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The Tentacle


September 7, 2006

Urban Plight

Norman M. Covert

(NOTE: Forgive my recent A.W.O.L. from our favorite cyber-site. The officer of the day allowed me to sign back in - spelling counts, he said! Yes, the editor/publisher wanted something on the election, but no politician will touch the subject of affordable or unwanted housing. Hereinafter is food for thought.)

I was confounded one beautiful day in February when the desire to be a "tree hugger" washed over me! I love trees, but other than climbing some and falling from a few, I never really fancied a tree hug. I consider myself an old fashioned conservationist, right out of the Boy Scout Handbook.

Nevertheless, "Tree Hugging" popped into my head when I noted that Frederick never had such beautiful trees as those on the east side of North Bentz and West Seventh streets. No doubt you, too, like what you see from the traffic light headed east.

The John Hanson and Roger Brooke Taney apartments once stood as a monument to the failed government housing experiments of the '40s, '50s and '60s. They failed in New York City, Chicago, Cleveland and just about every urban center where large populations of poor and displaced persons massed. Alas, they believed the LBJ Great Society dole would benefit them. The units gave little dignity to their lives.

Makeshift fencing no longer surrounds the Bentz Street properties, where trees are recovering from years of abuse. Hardy grass has created a green carpet and we almost rue the day when construction will begin on the federal government's latest version of low-income housing as overseen by the Housing Authority of the City of Frederick.

Would that we could keep the property this way. We've nevertheless made a promise to the good people who used to live there to rebuild. The project is called "Hope VI," which we can dream will be the fabled "Phoenix" rising from the rubble.

It struck me as curious when Frederick Police Chief Kim Dine reported in February to the mayor and board of aldermen that crime downtown had dropped 30 percent. No wonder! There were some good people living in those apartments surrounded by lazy ne'er-do-wells, drug dealers, prostitutes, petty thieves, and gun-totin' outlaws. The dark hallways were a cesspool of crime and civil disobedience.

Founders of the Junior Fire Company No. 2 on North Market Street never dreamed its primary mission would be to respond quickly to calls a half-block away. Transmissions monitored on the scanner revealed marital war victims, drug overdosers, stabbings, physical assaults, you name it.

I feared for the helpless senior residents trying to live within their limited retirement incomes, hoping they would survive the local thugs, pimps, prostitutes, vagrants and other lowlifes (sorry, "poor souls") just one more day.

Well, the unsavory populace has now moved to new locations and are shooting 'em up in parts of Amber Meadows, Heather Ridge, Taney Avenue, Hillcrest, McCain Drive and Key Parkway, to highlight our new high crime neighborhoods.

Again, the abundance of good, decent, hard-working people is being held hostage by these thugs, who incidentally represent all races. Wow, they can't, don't, and won't work, and won't go away. They are as insidious as rats in the sewer and we don't have a Pied Piper on the ballot.

We have the makings of a wonderful new park in the Historic District. Please, let the land heal, the trees regain their health. Perhaps the hated developers will be allowed to refurbish a chunk of those old and "really old" wooden structures. History could live again downtown and perhaps the scattering of criminals will act as a divide and conquer tactic for law enforcement.

Come to think of it, I'm going out in my backyard now and put my arms around that big old oak tree and praise God that "Tall Paul" Mossburg once was my neighbor. He knew how to deal with crime.



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