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Thanks for the Memories

“Beachwood Park Memoirs” by Lee Gardner (Sizzlin’ Summer, May 18) is a fantastic read. The article took me back to a wonderful place in time. I spent many summer days and nights of my teenage years enjoying the Smith family’s hospitality at their summer home on the Magothy, adjacent to Beachwood Park. Rev. Hiram and Ms. Lula Smith were absolutely wonderful people. The late Lionel Smith, their son, my good buddy was next in age to the youngest (Bobby).

Beachwood Park offered all types of amusement rides and activities for families, which would be equivalent to today’s Disney World adventures. Church picnics were common, as was Rev. Smith offering to take groups out on his boat, navigating the Magothy River. Lionel and I would often swim starting from the beachfront across the width of the Magothy River to the other side, only to be greeted with stern looks from the beachfront white homeowners when approaching their properties. Of course, after crossing the Magothy, we would not stop for rest, but simply turn around and continue swimming to the friendly shores of Beachwood Park.

As a kid, I enjoyed listening to Rev. Smith when he was engaged in conversation. He was so knowledgeable, spoke so well, and was a visionary and charismatic member of the clergy. I enjoyed spending time with the Carroll and Owens families, and other summer homeowners on the Magothy River at that time.

In concluding, I would like to thank Gerald Smith, Yvonne Leacock, and Deborah and Alphus Jones for sharing a wonderful a part of African-American history, which allowed for many wonderful nostalgic memories for me.

Reginald Thomas

Race Card Driver

When President Obama was elected in 2008, Larnell Custis Butler (who was and still is a frequent caller to the Tom Marr and Les Kinsolving radio shows) had nothing but positive things to say about the 43 percent of white people who voted for Obama. To find a Democrat presidential nominee who last got that large a percentage of the white vote, one would have to go back to 1976. But now that Obama’s poll numbers are dropping, “racism” is to blame, correct? (“It’s Called Negotiating,” The Mail, May 18) The people who were enlightened in 2008 and no longer racist suddenly reverted back to form?

Obama is at or near the 50 percent approval mark, depending on what polls you read, which is the historical trend for any president at this point in his first term; this is also roughly consistent with the 52 percent of Americans who voted for him. I would ask why you’re referencing a 150-year-old court case that has since been overturned, but since you see everything through the myopia of race, I won’t bother. The bottom line is this: There are people who disagree with the president on policy issues and they aren’t all racist. Debate over policy is the hallmark of a healthy republic. It’s time to stop playing the race card and deal with it.

Brian Patrick
Owings Mills

Taint or Spinner?

In his review of William Donald Schaefer’s legacy (“Saint or Sinner?” Feature, May 11), Edward Ericson Jr. is rightly critical of the limited public benefit from billions invested in Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and downtown tourist district. While sold to the public as spearheading an economic revitalization to compensate for lost manufacturing jobs, in fact most of the service jobs at the Inner Harbor are about as terrible as a job can get: extremely low-wage, seasonal, in degrading and humiliating working environments. A report released this month, “Hidden in Plain Sight: Workers at Baltimore’s Inner Harbor and the Struggle for Fair Development” (Google it!) from the United Workers, a Baltimore human rights organization led by low-wage workers, reveals that many workers at the Inner Harbor are treated with routine disrespect by their employers and are paid rock-bottom wages not sufficient to support a family above the poverty line, without even being able to rely on steady year-round work.

This kind of poverty-zone development benefiting only private developers and not Baltimore’s workers is not what Baltimore residents over the past decades were told they’d be getting for their public investment. It’s past time we refuse to stand for it, and instead demand that jobs in our Inner Harbor be dignified and dependable ones that don’t leave workers requiring public assistance to eat and pay their rent. The United Workers are demanding that the Inner Harbor developers—General Growth Properties and the Cordish Companies, recipients of so much public development largesse—guarantee that Inner Harbor jobs come with a living wage and health and education benefits, and that Inner Harbor employers treat workers with respect and dignity. Ericson notes that Schaefer’s harbor tourist development inspired cities across the country to subsidize development of demeaning low-wage service jobs to replace lost dependable manufacturing jobs; it’s time for Baltimore to set a different example and demonstrate a fair development model instead.

Jonathan Rochkind

If you think your skepticism about the bona fides of Marshall “Eddie” Conway made some aging leftists mad (“Panther Division,” The Mail, May 11), now you’ll reap the whirlwind for displaying William Donald Schaefer in the nude. All I can say is, right on, brother!

Arriving in Baltimore in 1975, I endured Mr. Schaefer in his heyday. Your recap of his career this week is amply documented in the best Baltimore journalism over the years, roughly from 1955 to 2006, when Mr. Schaefer so graciously accepted defeat in his last campaign.

So much was made of Schaefer when he died because he was so prominently part of the furniture of our youth. That much may be forgiven him, and us. But thanks to you and your editors for setting the record straight.

Hal Reidl

The writer is a one-time City Paper contributor.

I am thoroughly familiar with the Schaefer era in Baltimore—before, during, and after. Raised in Baltimore County, I spent a summer working in the composing room of the Baltimore (Morning) Sun. This necessitated working hours in the late evenings until just past midnight, riding a streetcar. The route took one past East Baltimore and the harbor area to downtown. Pratt Street was dirty and not a very hospitable area. There were the many, many rotting wood warehouses adjacent to the water, ugly and disgusting.

Later I went to work for the B&O Railroad downtown, again using public transit. Whether one was around the harbor area, downtown, or other areas nearby, appearances were not anything to brag about until City Hall responded to comments from the public. Reformation did not happen overnight. But, it accelerated during the Schaefer era.

In 1952, upon marriage, I moved to the city. After passing the bar, I became active in the Belair-Edison Improvement Association, eventually serving as president for 10 terms. Service on the board continued for years following. During part of this extensive time, William Donald Schaefer was the mayor of the city of Baltimore. It was then when his “Do It Now!” policy became dogma for running the city. It was then when the city really turned around. Between the Inner Harbor and downtown and the communities, the entire city really moved forward.

Following the civil rights disturbances of the ’60s, he brought a new positive feeling among residents. He was a leader in every sense of the word.

No, he could not do it alone and had to seek help from others in business and the community to carry out his dream for “Charm City” and succeeded. While City Paper mentions people who helped in this endeavor, no one can prove he lined his pocket in the process. Plain ordinary citizens, encouraged by his leadership, volunteered to serve in many capacities. Community associations were formed or existing ones enlarged membership. The positive feeling was contagious.

Schaefer was a man of huge integrity, even though City Paper’s writer mentioned his temper and occasional questionable language. When I resigned as president of the community association, he asked me to serve on the city Planning Commission. While honored at the request, I told him service would not be possible because of possible conflicts of interest that might come before the commission. His response was that my experience and ethics would tell me when it was not possible or required to support a proposal before the commission, nor would he personally request my vote. He never did.

What the city needs now is another Schaefer.

Edward Ericson Jr. writes that he is not a native Baltimorean. Much of his writing is based on reports of what it was like during the Schaefer era and some of the reports he reviewed of the times coupled with the fact that there were and are people still around who never liked Schaefer even if he was a saint or wore a clerical collar. These sources had their prejudices too.

Richard L. Lelonek

I should have known better than to read a word published here.

William Donald Schaefer, with all his faults, did more for this town in any month than Snitty Paper has done in its entire existence. The saddest part is that he had to live through watching your favorite boy-mayors turn this town back into a cesspool. Congratulations. It’s gone back to being the dump you’ve always claimed it is, in the snotty, elitist, “it’s so cool to hate it here” tone of out-of-towners that your rag has always had.

I moved out of Baltimore 15 years ago and almost cried when I came back to see what it had become.

Schaefer cared, and put his caring into action. What have you done to make this town a better place? You put out an events calendar.

Domenica P. Jones

Kudos to Edward Ericson Jr. for his superb analysis of the legacy of William Donald Schaefer, “Saint or Sinner?” Ericson obviously and correctly favors the latter alternative in his characterization of that legacy as being a depopulated, mostly dilapidated city (with at least 46,000 vacant buildings) consisting of a nearly insolvent central theme park surrounded by squalor, crime, poverty, unemployment, ignorance, one- or no-parent “families,” drugs, HIV/AIDS, and assorted other pathologies (something like Maryland’s version of Atlantic City or Detroit).

Schaefer accomplished this by generally ignoring many of the core functions of local government—education, health, basic infrastructure, social services, etc.—while instead misappropriating federal and state funds designated for these and other mundane purposes for investment in Baltimore’s Downtown Disney World, featuring its own Fantasy Land, that being the venue for the bizarre notion that such an approach is a rational way of developing a viable city of solid citizens residing in vibrant communities.

In the process, Schaefer used those funds to reward his political supporters at the expense of those who had less grandiose agendas, which usually were focused on their own deteriorating neighborhoods or the increasing difficulty for ordinary people of living in Baltimore. In short order, he created a monolithic political organization responsive only to him that virtually displaced the community organizations, Democratic clubs and other elected officials who previously had wielded substantial influence in city affairs.

That transformation of the city’s political processes is also part of his legacy. It has served as a model of governance ever since for other autocrats in Baltimore, Annapolis, and even Washington, D.C.

Ericson also appears to recognize that the “sophisticated college-educated incompetence and deceit of the” reformists who for a time stood in opposition to Schaefer doomed their efforts from the outset.

Most of them he quickly bought off with jobs, grants, and contracts so that they became some of his biggest boosters. Despite the diversion of many millions of dollars, many more millions were spent for their intended social- and economic-engineering purposes with few apparent positive results. It is most unlikely that spending all the funds on these questionable programs would have made any difference.

Granted that, Schaefer was very decent, honorable, well meaning, and personally likeable. He should be eulogized for that. But ignoring and whitewashing, as the media generally have done in the aftermath of his death, his substantial shortcomings with respect to his governance of Baltimore is in no one’s best interest.

We are indebted to Mr. Ericson for setting the record straight.

Barry C. Steel

Correction: A photograph of the Howard Peters Rawlings Conservatory was misidentified as being a photograph of Cylburn Arboretum in last week’s Sizzlin’ Summer guide (May 18).

Editor’s note: The 10 finalists for the third annual Shoot. Score. Baltimore short-film contest have been announced, and they are (in random order): ”Holy Smokes” by Chris LaMartina; “Human Shield” by Mark Colegrove; “Fuck This” by Mark Colegrove; “Snack Attack” by Emily Silverman and Alessa Colaianni; “Baltimore Love Project” by Michael Ivan Schwartz; “Bag Man” by Paul Slupski and Brian Agamie; “Poof” by Brinson Renda; “A Spiritual Look at the Life of Marlon Harris” by Nick Clasing; “The Charm City Cake Massacre” by Bob Rose; and “Star Beast” by Bob Rose. You can check out these films (and vote for your favorite to win $250) at the Shoot. Score. Baltimore screening bash Wednesday, June 1, at the Creative Alliance at the Patterson; see page 44 for details. Congratulations to the finalists.

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