Monday, May 11, 2009

Who Wants to Live in Baltimore?

One of the most obvious issues affecting the very survival of the city itself is the loss of residents it has steadily experienced since the height of its population in the 1950's. During World War II, people flocked in droves to industrial centers like Baltimore, stretching infrastructure and overcrowding neighborhoods, with no relief throughout the War due to the moratorium on new building put in place by FDR's Administration to ensure all resources and labor went directly to the war effort. The result for Baltimore was a population in 1950 just shy of 1 Million people.

Since that peak the growth of the city's population has declined decade after decade, with the possible exception (hints are often given off by officials in the press that the stats are being juked) of the current decade we're living in. Today the population of the city according to census estimates is around 637,000 residents, a 32% drop from 1950. The reasons are simple enough:

  • The tense racial situation alone in the city scares the shit out of many residents.
  • The city school system is generally considered an unmitigated disaster, necessitating the common big city expenditure for private school for those who want to both remain in the city and provide their kids with a good education.
  • The erosion of much of the tax base of the city over the past 50+ years has made for jaw dropping property taxes, over double those found in the neighboring County, which, by the way, provide for worse social services than those found in Baltimore County.
  • "Did you know we have high crime?" as the waitress at Matthew's Pizza told a new doe-eyed transplant from Boston, in a glorious Baltimore accent.
So who would want to live in Baltimore given these conditions? Let's make a list:
  • Young people, in their 20's and 30's, with no kids yet, who rent apartments (no property taxes) and want to be near Big City cultural venues and the social and romantic opportunities afforded by urban nightlife.
  • College students.
  • Gays and Lesbians who look to the city for a more tolerant attitude toward their lifestyle. The city has done a poor job in reaching out to this community however, making neighboring Washington DC, Philadelphia and New York all more attractive options.
  • Rich people who send their kids to Gilman or Boys' Latin, could frankly give a damn about property taxes, get in a huff about people taking their park away but not about sky high murder rates and live in a world resembling an F. Scott Fitzgerald novel in Roland Park or Guilford.
  • People who don't know any better. Take a walk around Hampden and you'll find plenty. Many of whom are in their teens and can be seen pushing baby carriages, smoking and getting into domestic quarrels on The Avenue.
  • Resident physicians at city hospitals who fear they'll fall asleep at the wheel if they opt to commute in from the County.
  • Drug dealers who enjoy and profit off the easy access to the area's many junkies.
  • Junkies who enjoy the easy access to the area's many drug dealers.
  • People who can't afford to move.
  • People who really, really love the city.
Have any to add to the list? Post them in the comments section.


Anonymous said...

People who are from Baltimore? The devil they know...

I find that people who are not from here have usually come for a specific reason (school, work, etc.) and do not think of staying once they're through with that particular tenure. Like you said, nearby Philly, DC and New York can offer the benefits of a larger urban center without the pitfalls of B'more. This, I believe, has everything to do with the drugs and the crime here. It's really too bad, as the city has a lot to offer.

Anonymous said...

One note on your list. While renters do not pay property taxes directly, the property tax rate does affect their renting experience. Either the landlords charge more to break even or the landlords don't invest in the properties because they don't want to have them re-assessed for higher property taxes.

Why do I live in the city? My wife is one of those resident physicians who wanted a short commute, so that covers us.