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Save Baltimore? It's as simple as 1, 2 and 3

Save Baltimore? It's as simple as 1, 2 and 3
Baltimore's revival might be accomplished with better schools, smarter crime policies and more jobs. (Lloyd Fox / Baltimore Sun)

In my career as a jet pilot, husband, father and businessman, one trait carried through the many times that things didn’t go as planned. When the plane is on fire I was taught to first assess the situation, second, take a place of action, and finally, land as soon as practical.

In my business days, it was always the same. If what you were doing failed, change and go another way. You already know what you were doing was going to fail.

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Having been born in Baltimore and now turning 70, I have witnessed the greatness of the city — and the terrible demise of a wonderful place to live. We are also known as the murder capital of America with about 300 killings a year, every year. There used to be almost a million people in the city. Now, barely 600,000 (“A deeper look at Baltimore’s population loss: smaller households,” June 11). We all know the city of Baltimore is broken. Let’s get a simple plan to fix it.

Step 1. Education. We spend more per student than almost every other school system and have a horrible outcome. Clearly, we are not spending the money correctly. My business skills lead me to believe we are bloated with administration and operating costs that are disconnected from books, computers and fair pay for teachers in every classroom. I specialized in dealing the with troubles of manufacturing companies all across the country and found almost every time you could cut many “bodies” without cutting results. My simple proposal is this: Count the number of “administrators” at school headquarters and in each school location and then take half of every one making over $100,000 and stop filling those positions. I bet there are at least 100 people making huge sums of money but not teaching kids and so if we lose half of them that would be extra money for teachers pay, books and computers.

Put an outside team of accountants in charge of the school budget and let the bean counters cut the waste. No trips or conferences at places outside of Baltimore. No vehicles for administrators. No “wasted” spending. And with money saved let’s put back art and music in the schools as clearly this would be more interesting than just STEM which we need to expand.

Step 2. Crime. When I spent time in the Juvenile Services Administration, I did a study of the youth who terrorized Baltimore with delinquent acts. Not just skipping school but also stealing from little old ladies, breaking into homes, dealing drugs and even killing people. I identified some 3,000 children out of about 200,000 who were responsible for over 90% of the crime.

My bet is the city police have identified about 5,000 people who are responsible for most of what is going on now in Baltimore. Repeat offenders and career criminals. Wouldn’t it make sense to force laws to give greater time in jail for repeat offenders? I wondered back in 1980 if JSA shouldn’t send a letter of apology to victims of crimes committed by kids we allowed back on the streets almost certain they would strike again.

Too many young men, particularly black young men, end up incarcerated. They received a poor education. They weren’t held responsible early enough. And they turned to crime because they faced no job opportunities which leads me to my next simple fix.

Step 3. Jobs, jobs and jobs. Look at New York and Texas and see how their growth is tied to policies that give incentives to companies to come to their states. Baltimore should simply tell every new employer who hires 50 or more workers they will get a tax break for years for bringing jobs to the city. Maryland needs to change our policy of being one of the highest taxed states to being one of the lowest taxed states.

Offer incentives to people like Kevin Plank and see what Under Armour has done for one blighted part of the city with many jobs coming with the program. Every dollar a business can save makes it more likely they will come to Baltimore. And every business that comes to Baltimore means more jobs come to Baltimore.

John L. Herman Jr., Lutherville

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