Baltimore County executive opposes reducing bus service to White Marsh: 'It is 2018. Not 1950.'

Baltimore County Executive Don Mohler said Friday that a proposal from two county legislators to end bus service to the White Marsh Mall earlier on weekend nights is “outrageous.”

Mohler said in a statement that he would urge the Maryland Transit Administration to deny a request from Cathy Bevins, a Middle River Democrat, and David Marks, a Perry Hall Republican, that service to the area end at 11 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays instead of 1:30 a.m.

Mohler said he opposes any efforts to limit bus or light rail service from the city to the county.

“It is 2018. Not 1950,” he said. “We are neighbors with Baltimore City and stand with them. We cannot and should not put a moat around our City partners.”

Mohler said he understood the “frustration” caused by a fight Saturday at the mall, which led to the arrests of two adults and seven juveniles, but he said “stigmatizing and creating hardship for City residents is not an acceptable response.”

Bevins said she and Mohler, who is on vacation, spoke Friday morning after he issued his statement.

“You can't have 60 or more under-16-year-olds unsupervised and wreaking havoc on patrons and people who work there,” she said. “I don’t want to hurt anyone’s ridership. I’m doing my job.”

Bevins said people should be more focused on her and Marks’ push for White Marsh Mall to institute a parental supervision policy similar to one at Towson Town Center.

In an email to The Baltimore Sun on Friday afternoon, Bevins and Marks said they “are disappointed, but not surprised, by the reaction from some regarding plans to modify bus service to White Marsh Mall.”

The legislators said they “are asking for more frequent bus service, not less, to transport patrons and employees most immediately after the mall closes. This would eliminate loitering. We want the mall to take its own steps, such as a youth escort policy.”

The MTA is reviewing the county legislators’ request to increase bus service in the evening hours in an attempt to get young people to leave the mall area, and to also end service altogether at 11 p.m.

Bevins and Marks made the request in response to a large fight during which two 19-year-old men from Baltimore were arrested, including one who police said swung at an off-duty Baltimore County police officer working at the mall. Police ultimately used pepper spray to disperse a large crowd that they said had surrounded the officers.

“What happened last Saturday was unacceptable, not just to local residents but to employees, many of whom do not live in Baltimore County,” Bevins and Marks wrote to The Sun. “We will not accept the status quo. Maybe the critics can offer solutions instead of rhetoric.”

The fiery statements from Mohler and the county council members come a day after two Baltimore City Council members harshly criticized the proposal.

City Council President Bernard C. "Jack" Young said reducing the hours that buses serve the area is “like racism.”

“What about the county kids who come down to Fells Point and the Inner Harbor and wreak havoc?” Young said Thursday. “If it was county kids fighting, I doubt they would have made any remarks.”

City Councilman Brandon Scott, who represents a Northeast district close to the mall, said the proposed change is “an extreme overreaction to an incident.”

“People have to get over this belief that there’s these big bad kids from the city that are causing these problems,” Scott said Thursday.

Bevins and Marks have said that the issue has nothing to do with race and is about public safety.

“Where is the empathy for the residents from other jurisdictions who work at the mall?” Marks said Friday. “I don't see solutions from our critics, and there seems to be a lack of empathy for those mall employees, some of whom commute from other jurisdictions, who want to work in a safer White Marsh Mall.”

In their letter to the MTA, Bevins and Marks wrote that “large crowds of youth in the evening on weekends” have “become a safety concern.”

“The youth have been disruptive, hard to control and they pose a safety risk to themselves crossing the road,” they wrote.

Officer Jennifer Peach, a spokeswoman for the Baltimore County Police Department, said Wednesday that department members at a meeting with Bevins, Marks and mall officials had agreed on the proposal. Peach clarified Friday that department leadership has not been consulted on the issue and does not have a position on the bus proposal.

The mall’s owner, GGP, formerly known as General Growth Properties, supports the proposed busing change. Federal Realty, which owns The Avenue at White Marsh, which sits just across Honeygo Boulevard from the mall, said it is reviewing the proposal and conferring with business managers to see how ending service earlier would affect them.

GGP said Thursday that instituting a parental supervision policy “remains an option,” but that there is not currently one in place at White Marsh Mall.

At Towson Town Center, which is also owned by GGP, people under 18 must have a parent or a supervising adult who is at least 21 with them after 5 p.m. on Fridays and Saturdays. The Avenue requires patrons under 17 to have a parent or guardian who is at least 21 with them after 9 p.m.

nbogelburroughs@baltsun.com

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