If you had to describe Baltimore County to a CEO looking to expand, an entrepreneur looking for a place to become established or a family looking to relocate, how would you do it? Would you wax poetically about big box stores, strip malls, movie theaters, gas stations and access to the interstate system, or would you highlight its public spaces like Oregon Ridge, the NCR Trail, Marshy Point, Loch Raven Reservoir, Rocky Point and Banneker? Or perhaps you would speak of its neighborhoods — each anchored by public schools, public roads, public servants and public libraries — inhabited by people of all walks of life, all measure of worship, all ages and all colors? You might even talk about the Urban Rural Demarcation Line that has worked to restrict urban sprawl and maintain the rural heritage of the landscape.
Any good salesperson would focus on what sets one place apart from others, and what sets Baltimore County apart from other counties in Maryland and the rest of the U.S. are those public assets which were put into place during the county’s suburban transformation between the 1950s and the 1970s — paid for by county taxpayers for the benefit of the whole. While a good salesperson may be able to entice a potential buyer to the county with this information, that buyer need only scratch the surface to discover that while the county has a great deal of meaningful assets, maintenance of the assets and the investment in additional assets has been deferred to in favor avoiding tax increases.
Schools are old, crumbling, overcrowded and under-performing as compared to neighboring counties (“Raise Baltimore County taxes to pay for new high schools,” March 22). The addition of green space has not kept pace with population growth. Water and sewer pipes are degraded. Nearly half the population is at the poverty level,and homeless rates are on the rise. Baltimore County is at a crossroads. We can come together and invest in a brighter future — or sit back, watch and bemoan its eventual decay.
Bronwyn Mitchell-Strong, Timonium
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