P.O. Box 19924
Baltimore, MD
21211

     


THE STRATEGY

Visit this page every week for legislative analysis, issues that should cause concern and my strategy to move Maryland and the city of Baltimore forward. New articles will usually be posted on Tuesdays.

Doug Barry

Historian, Political Philosopher, Veteran


 The Strategy  April 3, 2014

A TALE OF TWO CITIES

Baltimore has some great neighborhoods. In 2013, more than 250 homes sold for half a million dollars or more in the city. The city has an inner harbor that cities around the world should envy, bordered by two of the best stadiums in the country. We are in a wealthy state. Maryland has more millionaires than any other state in the country.

There is also another Baltimore. Approximately 1800 homes under 50,000 dollars sold in Baltimore in 2013. There were 44 homicides in the city in the first quarter of 2014, averaging roughly one every other day. Many of the city's homicides can be attributed to gangs, which lure in many of our young people, and set them on a destructive path for the rest of their lives.

Block By Block

We need to start focusing more on the second Baltimore. We can start on a small scale, and use a combination of public and charitable funding, private investment and citizen participation. We should start at the edge of "good" neighborhoods, and work on expanding their boundaries outwards. The problems in these border communities will be less severe, easier to deal with and can be solved more quickly. Every problem must be dealt with. Police presence should be temporarily increased, both directly, and indirectly through monitoring. Neighborhood watch programs can be created to assist the police. There should be an extra push to get suitable jobs for the unemployed. Incentives can be given to businesses to open in these areas, and hire the areas' residents. Distractions from children's education should be removed, including rat control and lead abatement. As the problems are fixed in one area, we can expand into adjoining areas.

There have been programs that have included elements of this idea. The Harlem Children's Zone started with one block in the 1990's and has expanded to cover a hundred blocks in Harlem in New York. The program includes workshops for parents of children under age three, all-day pre-kindergarten, charter schools, health clinics, youth violence prevention, social services and programs to get students into college. Much of the financing has come from charitable donations, and the program is helping to break the cycle of poverty.

The Solution Is Cheaper Than The Problem

The program will pay for itself. The cost of criminal activity, unemployment, welfare, poor education and deteriorating neighborhoods far exceeds the cost of eliminating these problems. The cost to the taxpayer of incarcerating a prisoner is far higher than the cost of keeping them out of trouble. We lose tax revenue when people in these areas don't have employment opportunities. Far too often we just look at the cost of creating programs, and ignore the cost of not having such a program in place. If there is not much room in the budget, it can start as a trial program, and be expanded based on savings in other areas.

The benefits of such a program aren't limited to people in poorer neighborhoods. Criminal activity doesn't stop at neighborhood boundaries. Deteriorating communities bring down the value of properties in adjoining communities. Property taxes have to be higher on all properties, to compensate for the devaluation of properties in poorer areas, and we all pay higher taxes to cover the cost of the city's problems.