I Love City Life and Our Time Has Come!

This past Saturday, I took a trip to Fells Point.  Now, I live in Waverly so I don’t know if Fells Point qualifies as a trip, it is only 15 minutes away but…I have to park and then deal with the tourists, the horror, it was Red Sox fans this week, However, the Sound Garden was absolutely worth it.  I needed some music and the Sound Garden has it all.  One stop shopping, love it.  And that is what I love about our city life.  Farmers Market in the morning, quick trip to Fells Point and 15 minutes later, I am playing golf at Clifton Park for $33.

Which leads me to Thomas Friedman’s editorial in the New York Times this Sunday.   ….. “if you want to be an optimist about America today, stand on your head. The country looks so much better from the bottom up — from its major metropolitan areas — than from the top down. Washington is tied in knots…. hyper-partisanship, lobbyists and budget constraints. Ditto most state legislatures. So the great laboratories and engines of our economy are now our cities. This is the conclusion of an important new book by the Brookings Institution scholars Bruce Katz and Jennifer Bradley, entitled: The Metropolitan Revolution: How Cities and Metros Are Fixing Our Broken Politics and Fragile Economy.…. Cities and metropolitan areas are becoming the leaders in the nation: experimenting, taking risks, making hard choices.” We are seeing “the inversion of the hierarchy of power in the United States.” http://nyti.ms/13ZsVXH

For those of us committed to the idea of community development and neighborhood stabilization, our time has come.   Good thing we have been steadily making inroads and building foundations over decades.  We are in an enviable position.

The Brookings Institution Does Baltimore

The Brookings Institution, a DC-based nonprofit focused on conducting topnotch independent research and providing innovative, research-based recommendations, released several articles last week that referenced Baltimore’s economic stability, stratification, and prospects for the future.

In an article that was originally run in the Baltimore Sun, Brookings Fellow Jennifer Vey wrote that metro Baltimore’s economy is “doing better than fine”. For the last decade, (2000-2010) incomes in Baltimore were (slowly- yet consistently) climbing. While incomes grew in Baltimore, the national average shrank by more than 7%. Employment grew here, whereas the rest of the nation experienced a steady decline. Baltimore experienced lower unemployment rates than comparable cities across the country.

This is great news!

However, for those who live or work in the region, there are ostensible challenges that face the city and many of its residents. Nearly 25% of Baltimore residents are low income, and 10% are considered poor.  In addition to high levels of low-income residents, it is noteworthy that 40% of Marylanders who live below the poverty line live in Baltimore. So, while Baltimore has enjoyed relative strength and stability in a time that has been turbulent for most Americans, “the regional economy hums along, baring the somewhat disquieting truth that a good economy can be had even while many aren’t reaping the benefits,” says Vey.

What’s going on here? There is a disconnect between the opportunities that have kept the Baltimore economy strong and the existence of educational and preparatory experiences that are available to the future workforce. Many simply don’t have access to reliable and quality employment opportunities. Additionally, troubled times have led to neighborhood instability and communities in transition. To address the ailments, several workforce development programs have evolved and are facilitating employment opportunities and providing training and experience to residents citywide. St. Ambrose works to address this issue by providing support to current and potential homeowners as well as providing assistance and education to those who may be facing foreclosure. The agency provides service-enriched rentals that include case managers who work with residents to submit online applications for employment, a major technological barrier for even the most tech savvy amongst us.

We know what’s ahead of us, Baltimore, and we are facing both good and bad. It’s always nice to hear about our strengths as a city and I look forward to being around (and hopefully being a part of) an ambitious and economically empowering future!