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Finding smarter fixes for city's problems

Baltimore Police Commissioner Kevin Davis and City Councilman Eric Costello spoke at a candlelight vigil Saturday night, held for slain Baltimore resident Alex Wroblewski, who was killed in a robbery earlier in the week. (Luke Broadwater / Baltimore Sun video)

Listening to Dan Rodricks’ podcast in response to our city's recent woes reminded me of the quality of his thinking and the genuine nature of his care and concern (“Dan Rodricks: ‘What do we do to get our city back?’” Nov. 18). Twenty-two years ago, I had the good fortune to have him and Wiley Hall, another reporter, come to our school to conduct a town meeting with our seniors on race. To this day, I treasure the input and the influence of these two good men who strove to steer our students along solid ground.

As I listened to the podcast, it is refreshing to note those like Dan still in the fray, loving the struggle and not giving up on what can seem like a hopeless situation. Working for over 30 years in the city, I do have some thoughts in response to Dan's piece. First of all, the leadership in the city strikes me as fragmented, lacking a particular focus and presently overmatched by the job at hand. I have seen city administrations make what appear to be futile attempts at "fixing" problems which require much more deliberate thought and processing, such as homelessness, violence, drugs and weapon possession to name but a few. There is no neat little package solution that we can tie a bow on and consider ourselves done in any of these areas. They are conditions of society in our city.

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The income gap in this city is made all the clearer as wealthier whites enter it each day only to take their wages back to the counties they live in, depriving Baltimore of some much-needed revenue. Sure, they have every right to do this and to choose to live in safer environments. Their decisions, however, do impact the city and its available resources.The school system and some of the schools therein are too big, too massive to be tackled all at once to solve some of their difficulties and to expect even short term results. We rejoice in the occasional good news while the long term picture is utterly bleak. Their size needs to be trimmed, their leadership needs to be local, area by area, and their leaders and teachers need to be empowered to make decisions that affect the communities from which they draw students. Centralized governing and decision-making does not necessarily work well for the benefit of the students. Let the schools build community in their buildings and in their neighborhoods, and let the schools remain open longer each day and provide other services, such as nutrition, so that students are not always recovering from some obstacle that impedes their learning.

All authority structures need to work together to build smaller communities of trust, beginning with the police and all of our elected officials, so that the every day Baltimorean can feel a genuine sense of belonging and not one of alienation. If we could imagine substantive and effective town hall structures that begin a city-wide project of betterment and renewal, we could attack the present conditions in Baltimore with some hope and with some solutions that might work in the long term. Again, thanks to Dan Rodricks for caring.

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Barry Fitzpatrick, Baltimore

The writer is training director for Broadway Services, Inc.

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