Sad end to progressive idea; Political fears: Door slams on Madden's bill for getting poor nearer jobs and independence.


STATE SENATOR Martin G. Madden recently challenged his colleagues to prove their commitment to the lofty ideal of helping the state's poor. But those colleagues backed down.

What a shame.

With Baltimore County Senator Thomas L. Bromwell in the lead, the state Senate decided to sidestep a chance to get poor city dwellers closer to the suburban jobs they need for a better life.

Senator Madden's plan would have started a $3.75 million, three-year effort to help 1,500 city residents cover moving expenses. But both men, able analysts of political reality, concluded the Senate would see the Madden idea as a third rail. It was withdrawn without debate.

Mr. Bromwell based his conclusion on angry reaction to a program called Move To Opportunity, which relocated poor city families in eastern Baltimore county. Racial and class antagonisms flared in the target neighborhoods.

To the extent that Mr. Bromwell accurately reads the public mood, voters, too, are responsible for the premature death of a worthy proposal.

We wish Mr. Madden had shown some resolve and at least allowed his proposal to live through a committee hearing.

Employers throughout the state cry openly for workers. But many workers face difficult, sometimes insurmountable commutes.

To suggest that the program must die to maintain the city's population base -- as Mr. Bromwell did -- is laughably disingenuous.

Legislators have an obligation to teach and to lead as well as to legislate. Perhaps the voters would have understood that a program like Mr. Madden's could improve the lives of everyone in the state -- particularly the lives of those who most need a chance to prosper.

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