City’s Great--Except for Families with Children

BY Gregory Cundiff
I cannot fault John V. Brain’s analysis in “City Death” (The Sentinel,July 98), but his semantics may be misunderstood.
     He uses “niggardly” to describe the city’s efforts to sustain local culture and history.
     While I and the dictionary understand that this term is not considered a racial slur, it could be interpreted that way during a quick reading of Brain’s editorial.
     If our city is to once again thrive, we all must take care in the way we describe its problems and its future. I don’t suggest that the P.C. police edit every line of text printed, or every word uttered.
     Perceptions, however, are the stock and trade of the communications game. Brain’s use of the word in this context fills the bill. I can’t think of a more descriptive way of stating the case, but the opportunity for misinterpretation certainly exists.
     Once we all understand each other, how do we turn our city around?
     Annexation by the city isn’t going to happen in any of our great-great-grandchildren’s time. What about the other way around? Could the city be a part of Baltimore or Anne Arundel county? What does the city have to offer these subdivisions? What do they have to offer the citizens of Baltimore City?
     The advantages offer greater possibilities than one would at first imagine. The city would, however, have to start turning itself around before such a case could be made.
     To that end, I offer a suggestion.
     The city has lousy schools. Fine, get rid of the students. No, nothing that drastic. It is not a matter of getting rid of the students we already serve, rather one of not attempting to attract school age families to the city. Shift the marketing emphasis from young families to young people--single and newly married, gay and lesbian singles and couples, and retired people.
     The city already has the infrastructure to support the lifestyles of these groups of people. The city would not have to make a major commitment to building lifestyle attractions. It would only have to fully support the resources that already exist. Support and improve those services and attractions.
     Urban life is a natural for people with low expenses and relatively high disposable incomes. Groups which exist on both ends of the age spectrum. These people require access to cultural and recreational venues, public safety, health care, and hassle-free transportation. Resources which an urban area can provide with unmatched flair.
     This plan works because it attracts people who have an natural affinity for urban life. It provides a place to start a career and a place to return once one wishes to retire. One finds life in the city, grows and moves away, and later in life returns.
     Nothing in this plan suggests that the city abandon its responsibility to families or children. It simply reflects the reality that attracting young families with children to the city is a losing proposition. If I had junior or senior high school aged children, I’d move to Fallston, not Baltimore City.
     Why imagine that anything else is the case?

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This story was published on July 29, 1998.