Baltimore's future starts with people

June 12, 2013

Atwood "Woody" Collins III, an executive vice president with M&T Bank, recently gave us his perspective on the future ("Taking a look at Baltimore's future," June 6). His view boils down to three elements: First, Baltimore's advantage of a deep-water port and its location in the center of the Eastern Seaboard. Second, the need to continue to attract entrepreneurial businesses. And third, the natural advantage of our waterfront, and its transition from industrial to residential tourism uses.

This view of Baltimore's future is severely limited. Why? Because it omits almost any reference to the principal resource of any city — its people. Something over 600,000 people live in Baltimore. Some of them are new arrivals, and many more have lived here for many generations. And yet, right now in the 21st Century, grinding poverty, joblessness, ill health, substance abuse, and violent crime still plague far too many of our city's residents.

When we look at Baltimore's future, our gaze should center on our people and their future. It is not simply a matter of more port activity or start-up businesses or tourists. It is much more a matter of focusing our civic energies, efforts and wealth on radically improving the future chances for our young people to grow up safe and sound, healthy, well-educated, gainfully employed, and eager to get up each morning and engage with the world. It is much more a matter of eliminating the sorry failure of incarceration for so many of our young people, and abandoning the empty litany of so-called "corrections."

This is not done simply through charity or good works or even start-up businesses. For it to happen to any significant degree, it will have to become a central and long-term commitment by our city government, and all our leaders from the worlds of education, commerce, health, and culture. And, because Baltimore City is central to the life of the metropolitan area and Maryland, county governments from around the Baltimore region and the state government will also have to become solid partners in this commitment.

Without the sustained effort of such a commitment, Baltimore's future does not have a chance of resembling what Mr. Collins proposes for us.

Art Cohen

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