A Nance Encounter
Richard B. Crystal
Chain Me Up in Hampden
Barely weeks after City Hall went into the hotel business, the selective socialists ring in again, this time in Hampden, hon (“Life on a Different Avenue,” Mobtown Beat, Aug. 31). The recent effort by Mr. Atomic Books to curb chain-style development in “his” neighborhood completely misses all of Hampden’s social and economic issues by a city mile.
I can assure Benn Ray and Rachel Whang that efforts to develop the Avenue and the Rotunda have been in the works for the last seven years. The no-chain-store policy has been Hampden’s default position, because no chain store would come, given the crime and income levels in the area. To understand the effects of such a policy, look at Hampden today. Tawdry signage, bad retail, decay, and vacancy. Go to the Avenue on any Friday or Saturday night and you’ll see tattooed-pierced-drunken-screaming-bottle-smashing-brawling chaos, dark storefronts, and litter. It’s kind of cute during the day, though. There’s a flamingo and all.
Now, with a smattering of pioneers gentrifying (overused word) the area, prosperity looms. Unless some misguided souls derail the process under the guise that there is some significant culture here to be preserved, like an aboriginal tribe in the rain forest.
Chain stores bring jobs (with management positions) and stability to vacant tenant spaces the whole country over. They bring better-lit sidewalks and heightened security. They survive in this world because they offer good products at fair prices and people like them. People like them so much, they travel great distances to be in their general vicinity, which benefits the entire business community and creates local employment and a greater tax base.
Character happens, it is not legislated into being. To compare Hampden to some boutique San Francisco community with nutty California laws is just plain silly. The Rotunda is a beautiful historic site that is perfectly suited, like the Power Plant, for big development such as a Barnes and Noble (stiff competition for little Atomic, eh, Mr. Ray?). With Outbacks and Bennigans come Ray Lewis Full Moon Bar-B-Ques and Babalu Grills. Do those fit the vision? If there was a Chili’s in Hampden, I, for one, would be out there twice a week visiting your little freak show and spending my downtown bucks freely. They have a kick-ass queso skillet.
Really, though, I’m much too busy waiting for the “shock troops of gentrification” to redo the “arts district” to care about what happens in Hampden. I never did get the whole beehive-pointy-eyeglass thing anyway.
Gotta go, there’s a junkie at my door. Did I mention we’re buying a whole hotel?
Whoops Yet Again
Reading last week’s issue of City Paper, I cringed every time I saw your Best of Baltimore ads with the misspelled “insiteful,” and composed several nasty letters to the editor in my head. But in the end, I stayed put in my comfy chair.
However, after reading the Nose (“Whoops, and Whoops Again,” Aug. 31) where you take two politicians to task for their orthographic blunders, I just had to write. Honey, the correct word is “insightful.” And truth be known, your error was worse than those you cited (yes, that’s cited). In the case of Mitchell, it was sloppiness—his staff committed only a typographic error, where letters were transposed. Your mistake, on the other hand, was due to pure ignorance. It’s probably a casualty of the scourge of “nite,” “brite,” and “lite” that blights the contemporary landscape, but as a newspaper you should be upholding standards of accuracy. Please ask your copy editors to cast an eye on house ads in addition to their regular duties. The city that aspires to read needs all the help it can get.
Editor Lee Gardner responds: Yikes. Our house ads generally follow an “alternative” route to print and hitherto haven’t gone through our hard-working copy editor. They will from now on.
Arrest Car Culture
It’s outrageous that city parking control agent Donna L. Evans was handcuffed and threatened with arrest for trying to ticket a car that she honestly believed was illegally parked.
The incident was diligently reported by The Sun and Gus G. Sentementes in the July 19 article “Issuing Ticket Gets City Agent Cuffed” (see also “Law and Order,” Mobtown Beat, Aug. 17). The police and Transportation Department people kept their cool, and an inflammatory situation was defused.
I respectfully ask to bring up an underlying story that is also worth talking about: The unpleasantness that was visited on Evans is the fault of our community addiction to cars, which causes parking to be a big stress, a source of frequent contention, and, indeed, a blight on our city.
I ask City Paper to dedicate more space to promoting better public transportation and how traffic calming would enhance Baltimore. I recommend Neighborhood Futures: Citizen Rights and Local Control by George W. Liebmann as a starting reference point!
Editor’s note: With this issue, we bid farewell to sports columnist and veteran CP contributor Gabriel Wardell. Though Benchwarmer just got going (read the final installment), a new gig as head of the Sonoma Valley Film Festival in California beckons Gabe to the West Coast. Not only will we miss his column and his other writings, but the Baltimore film scene will miss one of its true friends and longtime champions. But hey—free place to stay in wine country. In any event, join us in wishing him the very best of luck.
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