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Questions for Baltimore

Frederick Douglass said, "It is easier to build strong children than to repair broken men." Collectively, as a city, it is urgent that we act on his vision. The April uprising was a cry for help from our children that should have been a wake-up call for our city to address the root causes that create social, educational and economic disparities. Why then are we still not hearing and listening to our children?

Why is our city's sense of urgency only triggered to mobilize police resources in anticipation of an uprising from a verdict in the Officer William Porter trial ("City leaders prepare for unrest, call for peaceful protests ahead of verdict," Dec. 16)? Why can our city find resources for police mobilization and overtime when resources for after-school programs, the most effective crime prevention program, are scarce? What do our children learn when they see their communities being militarized for "protection?" Why does the CEO of the Baltimore City Public Schools "arrest" our children's development as citizens by telling them in a letter that protests and other legitimate expressions of free speech will be treated as criminal behavior?

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Why are we forgetting that our city's zero tolerance policy of mass arrests has broken thousands of men and women, as well as the trust of many of our communities? Where is our urgency to adopt a model of city governance that engages and serves our underserved communities through a 24/7 integrated human service model which brings together education, health, social, recreation and job training services that are implemented through local community councils that help make decisions about allocation and deployment of resources?

More than a decade ago, I was the lone elected official to document and challenge the city's zero tolerance policy. I had to fight against powerful political forces that supported this misguided policy which sowed seeds of community distrust with the police and resulted in thousands of our fellow citizens who cannot obtain jobs due to arrest records. I hope today I am not alone as an elected official expressing deep concern and questioning the direction of our city.

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Del. Jill P. Carter, Baltimore

The writer, a Democrat, represents District 41, Baltimore City, in the House of Delegates.

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