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Broken promises on Clay Street


Clay Street in Annapolis is littered with broken promises.

In the 1950s, the neighborhood was the center of black life in Annapolis. Billie Holiday and Cab Calloway played at the Dixie Hotel. Residents stood in line on Friday nights to get into the Star Theater. Black-owned shoeshine shops, groceries and law offices lined the street.

Then in the 1970s, when the neighborhood was starting to look rundown, the government promised to give it some help. Using federal urban renewal money, the government tore down 142 buildings and moved 114 families across town to new subsidized housing complexes. Government office buildings and parking lots replaced homes and businesses.

The unfortunate consequence: the community fabric was shredded.

Today, residents of Clay Street are among the poorest in Annapolis. The neighborhood is racked by crime. Businesses have closed.

During recent years, a community task force has met to figure a way to save the neighborhood. Almost from the beginning, residents concluded that the Anne Arundel County school system should reopen Adams Park Elementary, which was closed in the 1970s as part of a federal desegregation plan.

Although Annapolis doesn't need an extra school, community activists believe that Adams Park is essential to the pride and identity of the neighborhood. Two years ago, the school board agreed and promised to reopen the school by 1997.

Now, County Executive John G. Gary says he is striking the Adams Park renovation project from the school construction budget.

Mr. Gary reasons that Annapolis schools already have empty seats and the county has too many other pressing obligations, such as the courthouse expansion, the new detention center and schools that are needed to relieve overcrowding. Adding to the difficulty is that county revenues are falling below expectations.

Mr. Gary had to make choices. Having already promised money for an ice-skating rink to revitalize Glen Burnie, for an animal shelter in Millersville, and for renovations to the former Bates High School building in Annapolis, something had to go.

Mr. Gary chose to cut the funding for Adams Park Elementary School. As some residents see it, that's one more broken promise littering Clay Street.

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