There are those of us who watch TV in the comfort of our homes listening the news about Baltimore City’s homicide rate, rows of vacant houses and school problems. We shake our heads with disgust and pity, saying to ourselves “Boy, am I glad I don’t live there!”
Certainly, Baltimore City has some real problems, and we look at the situation and say, “It’s not my problem.” After all, it is easy for us to believe that Baltimore City is Baltimore City and we live in the county. We have nice homes, and we believe our schools are better and that our neighborhoods are safer. Life is good. Or is it?
The truth is Baltimore County is changing ever so slowly. If you look deep into what is affecting these changes, some of them can be traced right back to the city. There is a direct correlation to the decrease in Baltimore City’s population and the increase in the county’s population.
In the 1990 United States Census, some 736,000 people lived in Baltimore City; Baltimore County had 692,000 residents. In 2000, the city had 651,000 residents and the county 754,000. In 2010, the city had 620,000 and the county had 805,000 residents. So, as you can see, as the numbers flip this migration has been going on for some time.
If someone lives in a crime-ridden neighborhood with poor schools and food deserts, I can’t blame them for wanting to find a better place to live. I get that. My parents moved my six siblings and me from West Baltimore to Woodlawn over 40 years ago. The neighborhood was in decline and gangs and drugs had crept into the area.
Now, I know a lot of you would like to believe that the migration is over. Early on, the people leaving the city for the county were the well-off and middle-class families seeking larger homes with green space and playgrounds and better schools. The second wave included more of the lower-middle class families. Remaining were a higher proportion of seniors who had a difficult time leaving the homes after raising their families in, and families who did not have the means to leave. Much of Baltimore City is either rich or poor, with a lot of the middle class gone.
The question for Baltimore County is how much of the city’s population can we accommodate with insufficient resources before it becomes a strain on our budget and infrastructure? Don’t get me wrong. I am not Donald Trump pledging to put a wall around the county. I understand that most people just want to live, work and play in a comfortable, safe environment. History has shown us that people will not remain in a bad situation; they will eventually get fed up and move.
Just look at what’s happening around the world. If the civil war and terrorist acts in Syria didn’t exist, Germany and other countries would not be bursting at the seams to accommodate the refugees. If countries such as those in South America created a better environment for their people to thrive, people wouldn’t be risking their lives to cross the border into the United States. Our heads are in the sand if we think that this immigration doesn’t pose challenges for Texas, California and other states.
If we do what we can to improve the situation in Baltimore City and the city gets its act together, I believe the residents would be more than happy to stay in their communities. It’s a dangerous thing to smell smoke, know that your next-door neighbor’s house is on fire and you do nothing to extinguish it. Eventually, without intervention the flames will spread to your house and maybe the entire neighborhood will burn.
However, if we keep turning our backs with an “it’s not my problem” attitude, it won’t be long before the city’s problems become our problems.
The responsibility lies with city leaders and policymakers. They raised their hands to make a difference; they are the ones who must be the voice for those whose voices are muted. Investing in buildings downtown is not the solution to the city’s ills; the solution has to start with investing in communities and people with quality education, job opportunities and skills training.
Certainly, Baltimore County is not made up of all daisies and roses. And I am not asking you to neglect your own backyard. There are lots of things we can do to make a difference. Share your talents and ideas. Find organizations that are doing impactful work to improve city communities. Join them in their mission. If you don’t have time, but have the money, please lend your financial support.
I believe our inaction will end up costing us more than you ever know. The United States gets involved in the matters of governments around the world to protect U.S. interests. We have to do the same. You can even help candidates who are running for office in the city. You may not have a vote, but you can affect change. The bottom line is: Just do something.
What do you think? Do you agree or disagree. Just leave a reply below.