Monday, August 31, 2015

Howard County and Baltimore: How the opportunity gap plays out in each


        Recently an article in the Baltimore Sun highlighted the opportunity gap that exists in Baltimore.  For most of us in Howard County Baltimore can seem like a world we only read about in the newspaper or see each night on the TV news.   Our knowledge base is defined by the murder rate that has increased in the past few months.  For many neighborhoods in Baltimore it seems like the Wild West with gun play a daily occurrence.  Having worked in many of these neighborhoods a few years back the surprising reality of Baltimore is that you can have totally different neighborhoods separated by only a block or two.  You can easily go from one street with most of the homes boarded up to another street of newly renovated homes being purchased by young professionals.   Even with this physical proximity the gap in opportunities for residents of these two streets couldn't be more dramatic.
      Are there any lessons from Baltimore that are relevant for Howard County?  The contrast in our two communities may seem too dramatic to draw any lessons from Baltimore that may relate to our County. If we look under the surface in our County we maybe seeing some beginning signs that our County is moving in some divergent directions that may become more dramatic in the future.   We have healthy Village Centers and others that are struggling.  We have some schools that are ranked high on national scales and others that have test scores below the Maryland average.  This translates directly to house values and a dichotomy in our County of "desirable" and "non-desirable" neighborhoods.  In the planned development of Columbia, with the Rouse vision, this dichotomy was minimized in a conscious manner.  Moving into our future years, without a clear vision of mutual opportunity, it is unclear how the early signs of our "dichotomy of opportunity" plays itself out.


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