THE LAST TIME people gathered in the drizzle to watch a flaming object being carried on U.S. 40 through Edgewood was last summer when the Olympic torch passed through to cheers and flag-waving. The past month, scores of people have marched along U.S. 40 carrying candles in the rain for a less celebrated cause -- to protest a pornographer who opened in their midst. Their action is as deserving of community applause.
No neighborhood needs an adult book store, especially Edgewood, which has struggled to remake its image. Edgewood is not unlike several communities in the counties surrounding Baltimore, places like Glen Burnie and Laurel and Middle River that disprove the myth suburbia is all picket fences and cul de sacs.
Though it was once marshy farmland whose vaunted duck-hunting preserves drew the likes of President Grover Cleveland, Edgewood in recent decades has been stifled by urban levels of poverty and crime. Its median household income, $28,000, is just two-thirds that of Harford County's average household income.
It was not coincidental that the state carved out an enterprise zone to entice business there, or that Harford County Executive Eileen Rehrmann created the first sheriff's substation there. These efforts have begun to pay off. The Mars supermarket and Revco pharmacy chains have built striking stores in a new, festive shopping center. Fancy gooseneck street lamps grace part of the retail strip. Newly hired workers are filling the industrial parks nearby.
But just when belief in Edgewood began to flicker, a Randallstown man named Ron Magaziner opened Dante's Adult Emporium like a hot, stale wind. Harford politicians were powerless to stop the business after federal courts rejected parts of the county's anti-porn statute last year as unconstitutional. So residents and church groups and businesses employed freedom of expression as a counter-weapon of their own to denounce the shop, which sits hard by several fast-food eateries that attract families.
Indeed, pornography is protected speech. But it can also degrade an area, and a community has every right to say so. Whether Edgewood succeeds in chasing Dante's, its efforts are already a good sign. Edgewood wants to become a vibrant community, and residents are proving that with their feet.
Pub Date: 12/20/96