Dear Fellow Residents,
A few community leaders from Belair-Edison Neighborhoods, Christina Delgado and Barbara Bivens, and myself attended a public safety commission hearing at City Hall on February 22, 2017, to 1) see what is being done on behalf of all city government agencies to address our pressing issues and 2) voice concerns on behalf of you all so that Belair-Edison is not overlooked in the overall planning process. Councilman Brandon Scott, District 2 presided over the commission as the chair of the Public Safety Committee. In our estimation, he and the other City Council people did a wonderful job at asking tough question of various department heads to hold them accountable for the plans they have laid out under the new Pugh Administration. Some of the department heads that were in attendance included Police Commissioner Kevin Davis, Baltimore City Health Commissioner Dr. Leana Wen, Tisha Edwards (Chief of Staff for Mayor Pugh), Rudy Chow (DPW), Michael Braverman (Head of Housing Authority), Albert Matricciani (Head of Board of Liquor License Commissioners), William Cole (Baltimore Development Corporation), and Thomas Stosur (Department of Planning). Also in attendance were chief representatives from the Department of Recreation and Parks and the Mayor’s Office of Employment and Development.
In terms of the issues that we face as a community, we deal a lot with trash issues. That includes consistent pick-up, reliable recycling collection, and illegal dumping. We also face issues with our Main Street corridor in terms of drug trafficking which deters potential customers and diverse business owners who would like to invest in our community. Lastly, we face a huge issue with our children. We have inadequate after-school programming and summer programming which would allow our children to thrive during the regular academic school year. A part of the last point is a surge in violence among youth in Belair-Edison ranging from petty robberies to more serious crimes which threaten the livelihood and prospects of our community. Christina Delgado, Community Engagement Specialist for Belair-Edison and resident of the community addressed the committee on these issues in a very concise and powerful manner.
As for what is to be done by our local government, Commissioner Davis thoroughly explained a new initiative called Strong Neighborhoods. Essentially this initiative seeks to bring Baltimore City departments together in a manner that allow for greater access to resources in the areas of housing, education, addiction, banking, small-business, and health. In his words, “We have to work together.” This means that various departments are pooling their resources and legitimacy to provide more effective programming in the aforementioned areas to assist Baltimore residents with improving their quality of life within their communities—especially communities like ours which has seen a decline in overall quality of life—and, ultimately, the city as a whole. However, the burden of our community issues also falls on us to correct. This means that we have to become engaged with one another in a host of ways. We have to remain vigilant and call 311 when we come across illegally dumped trash or other non-life threatening issues that affect the landscape and cleanliness of our community. This documentation matters because as community leaders when we bring these concerns to city departments they want to know that the community overall is invested in eradicating the issues we face together. On that point we must engage in more consistent clean-ups with one another. Secondly, we have to attend community meetings regularly to organize, share information, and come up with viable ideas that we can implement together WITHOUT the help of local government. To be clear, community meetings should not be wasted complaining, we should always set goals for ourselves and then figure out how to make those goals come to life with one another. Block events, health fairs, sports-related activities, and pooling our financial resources into competent hands then holding that person accountable to use those funds for our community are just some ways to think about this. Thirdly, when services and programs are introduced into the community whether they be for children, the elderly, the drug-afflicted, or entire families we must utilize those resources and then share that information with our neighbors so they can use them as well. Again, we have to begin engaging with one another. Once we begin to engage with one another effectively, it will become much easier to hold our elected officials and their cabinet members accountable for also doing the right thing when it comes to funding, investing, and protecting our community.
I have kept this message somewhat vague for the purpose of 1) giving you all some general knowledge about what is going on around us and 2) so that you all actually engage with organizations like BENI, KFX, Inc. and BECA to find out more detailed information for the purposes of getting involved and eventually, making the Belair-Edison the community what we want it to be. There are various initiatives that the department heads outlined today, so please reach out to 1) Ty Johnson at 443-938-5060 to talk more in depth or the folks at Belair-Edison Neighborhoods, Inc. We have a wonderful community full of intelligent people and together we can rely on one another to make Belair-Edison the type of community we’d want our children to inherit in the future! Thank you and I look forward to building with you all and holding each other and our city government accountable in the process!