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News Opinion Readers Respond

Five steps to grow Baltimore

Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake has a bold plan to increase the number of families in Baltimore by 10,000 during this decade, reversing a trend of population decline in Maryland's largest city. The mayor sees this plan as a "collective effort." As dean of the College of Public Affairs at the University of Baltimore (and a recent transplant to the city), I embrace this plan and understand its call to civic action for all of us who are proud to call this amazing city our home.

I would like to join this conversation by offering a few ideas about how we, Baltimore residents, can help.

1. Support local schools. Many companies and organizations have the wherewithal to "adopt" a school, committing themselves to supporting the leaders, teachers and students to advance learning success through mentorships, internships, field trips and other learning opportunities. Parents and families can expand their connections to schools — connections that empower K-12 education and fuel student success.

2. Support law enforcement. All of us can be more vigilant about what takes place in our neighborhoods. We can create neighborhood watch groups and engage in other activities that enhance the efforts of law enforcement agencies. Police departments need to build upon their efforts to engage with residents to become partners in fighting crime and advancing public safety.

3. Support youth. Young people need productive opportunities for out-of-school time. We must expand activities for them — educational, recreational and plain good fun — through many different venues, whether it's public and nonprofits, libraries, arts venues, or neighborhood-based partnerships. Let's find more things for young people to do to improve their own neighborhoods, thereby teaching civic responsibility at an early age.

4. Embrace diversity. Great cities have historically grown as diverse population groups gravitate to urban life and employment. Baltimore is no exception. We must learn to fully appreciate diversity as an asset, not a problem to be overcome. Baltimore is made anew by immigrant groups, and we should welcome their energy, vitality and positive spirit.

5. Be proud of Baltimore. Sometimes I find residents of Baltimore, as well as those who work here but live elsewhere, to be shy about expressing their pride in the city. We cannot let our challenges be the only lens to assess life in Baltimore. All cities have problems. So do small towns and rural areas. But we have a wealth of new ideas, social innovation and bold approaches to our changing economy. Let's celebrate both Baltimore's history and its exciting future. We can make that commitment, today.

I recently had the opportunity to meet the mayor and let her know about how our new College of Public Affairs at UB seeks to engage in community collaboration. I asked how we can support the plan to add 10,000 new families to Baltimore. As a city resident, I urge my fellow residents (as well as commuters who work here) to join me in rising to the challenge and working together to make our city a 21st century beacon for civility, engagement, and hope.

Stephen Percy, Baltimore

The writer is dean of the University of Baltimore's College of Public Affairs.

Copyright © 2014, The Baltimore Sun
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