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Baltimore’s problems are for local residents (and capitalism) to solve

Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson speaks during a news conference after touring the Hollins House, a high rise building housing seniors and persons with disabilities, during a trip to Baltimore, Wednesday, July 31, 2019. Carson highlighted the Hollins House, which has 130 one-bedroom units, as an opportunity zone where encourage investment and development in distressed communities. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez)
Housing and Urban Development Secretary Ben Carson speaks during a news conference after touring the Hollins House, a high rise building housing seniors and persons with disabilities, during a trip to Baltimore, Wednesday, July 31, 2019. Carson highlighted the Hollins House, which has 130 one-bedroom units, as an opportunity zone where encourage investment and development in distressed communities. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez/AP)

I live in Southwest Baltimore about 2.2 miles from Pratt and Monroe streets, the Ground Zero in the current controversy. There you will find rats, mice, bed bugs and trash including used hypodermic needles. You’ll find them in other areas of Baltimore too. I see rats in my backyard from time to time. When it gets cold in the winter, the mice find a way in my house. You’ll find this in most major cities in America and not a few around the world. It’s unrealistic to expect the federal government to solve these local problems (“Trump alleges ‘billions and billions’ of federal aid wasted in Baltimore; city officials dispute claim,” July 30).

The first responsible for these problems are the local residents. Obviously, a few are not able to solve the problems that many neighbors cause. Nor is it their responsibility. People, after all, are responsible for their own actions. In the mid-1980′s, I drove a taxi here. I was driving in a neighborhood very close to Pratt and Monroe one afternoon and smelled a bad smell. Not rats but human waste. It was overpowering. I suspect it was a broken sewer line. In a well-to-do neighborhood, there would have been public or private contractors fixing it. But this neighborhood was, take your pick, infested or inhabited, by drug addicts and prostitutes. And, as you might imagine, inhabited by some very poor families. There were young children playing in the street. I wondered how long it had smelled that bad and how long it would continue to smell that bad.

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I came to Baltimore 43 years ago. Contrary to what you might have been told, my experience was that things have actually improved since that time. But not at Pratt and Monroe. And not everywhere in Baltimore. In 1976, I lived on Patterson Park Avenue directly across from the park. That is Southeast Baltimore. It was a stinking mess. Packs of dogs, five to 15 dogs at a time, ran through the park and the neighborhoods and crapped all over the sidewalks. The park was not well cared for. Trash was a problem. Now, there is great Improvement in that neighborhood. The city has eliminated the dog problem. The park is much nicer. You can walk the sidewalks comfortably. Much of the neighborhood on the south side of the park is relatively new construction. These and other neighborhoods which were as bad as Pratt and Monroe is today are now gentrified.

Our Inner Harbor was a landscape of rotting creosote coated timbers and pilings, the ruins of wooden docks for a once very busy commercial port. Today, it’s a marketplace with a small marina. It is home to the USS Constellation, a U.S. Navy warship commissioned in 1855. We have the USS Torsk, a U.S. submarine commissioned in 1944. We have the Maryland Science Center and the National Aquarium! Commerce at the Inner Harbor was thriving for a good while. But the Obama administration caused economic decline from which it needs to recover. There are too many empty properties in what was once quite full of businesses.

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The shoreline of the Inner Harbor east through Fells Point and on to the foot of Clinton Street has been developed into middle and upper middle class housing complete with marinas. It too was in great disrepair in 1976. These improvements would never have come through socialism. It was capitalism that improved the shoreline here. Socialism would never have done it. Socialism may destroy it! Welfare socialism is, I believe, almost entirely responsible for the mess at Pratt and Monroe. Baltimore is 65% African-American. But in Southwest Baltimore, there are poor whites, destitute whites and white drug addicts. It’s not a racial problem, it’s a human problem. Alcoholism used to be a very public problem in the poor neighborhoods. It’s not so obvious now. Perhaps people prefer the cheap heroin and marijuana.

West Baltimore is not the only place here where white and black suffer. Finally, I note that Baltimore has been called the evangelists’ graveyard. There are hundreds, if not thousands of denominations and non-denominational congregations. All the main line and all the ancient denominations are here. Baltimore is headquarters for the Roman Catholics who have been here for 229 years. Perhaps we do not have heaven on Earth in Baltimore because Christendom is so fractured here.

David Severy, Baltimore

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