Smith unveils plans to revive Balto. County neighborhoods

October 29, 2002|By Jonathan D. Rockoff | Jonathan D. Rockoff,SUN STAFF

James T. Smith Jr., the Democratic candidate for Baltimore County executive, proposed yesterday an array of measures for revitalizing older neighborhoods.

His proposals ranged from reducing the concentration of subsidized housing to assigning a county official to speed commercial revitalization projects through the government bureaucracy.

Smith also recommended fostering home improvement through tax incentives, and he vowed to hold community meetings to learn about residents' concerns.

Smith and Douglas B. Riley, the Republican candidate, have emphasized the need to revitalize aging neighborhoods and have pledged to fix up older houses, encourage the opening of retail stores and create jobs.

Riley accused Smith yesterday of borrowing his campaign theme.

"In the war on ideas, I declare victory. My ideas for protecting older neighborhoods have won out," said Riley, who charged that many of Smith's proposals were promises to consider ideas, rather than adopt them.

Smith's speech at the old courthouse in Towson was preceded by an endorsement from Rep. Elijah E. Cummings, a Democrat from the 7th Congressional District, which includes parts of the county.

"There are so many administrations that have no plans for neighborhoods, or they come up with plans by accident," Cummings said.

Smith's plan was long on ideas for reviving commercial strips and updating housing.

He would explore expanding a county pilot program that requires landlords to register their properties before renting them. The county would inspect the properties before they could be rented.

Smith added that community revitalization also requires residents to become involved.

To that end, he vowed to encourage participation in PTAs and community groups, including faith-based organizations. He said the county could assign federal grants to nonprofit groups that are connected to churches and provide day care or tutoring, or rehabilitate houses.

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