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Hudson's Corner: Despite city's mounting fiscal problems, Roland Park is still home sweet home

Hudson's Corner

11:18 AM EST, February 17, 2013

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Living in Baltimore City can feel like an uphill effort. The noise, trash, potholes, property taxes and looming deficit are depressing.

We live near Roland Avenue and Cold Spring Lane, a major east-west thoroughfare that has turned into a pulsating, trash-filled highway. People open car windows to throw out trash. Students at the bus stop drop wrappers and drink cans. They walk up the street and throw more into the bushes. The wind sweeps wrappers uphill from Falls Road.

A few weeks ago, in a regular ritual, my husband spent three hours picking up trash on the median and sides of Cold Spring Lane.

A few days later, BGE butchered the Leyland cypress trees planted on the Cold Spring Lane side of our house. Luckily, they only eviscerated the innards of two and did not massacre the tops of all five. My husband then spent four hours sawing, lugging and piling limbs into a neat stack, about four by four feet, to be hauled away a few at a time.

If the utility company is going to prune trees, why don't they notify property owners first, so limbs can be removed cleanly? Or why can't they haul away cut limbs rather than leaving them as an eyesore and fire hazard? Along Cold Spring Lane, people constantly toss lighted cigarettes.

Fortunately, the sawed limbs did not catch fire and burn down the trees. These salt-resistant Leylands are a physical and acoustical barrier between us and the sirens, the truck-rumbling and car-stereo cacophony of Cold Spring Lane.

A quality of life issue in Baltimore City is noise. Whenever I am on the phone with a Baltimore County friend, she hears a siren and comments, "YOU live in the city."

I hate it that sirens are what people associate with our city.

On a recent trip to Manhattan, a cab driver from Morocco said that during the Super Bowl, he looked up Baltimore on the Internet.

"Very bad crime," he said, then praised Manhattan's safety and described the one episode he had had in five years of driving. When someone tried to leave his cab without paying, he called 911. Immediately, marked and unmarked police cars surrounded the cab, and officers quickly resolved the situation.

I do not know the difference between policing in Baltimore and New York City. More money is certainly available for more police, and every other aspect of life, in corporation-filled Manhattan.

Now, a report from Philadelphia-based Public Financial Management, Inc. states that the Baltimore government is on a path to financial ruin. It estimates the city will accumulate budget deficits of $745 million over the next 10 years. If infrastructure and retiree benefits are included, the amount goes to $2 billion over the next 10 years. Mind-numbing figures indeed.

Good for Mayor Rawlings-Blake to have commissioned such a study before it is too late. I do not know any details of her proposed solutions. Cutting the property tax would certainly help attract residents. The idea of fees for trash pickup would only work after steep reductions in the property tax. Those fees would have to be collected with property tax bills to avoid a royal mess in the city.

My family and my husband's family have now all moved out of the city. We live in the house where I grew up. It is hard to leave. It is also hard to beat the green beauty and sense of community of Roland Park. A neighborhood that cares enough to raise funds to save a public library branch, improve the Stony Run, restore its firehouse and historic water tower, and attempt to purchase open space critical to the neighborhood and the city remains the kind of place where I want to live.