County has history of housing discrimination

Last week, the Baltimore County Council rejected a $13.7 million housing project for low-income families in Rosedale.
The vote was 6-0, with westside Councilman Ken Oliver abstaining.
Afterwards, County Executive Kevin Kamenetz said this rejection sent "the wrong message." He's right.
Baltimore County has a shameful history opposing housing assistance.
There's massive resistance to changes in the status quo, especially if it involves people of color.
Back in 1964, Baltimore Mayor Theodore R. McKeldin asked County Executive Spiro T. Agnew to work on a metropolitan-wide approach to open occupancy laws.
Agnew rejected the offer. He feared negative voter response.
Open housing laws, he said, "invade the rights of property guaranteed by our federal constitution."
Agnew did seek a $27 million urban renewal bond issue for deteriorating parts of Towson and Catonsville.
However, that was viewed as a plot to bring public housing, and poor city blacks, into the county.
Agnew's bond issue met overwhelmingly defeat from voters.
Even an attempt to study blight in the county was rebuffed by the County Council.
A slum clearance plan from Agnew was called a "malicious, socialistic cancer."
His successor in Towson, Dale Anderson, was known for opposing integration and affordable housing. His cohorts fed voter fears. One of them, Councilman Wallace Williams, told a crowd, "Dale Anderson and the rest of the team will continue to fight hard to stop any major government-subsidized programs with strings attached from coming to Baltimore County.
"And you know what I mean. You know what I mean."
Reform County Executive Ted Venetoulis tried in 1975 to improve the housing situation with $40 million in federal funds. But the County Council and the county's delegation in Annapolis vetoed that effort. It also rejected an urban renewal grant proposal.
In 1990, a $2.5 million county bond issue for housing was defeated by voters.
Then in 1994, hysteria erupted over fears public housing residents would flood Dundalk, Essex and Middle River under a federal program, Moving to Opportunity.
Foes claimed 18,000 poor blacks were coming - no more than 40 families a year would have been scattered throughout the county. This fierce opposition convinced politicians like County Executive Roger Hayden and Congresswoman Helen D. Bentley to oppose the program.
That included liberal Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who killed the federal funds earmarked for Baltimore. It was not her finest moment.
In 2000, 70 percent of county voters rejected County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger's housing renewal plans for Dundalk, Essex, Middle River and Randallstown.
So it is not surprising Councilwoman Cathy Bevins hid behind "councilmanic courtesy" to bury the latest affordable housing effort. Nor is it shocking that other council members, including Oliver, let her get away with it.
Back in Agnew's days, African Americans constituted 3 percent of county residents. Today, that number is 27 percent.
The times, they are a-changin'.
At some point county residents - however grudgingly - will have to recognize that reality.

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