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Reviving Baltimore

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The 1970s and 1980s have presented greater challenges for the great city of Baltimore. During the period, we witnessed a national decision to turn away from Lyndon B. Johnson’s Great Society and towards what many are now calling Neo Federalism or Reaganomics.

Several city mayors across the nation faced challenges in retaining power and stability following this reduction in federal and state aid. They had no choice but to turn to powerful and wealthy special interest groups for necessary funds to maintain their cities. They instead became puppets of these groups.

Baltimore, however, managed to retain a significant degree of centrality.  Because of this centrality and our having a focused solution to combating poverty, we have been able to fend off these special interest groups who would like to manipulate the government so that they could see their own private interests be met at the expense of the city (Fuchs 272). The efforts of past mayors have ensured that future mayors of Baltimore would be able to enact policy not for the sake of a few but for the sake of all (Krefetz 26).

Despite not having to face as much pressure from special interest groups, there have been other problems that we have encountered under this new economic policy. The main problem is that there has simply not been as much money coming into the city since the cutbacks on state and federal aid. The Great Society and the Nixon years, while not perfect, were useful financially for several reasons.

The second problem has been the ever-growing trend of suburbanization. More and more Baltimoreans have been leaving for Baltimore County in search of jobs and homes. These people are valuable taxpayers who could contribute to the city. The suburbs are becoming more and more independent and we need to find a way of retaining the wealth that is leaving the city. This issue is further compounded by the fact that Baltimore has almost completely lost its industrial economy. The industrial sector provided numerous low entry jobs to the lower class and ensured a healthy taxpayer base for the city (Levine 139). These lower class Baltimoreans do not have the means to support a city on their own. We must therefore change our city to cater to the middle and upper classes that have the means to support a city. Baltimore can no longer get by as an industrial town. We need to look elsewhere.

Baltimore must become a tourist town. I believe that making Baltimore more attractive to suburbanites and people from all over the nation will put money back into the city and help make Baltimore the great city we all know it is. A vibrant tourism industry would lead to job creation, especially for those in the greatest need of employment. In addition, it would bring outside wealth into the city. Obviously, we will continue to spend money on social programs aimed at helping citizens who are in dire need of economic and social assistance. However, it has come to the point where we must help our people help themselves and the best way to achieve this is through economic development.

The Inner Harbor is becoming one of the most envious pieces of real estate in the country and the model for how to revitalize a post-industrial city. We have already completed a massive multimillion-dollar convention center in 1979 that has successfully attracted several major conventions. These conventions in turn have provided numerous jobs for local Baltimoreans and have caused many outsiders to spend within our city. We also completed the Baltimore National Aquarium that had attracted 1.6 million people in its first year and has continued to attract large numbers of people (Levine 129).  I am confident that we will show the world that Baltimore is a wonderful, one of a kind city to “live, work, and play” (Newman 129).

The Mayor, 1985

Levine, Marc V. “A Third World City in the First World: Social Exclusion, Racial Inequality, and Sustainable Development in Baltimore.” The Social Sustainability of Cities: Diversity and the Management of Change. Eds. Mario Polese and Richard Stren. Toronto: University of Toronto Press, 2000. 123-155.

Fuchs, Ester R. Mayors and Money: Fiscal Policy Making and City Politics in New York and Chicago. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1992.

Krefetz, Sharon Perlman. Welfare Policy Making and City Politics.New York: Praeger Publishers, 1976.

Conlan, Timothy. From New Federalism to Devolution: Twenty-Five Years of Intergovernmental Reform. Washington, D.C.: Brookings Institution Press, 1998.

Newman, Sandra J. “Is There an Urban Revival and What Does It Mean for Baltimore?” Johns Hopkins Institute for Policy Studies, Occasional Paper no.24 (January 2000).

Photo credit: rpertlet http://www.orbitz.com/blog/2010/07/baltimore-vacation-celebrate-the-arts-in-maryland-this-summer/

Photo credit: Maryland State Archives.http://www.msa.md.gov/msa/mdmanual/08conoff/comptroller/former/html/msa01489.html

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  1. Community Activist
    April 28, 2012 at 12:34 am

    I hate to be the constant pessimist but if we love Baltimore so much why would we want to auction it off to the highest bidder? I’m completely in favor of the revitalization of the Inner Harbor, but let’s not forget about uptown. Bringing restaurants, hotels and shopping centers will undoubtedly bring in tourists, but it’s also unlikely to bring in stable jobs with livable wages. All I suggest Mayor is that while we are building up the Inner Harbor we do it for Baltimore, by Baltimore and should therefore bring in local nonprofits to help out. One nonprofit that would be excellent to consult would be project BUILD. Since 1977 BUILD has been committed to reinvigorating neighborhoods around Baltimore and they would be able to advise you on how to spread the wealth that all this tourism will bring in so that Baltimore city, and not just downtown, can grow.

  2. Academic
    April 29, 2012 at 1:50 pm

    I disagree. The fact that Baltimore is redeveloping at such a rapid rate indicates its willingness to become an attractive and productive city, attributes necessary for all urban spaces in the United States. Cities should not be able to rely on money from the federal government for redevelopment, but rather, they should seek ways to attract private investment, such as business and consumers, in order to recreate their images. Baltimore is doing just that, and its strategy is perfectly in line with the need for cities to become self-sustaining entities and not a leech on the federal government. This sentiment should also translate to city services. Cities need to start taking responsibility for services, especially welfare. Baltimore’s Inner Harbor is an excellent example of a city prioritizing productivity and growth over dependency on the federal government. This will make the city more efficient and prosperous in all aspects.

    • Community Activist
      April 29, 2012 at 2:57 pm

      The Inner Harbor is developing into some kind of Disneyland replica. On the outside its a glittering example of urban renewal but I urge you to look deeper. How many jobs does this kind of model really provide? And how long will the city of Baltimore continue to give tax breaks and subsidies to hotels, restaurants and businesses that don’t really need them? It’s never good when all of the money from a city is unevenly concentrated in one place. Sure it’s important to have a vibrant downtown, but who does it really benefit? After all, most Baltimoreans can’t afford to spend a night at the Hyatt Regency or a dinner at the Inner Harbor’s exclusive restaurants. We should be building this city for its people. There is value in that.

  3. The Mayor
    May 1, 2012 at 1:39 am

    I am always glad to hear from the community and I appreciate your views. What I want to stress is that my administration is not focused solely on economic redevelopment. We will continue to support our social welfare programs and continue to create new programs that will benefit Baltimoreans in need of aid. However, what we all need to realize is that we are very limited in how we can obtain funds for social programs. The shift towards New Federalism has significantly decreased the aid that we receive from the federal and state governments. We also cannot simply raise taxes because not only would the public not approve of such a measure, but most Baltimoreans simply do not have the finances to pay higher taxes. We therefore have only one option. We need to look to innovators in the private sector to create profitable enterprises for the city. I am also concerned by your reference to a “Disneyland replica.” Baltimore is modernizing but this does not mean that Baltimore will lose its distinct character and charm. A few new buildings and businesses do not represent Baltimore. Baltimore is created by its people and the only way to support the people of Baltimore and keep them in the city is through public-private partnerships.

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