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Quick and Dirty

Housing Code Red

By Edward Ericson Jr. | Posted 7/28/2004

Jacquiline Johnson says Baltimore City government deliberately allows poor and working-class neighborhoods to deteriorate in order to push out long-term residents in favor of yuppies.

“I believe there is a master plan,” she says, “to make places so uninhabitable for the poor and working class that they move out.”

Johnson says all this while marching down Charles Street on Thursday, July 22, with 60 other protesters from the Association of Community Organizations for Reform Now (ACORN). The group assembles in front of the city Department of Housing and Community Development’s East Fayette Street offices at 4:30 p.m. The group is protesting city Housing Commissioner Paul Graziano’s failure to attend neighborhood meetings called by groups in Edmondson Village, Belair-Edison, Govans, and other low- and moderate-income communities. Johnson, a resident of Edmondson Village for 41 years, says Graziano sent two deputies to a May 17 meeting there, but they “had no power to accede to our demands.”

Those demands, naturally, include money—for a marketing program for the community and a revolving loan fund for first-time home buyers, Johnson says. The deputies who attended the meeting, she says, could not offer help. Rather, she says, “they told us what they couldn’t do.”

Baltimore is obviously strapped for cash. And yet, ACORN points out, for 50 years it has poured hundreds of millions into downtown and harbor-front development projects while many of its neighborhoods deteriorated. So ACORN also marched to the North Charles Street offices of the Baltimore Development Corp., which is about to spend $60 million in public funds to redevelop downtown’s west side.

The group poses the question to housing officials: Why not focus on code enforcement and invest in and work with long-term residents?

No housing officials addressed the protest and only one elected official, state Del. Jill Carter (D-41), attended the rally.

“You have my support 100 percent,” Carter said through a bullhorn.

Even though the rally was partially about access to Graziano, he had already scheduled a meeting with Johnson’s Edmondson Village neighborhood association for July 26. The meeting had been scheduled for “over a week,” says Housing spokesman David Tillman.

“The assertion that commissioner Graziano is ducking meetings and is not meeting with community associations is absurd,” Tillman says. “His office is open seven days a week.”

“Code enforcement is nonexistent,” Johnson says. “There is no trash pick-up. And little girls cannot even play outside because someone might snatch them. Then City Hall talks about ‘a changing demographic.’”

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