Monday, May 4, 2015

Baltimore -- A deeper look

Money alone has not and will not fix the problems which are not unique to Baltimore.

Things that money alone cannot fix:

  • It’s important to have a father in the home or a mentor. Statistics also show that two young people who finish high school and get married before having children seldom end up in poverty.

  • The worst thing that city government can do to a poor neighborhood is to lower expectations. The “broken window” effect described by James Q. Wilson in the 1980’s was the basis of the concepts used by Mayor Giuliani to turn around New York City. Combating what can only be described as bureaucratic neglect in these areas can begin with code enforcement such as mowing overgrown properties and boarding up or tearing down vacant houses. Much of the cost of this can be placed as an assessment on the property of the absentee owners and recovered. I have been there and done that in Columbus, Ohio in the early 1980s. We reduced the code violations in a section of the city from 50% of vacated properties to less than 9%. It is not a matter of money or manpower, but a matter of political will.

  • Illegal drugs are a major contributing factor to the decline of inner city neighborhoods. Drugs are the cause of much of the violence and, along with poor schools, a cause of the flight of middle class families. When I was an orthopedic surgical resident in the Bronx area of New York City in the early 1970’s, I saw a community essentially implode and destroy itself with a heroin epidemic (see the movie “Fort Apache the Bronx”). Studies at that time showed that mainline heroin addicts committed 250 felonies each a year to support their habit. Discarded needles destroy all of the public green spaces. The place to begin is a zero tolerance for heroin which can also be well justified as a health policy related to AIDS and hepatitis and deaths from overdoses.

  • The teacher’s unions have been at least a part of the problem with the inner city schools. The results for those inner city children who have been able to go to charter schools have generally been better.

  • Perhaps ironically, I think that it can be argued that one of the things that could be done to improve both the issues of police misconduct and the perceptions of injustice in the inner cities would be for more states to abolish the death penalty.

WP -- Michael S. Rosenwald and Michael A. Fletcher -- Why couldn’t $130 million transform one of Baltimore’s poorest places?

“Sandtown-Winchester is crumbling, and there is little to suggest that two decades ago visionary developer James Rouse and city officials injected more than $130 million into the community in a failed effort to transform it. Instead there are block after block of boarded-up houses and too many people with little hope.” -- Krauthammer: Baltimore’s schools are a failure of liberal ideology.

“After talking about the problem of fatherlessness in Baltimore, Krauthammer said, “the other issue is the terrible schools, and the idea that they have been deprived of money is preposterous. Baltimore the second highest per-capita spending on students in the country……The public schools are rotten. What the parents need is school choice.”

NY Times - Thomas B. Edsall - Sex, Drugs and Poverty in Red and Blue America

“The problems of majority black Baltimore are extreme, but many of the trends found there are as extreme or more so in majority white Muskogee.”

“The Baltimore poverty rate is 23.8 percent, 8.4 points above the national rate, but below Muskogee’s 27.7 percent. The median household income in Baltimore is $41,385, $11,661 below the $53,046 national level, but $7,712 above Muskogee’s $33,664.”