Start, elementary reading programs, music classes, physical education, even chess and drama clubs.

"The top priority should be adequate and equitable education," he said.

Terrell Smith, 20, of West Baltimore, a junior at Franklin Pierce College in New Hampshire, urged parents to set a good example for their children and asked city leaders to consult with youth when deciding how to spend money in schools and planning community events.

"Involve young people in everything you do," he said.

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