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Merge Baltimore and Balto. Co.? Why not?

Baltimore and Baltimore County historically were once one and the same (“Let’s not explain away Baltimore’s population loss. It really is a bad sign,” March 23).

Baltimore separated from Baltimore County in 1853. The area south of North Avenue to the harbor was Baltimore City and the area north of North Avenue (then known as Boundary Avenue) was Baltimore County. The purpose, presumably, was to create a separate governance of the urban center of commerce for the area. The city and the area prospered and grew.

Approximately every three decades or so, the growth of the urban center called Baltimore City required expansion of its boundaries to maintain the demarcation between the built-up urban area and the surrounding, more rural area. Thus, annexation occurred in 1888. The boundary was moved from North Avenue to approximately 43rd Street where Greenmount Avenue widens and becomes York Road. The east-west line crossed through the middle of Sherwood Gardens and was parallel and just south of Cold Spring Lane.

Then in 1918, some 30 years later, the boundary was moved to just north of Gittings Avenue. Baltimore had elastic boundaries and an adequate tax base.

The three-decade cycle of growth was shortened in the 1940s by the influx of population to Baltimore, booming to meet wartime production. By 1948, the war was over and our esteemed leaders once again addressed the expansion of the city’s boundaries at the state legislature. However, by this time, the growth and population had far surpassed the then-1918 boundary and the political strength of the surrounding jurisdictions soundly defeated annexation and basically decreed that Baltimore could nevermore extend its boundaries and take land from them.

The result is that Baltimore is an inelastic city. Attempts have been made to foster regionalism, such as the Greater Baltimore Committee and the Baltimore Metropolitan Council, among others. Alternatives to restore Baltimore to an elastic city may be possible. Just as one example, Baltimore County, since 1853, has had no incorporated towns. Maybe it’s time to consider merging Baltimore City and County into one again. Maryland does not need 24 political jurisdictions, namely “23 counties and Baltimore City.” It may not happen politically, but we can help make it happen in spirit.

Pierce Linaweaver, Baltimore

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