Dr. Jay Perman advises us that anchor institutions such as his — the University of Maryland, Baltimore — "have a critical role to play in lifting populations out of poverty." ("Anchor institutions have a community role," Aug. 5.) As lecturers in public policy and community organizing at UMB, we write to praise this sentiment and suggest some easy steps that Baltimore's two major anchor institutions (UMB and Johns Hopkins) can take to achieve this goal.
Step 1: Pay your employees and contractors a living wage. MIT calculates that a parent with a child in Baltimore must earn $22.88 an hour for full-time work in order to make ends meet. When the anchor institutions end the poverty of their own employees and contractors, they will set an example for other employers in our region.
Step 2: Be more attentive to the gentrification caused by university development policies. Maryland's bio-park has already created displacement, and Hopkins maintains ownership of a significant number of vacant houses in East Baltimore. Development should lift up — and not move out — the neighbors.
Step 3: Divest holdings in arms merchants, repressive regimes, carbon-based energy companies and corporations that refuse to pay living wages. This would encourage other institutional investors to make their money work for justice and equity. Furthermore, the anchor institutions should invest in and contract with local cooperatives and small businesses in impoverished communities, creating jobs and wealth for these neighbors.
Step 4: Use your influence to promote equitable public policies, including empowered civilian police review boards and amending the Law Enforcement Bill of Rights, reduced military spending in favor of an urban agenda, ending the War on Drugs and race-based mass incarceration, designing an affordable housing plan for Baltimore's 98,000 households that cannot afford their monthly housing costs, stopping public subsidies to wealthy developers, advocating for a universal health care system that does not enrich insurance companies, and making public higher education free (as it is in Scotland, Germany and the Scandinavian countries).
For too long anchor institutions have anchored a political economy that maintains race and class privilege. Now is the time for them to take bold action for justice and equity, beginning within their own walls.
Adam Schneider, Lauren Siegel, Eric Jackson, Lane Victorson and Jeff Singer, Baltimore