Rawlings-Blake is penny wise, pound foolish

March 29, 2010

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake's proposal to close more than half of the city's recreation centers in order to balance her budget ("Worst-case city budget cuts police, fire, recreation," March 25) is an unfortunate case of being penny-wise but pound-foolish.

Last summer, dozens of recreation centers partnered with the city school system to provide day-long, comprehensive summer learning programs. The partnership was an excellent way to keep our young people engaged and safe, while providing meaningful summer learning opportunities that will last a lifetime. Nearly 1,000 young people participated.

Where will all those children go this summer? Best case -- they'll sit in empty homes, watching television or playing video games while their parents work long hours. Worst case -- they'll be on the streets.

There are other creative options that could keep the centers open and accessible. Perhaps the Mayor could donate them to the schools to which they are physically attached. That's just one idea.

Closing the recreation centers down should not be the first option. While the city coffers might experience a savings, the city's young people will be the ones to pay.

Ashley B. Stewart, Baltimore

The writer is senior director of community initiatives with the National Summer Learning Association.

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