Now it's your turn to boost city

Having Your Say

April 29, 2008|By Thomas E. Wilcox

William P. Carey's decision to leave the bulk of his estate to a foundation dedicated to reinvigorating Baltimore's economy represents a unique opportunity for Baltimore to move forward. All who love Baltimore should respond by asking themselves how they can contribute to the tasks necessary to realize Mr. Carey's visionary and generous dream.

Mr. Carey would not make such an investment in a void. While Baltimore still faces daunting challenges, the city is reversing its long decline in areas ranging from revitalizing downtown to reducing the murder rate to embarking on fundamental change in our schools. By employing proven strategies to reduce drug dependence and by ensuring that children are born healthy in stable families, the core fabric of our neighborhoods can be rebuilt. Investing in prevention can drastically reduce our community's outsize expenditures in foster care, juvenile detention and incarceration.

The excellent work of local foundations and others in fighting poverty and its associated ills can now, with Mr. Carey's commitment, would benefit from an equally strategic emphasis on economic development. Baltimore will not be able to build a growing economy until it can effectively reduce poverty; it cannot reduce poverty without a growing taxpaying population and the jobs that come with a growing economy.

By learning from Mr. Carey's investments in Baltimore, we can spawn new businesses and attract mature ones. But we must first bring our tax rate closer to the level of those in surrounding counties. If we build the tax base by attracting taxpaying citizens to support ongoing development, and simultaneously reduce city expenses, a 10-year plan for tax parity might be realized.

We must seize opportunities in transportation, art and culture, environmental protection and neighborhood development. Given the limits of government, these investments must come from citizens. All of us are going to have to find ways to contribute. We each need to become a philanthropist for Baltimore, like Mr. Carey. Whether it is picking up litter, planting a community garden with neighbors, volunteering in a school or establishing a philanthropic fund of one's own, every Baltimorean can be a part of the solution. Few of us can match the scale of Mr. Carey's investment, but each of us has the opportunity to invest in Baltimore. The more than 500 funds and allied foundations of the Baltimore Community Foundation, which have contributed more than $162 million in the past five years, welcome his decision to invest in Baltimore.

The return on investment, in the form of a growing economy where all have the opportunity to thrive, can be a legacy not only of Mr. Carey but of all who love this city.

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