To the Editor – February 19, 2014

Written by on February 19, 2014 in Letters to the Editor - No comments

Mayor could take a lesson from commissioner

To the Editor:

My wife and I moved to Baltimore to be a part of the renewal of a great city. We left a downtown apartment in DC because we wanted a livable community, a place with history and invested residents. I love that many of my neighbors have been in the same Canton house for 50, 60 or more years. In our DC neighborhood, we rarely ran into anyone who had been there more than a few years. To find someone who was born and raised in the neighborhood was an almost-unheard-of oddity.

We willingly signed up to pay property taxes that are double those in the rest of the state because it meant we could own in an exciting urban core, convenient to everything, for less than the rent on our DC apartment. I believe in the social services that my taxes support. I think the least fortunate in our city deserve every opportunity to lift themselves out of poverty, and I am incredibly proud that Maryland consistently ranks as having the best-educated kids in the nation in spite of our struggling, inner-city schools.

However, I was appalled when our mayor responded to a drastic rise in street robberies and gun-related incidents in our neighborhood since just last year with, “if crime happens in an area where property taxes are higher, we’re supposed to care more?”

(Editor’s note: The “Baltimore Brew,”, reported the above quote in the Feb. 10 article “Mayor says citizens can be part of the solution or part of the problem in curbing violence.” It was also reported on Feb. 12 by the “Baltimore Sun” in the article “Southeast on edge over crime as neighbors call for measured debate.”)

No Ms. Mayor, but you are supposed to care. Violence is tragic wherever it occurs. The fact that violence occurs more in other neighborhoods is no excuse for it to happen in mine.

To her credit, the mayor did express sympathy at last Wednesday’s Southeast community meeting on crime.

Then again, a statement that she was focused on, “finding partners who are doing more than complain, that are willing to do more than write a check for their property tax,” raised my eyebrows.

(Editors note: The above quote was reported on Feb. 12 by the “Baltimore Sun” in the article “Southeast on edge over crime as neighbors call for measured debate.”)

Notably missing from her statements was any sense of responsibility. In response to recent critical social media posts from neighborhood residents, she suggests that any time spent criticizing her leadership on crime would be better directed toward community service. Questioning the community contributions of the citizens that she is supposed to protect is not an appropriate response. Kim Leto, the smiling bartender from our corner pub, would not have been saved from a brutal murder in her own home by volunteering more of her time.

Compare the mayor’s deflections to Commissioner Batts’ statement that he was “embarrassed” by what was happening in Southeast. He took full responsibility for the neighborhood’s slide on crime and outlined actions that his department would take to reverse the trend. The mayor could take a lesson from her commissioner. Law-abiding citizens do not want to hear that their lack of action is responsible for surging crime. It is not as if residents suddenly decided to turn a blind eye to crime and volunteer less of their time this year compared to last.

A number of commentators have discussed moving away from Baltimore due to the increase in crime. I do not blame them. There are places just over the city line where paying your much lower property taxes might earn you the right to feel safe. There are also places where the mayor might listen to and respect the voices of taxpayers without questioning their contributions to the community. My wife and I are not going anywhere anytime soon.  We have fallen in love with Baltimore’s charm and love living where we do. I only wish we had a mayor who listened to her citizens and took responsibility rather than blaming the victims.

Steve Bloom

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