City needs `caring class'

July 06, 2004|By Emily Griffey

MAYOR MARTIN O'Malley is trying to attract a "creative class" to Baltimore.

He wants to attract more people like me - students, young professionals, artists - who will bring new opportunities to the city and a diverse, skilled work force for established companies.

According to Baltimore City's Web site, this "creative class," by implication, would enjoy living in Baltimore by dining at sidewalk cafes, attending outdoor concerts and sipping wine at gallery openings. I can guarantee that my friends and peers would enjoy this fabulous life.

But there are many people in Baltimore who would not get to enjoy these perks - single mothers struggling to make ends meet, teenagers who can't get summer jobs, and children lacking summer school. I wonder how they will benefit from the life afforded to the creative class. What will one more Starbucks provide for a foster child? Will the latest art installation cause someone to hug his neighbor instead of shooting him?

Since moving to Baltimore a year ago, I made it a goal to learn more about the city and what it has to offer. I've gone to a show at the Hippodrome, shelled peanuts at O's games and drunk beers at the Cross Street Market. For all that Baltimore has to offer me, when I see innocent children killed in Fallstaff, drug-addicted babies in Cherry Hill and violence erupting in the streets, I ask, "What can we do to make this city a better place for all of the residents?"

We have an opportunity now to show how we can care for our city.

Instead of complaining about having to pay an extra $3.50 a month in cell phone fees and higher taxes when purchasing a home, why not ask what this revenue can help provide - a cleaner city, more police on the streets and more opportunities for children and youths? Instead of joining another softball league, we can volunteer as mentors and tutors at after-school programs. Instead of focusing on creating more for our city, we can begin caring more for our city.

Perhaps the "creative class" would contribute more by becoming a "caring class," one willing to take on the responsibility of improving our city. Creating a class of individuals who care about the lives of our city's children and youths could do more for this city than any gallery opening.

Mr. O'Malley and the City Council have the opportunity to demonstrate their leadership to show voters and taxpayers that the city cares more about its people than its businesses and institutions. By tying new revenue for the city to programs for children and youths, citizens will see that providing for youngsters is more than a campaign promise or a public relations move.

A caring community would support more opportunities for children and youths regardless of what it meant for their cell phone bills or energy bills. A caring community would spend time volunteering as mentors and tutors. A caring community can even attract more residents like me, individuals willing to give back to a city that provides opportunities for its "creative class " and its children and youths.

Emily Griffey is a graduate student at the Johns Hopkins University and lives in Federal Hill.

Columnist Thomas L. Friedman is away writing a book.

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