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People on both sides of Hopkins debate have same goals

I’ve appreciated your coverage, and this article in particular (“Despite intensive lobbying effort, Johns Hopkins private police legislation faces uncertain future,” Feb. 8) about the Johns Hopkins initiative for a private police department, and the diverse responses of city residents.

But I feel compelled to respond to one key point. The article quoted State Sen. Bill Ferguson as observing: “The challenge is it’s become a proxy fight, between people who think the answer to the city’s violence is more police and those who favor long-term solutions to poverty.”

His observation is accurate, but I think the dichotomy is false. It implies that those who object to the police department are willing to wait for long-term solutions without concern for current safety, while those in favor of the department are not also taking a long-term approach. As the executive director of the Central Baltimore Partnership, an organization that serves the 10 communities surrounding Hopkins’ Homewood campus, I work with more than organizations on both sides of the debate, and I can assure you emphatically that regardless of differences on how to proceed, all our partners share common concerns. All the community groups here, regardless of their opinion on this proposal, work hard to improve public safety, while Johns Hopkins’ generous and effective support for long-term programs that tackle the root causes of poverty and benefit our area’s economically challenged residents are unsurpassed by any other anchor institution.

Below are some examples.

  • Johns Hopkins’ multi-year, multi-million dollar investment in STEM and arts-infused education at the Margaret Brent and Barclay Elementary middle schools.
  • Its $10 million collaboration with us on the HCPI Plan, which has been instrumental in reducing (from over 400 to just over 200) the number of vacant properties in our neighborhoods, using everything from home ownership incentives to funds for neighborhood parks and playgrounds and use of Hopkins leases in redeveloping long-vacant landmarks.
  • Most recently, the university’s faculty, staff and students have supported our Front and Center initiative: A five-year equity plan for Central Baltimore. This plan, launched last year, addresses priorities shared by more than 200 residents of our most distressed neighborhoods. Johns Hopkins has teamed up with job training and placement providers, six community centers, neighborhood leaders and other stakeholders to develop and realize strategies to create opportunities for youth, long-term unemployed workers, and low-income seniors. Also part of this plan (with help from Johns Hopkins public health specialists and physicians), is an innovative wellness center which is under construction at the J. Van Story Branch Apartments, the city’s largest remaining public housing tower.

I am convinced that all our stakeholders are committed to creating the best present, as well as the best future, possible. The only question is how to do that. Our organization is dedicated to creating pathways that enable different stakeholders to create solutions together. We have the highest hopes and confidence that, together, we will find the best way forward.

Ellen Janes, Baltimore

The writer is executive director of The Central Baltimore Partnership

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