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Newt Gingrich: Let’s have a dialogue about how to fix Baltimore

Former House speaker Newt Gingrich has written a pair of essays on Baltimore's problems and ideas for solving them.
Former House speaker Newt Gingrich has written a pair of essays on Baltimore's problems and ideas for solving them. (HYUNSOO LEO KIM)

I read your Aug. 16 editorial “Baltimore Needs Help, But it’s Not Helpless” with great interest.

Let me first say: I am a native of Harrisburg, Pa., and I grew up in the shadow of The Baltimore Sun. My mentor, Paul Walker, was an old-time newsman who revered Frank Kent. Kent was the David Broder of his generation, and I learned a lot about politics from his writing. Further, H.L. Mencken, of course, was one of the towering geniuses of American political commentary.

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Given this reverence for The Sun, I write you as an admirer and not an opponent.

I agree that a lot of people have spent a lot of time trying to improve Baltimore.

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In fact, part of the boldness of my own writing is a reflection of watching how hard the problems are and how small the progress is.

Ask yourself this: How many children will fail to be educated this year in a broken system? What will that do to their lives? Don’t we owe them greater intensity and greater boldness of change to save their lives through educational preparation for a job?

If Baltimore spends more than $16,000 per student on education only to have tens of thousands of students cheated, shouldn’t the entire system be challenged?

If you have 17,000 vacant buildings — and the number remains static because new buildings are abandoned as fast as old ones are torn down or rebuilt — isn’t that a deep problem?

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If you are the leading large city per capita for murder (and the rate this year is trending higher) shouldn’t bold steps be taken to save lives? I ask the same question regarding the drug overdose fatality rate (also the highest in the nation).

How many years have your reporters covered failing reform efforts within the old order while the city’s population shrank and a generation was left without education, jobs, and hope?

I believe the challenge is big enough that President Donald Trump and the Congress should join with Gov. Larry Hogan and the Maryland state legislature to develop a bold program for replacing failure with success; poverty with prosperity; violence with safety; and ignorance with learning. The goal should be seeing Baltimore once again gain population as a healthy, desirable place to live and work.

This is the debate I am trying to create.

We owe it to the residents of Baltimore to implement Winston Churchill’s principle of “action this day.”

I hope we can continue a dialogue on inventing a successful Baltimore.

Newt Gingrich, Arlington, Va.

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