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Condemned

By Tom Chalkley | Posted 5/31/2000

Do I detect a pattern? Some weeks ago, The Sun ran an editorial in favor of the west-side development scheme sponsored by the Weinberg Foundation, the University of Maryland, Peter Angelos, et al., and enabled by massive condemnation of property. If I may paraphrase, the basic thrust of the piece was, "It's time for the beeper stores and preservationists to get out of the way of progress." (And, as a friend of mine added, "Let the people who screwed up the area in the first place do what they want"--alluding to the late Harry Weinberg, who owned a vast swath of west-side commercial property and allowed it to deteriorate.) On May 16, the daily offered up more of the same pro-development partisanship, couched this time in sports metaphors.This editorial concerned Baltimore County Executive C.A. "Dutch" Ruppersberger's move to condemn 39 properties in the Essex-Middle River area to make way for a waterfront recreational complex. Current property owners and residents have naturally resisted the taking of their businesses and homes, and they are petitioning to put Ruppersberger's condemnation law (which was approved by the state legislature) up for referendum in November. Dutch, in a show of press-conference bravado, signed their petition and challenged the anti-condemnation folks to seven debates on the topic.

The Sun's editorial writers marveled at Ruppersberger's "moxie" in taking on the owners and their allies and sneered that "no one--including [state] Del. Diane DeCarlo, his most vocal opponent--has volunteered to step up" to meet the exec's debate challenge. The editorial closed on a note of jockish admiration: "Mr. Ruppersberger, a former lacrosse player, knows how to go on the offensive and attack the goal. . . . Pity anyone who prevents him from making this score." Mercy.

In the west-side case, it's no great surprise that The Sun favors plans to develop upscale, mall-style retail complexes in place of crumbling century-old buildings occupied by very small businesses and, for God's sake, artists. On the east side, the paper's outright cheerleading might reflect more than a simple zest for the exercise of eminent domain. One of Ruppersberger's top advisors--and a key booster of the Essex-Middle River condemnations--is Elise Armacost, a former member of The Sun's editorial board.

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