Sunday, March 15, 2009

First Things First...

This thing needs to go, and it needs to go now.

Another day with this ill conceived statue, Male/Female by Jonathan Borofsky, standing in front of Penn Station is another day someone traveling to Baltimore for the very first time takes their first steps into the city and asks themself, "What the hell is that piece of shit? And what kind of city would allow it to stand in front of their train station?"

The criticism of the city is unfair, as virtually everyone I've spoken to about this monstrosity, from all walks of life, thinks the thing is a piece of crap that should be sold for scrap at the next auction. We are in a recession, after all, and the city could create a win/win situation by removing an eyesore while adding a couple grand to its budget.

This is not the first badly chosen piece of Baltimore public art and it won't be the last, in a town that has sunk a long way from the Washington Monument by Robert Mills in Mount Vernon. The statue is, however, one of the worst and, indisputably, the most prominent example of bad art in the city and needs to be done away with. Now.

Monday, March 9, 2009

Where We Are

It seems wherever you go in the City of Baltimore these days, there's a feeling of apathy and discouragement that envelopes Baltimorean's attitudes as to what is possible in their hometown. Former Baltimore Sun columnist Michael Olesker described it, in part, as a "civic inferiority complex" on a recent appearance on the Mark Steiner Show. But this only begins to touch on the problem.

"Baltimore's not really such a great place," a Harford County resident recently told me at the Bi-Annual Spaghetti and Ravioli Dinner at St. Leo's Church in Little Italy, before she told the tale of how her father, a shopkeeper who had run a business just east of Patterson Park for over half a Century, had called it quits after being held up with a shotgun in the 1990's.

A few weeks earlier at Matthew's Pizza in Highlandtown, I stood waiting for a takeout order with a crowd of patrons while a young woman in front of me at the counter told the cashier lady, "I just moved to Baltimore."

"Did you know we have high crime?", came the reply, to the nervous laughter of all those within earshot.

Indeed, it wasn't really all that funny. The crime that has consumed Baltimore City over recent decades has turned a once thriving Metropolis into a place where many longtime residents would simply rather not live anymore. It's not that they don't like the region, as the overwhelming majority simply relocate over the County line where property taxes are cheaper and schools are better. But the triple threat of crime, race issues and poverty have consumed the public mindset regarding the City.

But worse yet is that the response to these issues from both the city government and its citizenry has either been misguided or non-existent. It often seems as though the city simply cannot do anything right when it comes to dealing with, admittedly, enormous issues which threaten its very existence.

We can do better than this.

I've started this blog to help promote discussion and come up with ideas that will help improve the City of Baltimore. My hope is that it will be a place where intelligent, informed and frank dialogue can take place on a variety of important issues that people all too often ignore in Charm City. I invite you to take place in this discussion and hope that we collectively we can make this City - in which there is still, despite its tremendous problems, a great deal of pride - a better place.

- Patapsco Jones