October 26, 2004
The 8th, 9th and 11th City Council districts stretch from the western city-county line to the Inner Harbor, taking in the bright waterfront tourist attractions promoted on city tourism brochures as well as gritty, crime-ridden areas more likely to turn up on television's The Wire. That diversity is evident in the 8th District, where Councilwoman Helen L. Holton, a Democrat, faces Jacquiline Johnson, who is running as an independent. In one corner of the 8th sits Dickeyville, a 19th-century mill town with white picket fences and houses that look as if they were plucked from Colonial New England.
September 3, 2004
Take Sam Spade, Starsky and Hutch, Charlie's Angels. But hold the fedora and trench coat, the crazy car chases, the high-heeled sprints after bad guys. What you've got left, city officials hope, is the answer to Baltimore's housing woes. In an unusual move, Baltimore's housing department has hired a handful of private investigators to track down owners of problem properties so they can be cited for code violations, taken to court, forced to fix up their houses or, in some cases, stripped of them.
August 16, 2004
THE PRESENCE of young children in a house with peeling lead paint can prove to be a deadly combination. In 1931, when Baltimore recorded its first cases of lead paint poisoning deaths in children, the suspect source was window sills and door jams, surfaces easily chewed or nibbled by a teething toddler. Today, lead dust is the more insidious problem in thousands of older homes that haven't been purged of lead paint. The dangers of deteriorating paint persist and a landlord's responsibility to maintain a safe environment is no less urgent.
December 15, 2000
THERE'S no reason why owners of houses, whether they live there or rent to others, shouldn't have to maintain them. Property that is not kept up is more than an eyesore. It's a public nuisance, a cancer in the community, a drag on property values and the well-being of other residents. That's why Westminster's attempt to enact a "livability" code for all housing should be encouraged. Which is not to say the current proposal, 42 pages long, couldn't stand some fixing up. City Hall got a lot of constructive comment at a hearing this week: Concerns about square-foot minimums, number of windows, unique designs of historic buildings and traditional neighborhood conventions.
June 14, 2000
A FAMILY LIVING through the cold and heat without electricity is headed for disaster. And it struck over the weekend, when three children and their grandmother died in a Baltimore fire that started from a candle. Could this have been prevented? Perhaps. But the harsh reality is that no amount of fire prevention activity -- and the city fire department's safety campaigns have been quite successful -- reaches all whose daily battle is about mere existence. Firmer housing code enforcement may be one way to prevent future tragedies.
June 3, 2000
THE hospitalization of 11 South Baltimore residents for possible chemical exposure may or may not have anything to do with a warehouse where toxins have been stored illegally. But the scare underlines a bigger problem -- the city's habitual failure to go after chronic code violators. The public health threat surrounding a derelict Clarkson Street warehouse might never have happened had city government made sure that a 1994 code violation was corrected. But nothing apparently happened. Not only was poison stored on the unsecured premises -- where curious neighborhood children could come in contact with it -- but exposed asbestos was around as well.