Charm City Blues – Time for A Civic Xanax

Baltimore, Maryland  DSC029075-6
Source: Tim Shahan (Flickr)

As a native Baltimorean, I feel completely qualified to say this:  Baltimore, you have self-esteem issues.  Its time let go of those issues.  You need some civic therapy and then a dose of town pride on a daily basis.  Let me explain.

During my time in high school and college, I have listen to (many times unwittingly) other native sons and daughters trash Baltimore.  A few examples of this civic/self-loathing included statements such as:

“There are so many haters here!  I need to move to {fill in the blank supposedly less hater filled city}”

“Its boring here”

“This {fill-in-the-blank} university (in Baltimore) is wack.”  My thought:  For some reason  the people who would say this would stick around for all 4 or 5 years at the ‘wack’ uni and get a degree which is surely benefiting them today.

My theory for this overall down-spirited attitude towards one’s hometown is manifestation of low civic-esteem.  Baltimore, a medium-sized historically maritime town, sits in between a lot of ‘bigness’ if you will.  40 miles to our south is the Capital City  of the U.S.A. and arguably the world (though the D.C. is 30 square miles, give or take, smaller than Baltimore that federal seat business is a lot to compete with). 90 miles north is Philadelphia, which from this Baltimore girl’s perspective is a huge Baltimore it reminds me of home so  much, the good and the bad.  200 miles to the north is New York City and well..its New York baby!

So in the middle of all this ‘bigness’ is Charm City.  While strategically located and historically important, not a capital city, not the financial epicenter of the country, contained by 90 square miles. Take that, mix in a bunch of ‘urban issues’ of crime, the problems with the education system, lack of employment opportunities – depending on what strata of society you are in, and what many consider a lacking substantial entertainment scene, especially during the night hours, you get a population that feels like the red-headed stepchild of the east coast. Enter the complaints about haters, ‘being boring’, and ‘wack’ colleges.

I have always been an action-oriented person so to hear these complaints about my fair city, grates on my nerves.  Essentially, the people who make these complaints are the people who do not feel the need to improve the situation they complain so much about.  With that said, if you are from B’more and you feel this way, here is a preliminary five-point blueprint to become proud of our city.

Become educated on the history of Baltimore

Get  to the library or just type in ‘Baltimore history’ in your favorite search engine and begin learning about Baltimore’s history.  Pretend like you are in the 3rd Grade again and take the obligatory elementary school trip to Fort McHenry.  Tour our local historic-focused museums.  When you become educated of the rich history of our city, you will become very proud.  Trust. 

Do Something!

Complaining isn’t an action-oriented activity people.  Flapping your lips to your friends isn’t going to get you very far.  As the saying goes ‘Be the change you want to see.’  A few ideas just to get those neurons firing in your brain:  volunteer/become a committee or board member for organizations focused on improving a particular slice of city life – environmental, social, small business, housing, etc.  Become an active member in your neighborhood associations.  Show up to a City Council or Planning Board meeting to stay informed about the issues.

Say Something!

Via the written word.  Write a letter editor for one of the media outlets about the good taking place in your neighborhood. Become a citizen report if you so desire.  If you are an organization, report on your good deeds within your host community.   A recent example is this story about the Morgan State U Football Team shoveling snow for homeowners in the adjacent New Northwood neighborhood.  This story received a ton of press.  We need more of these stories.

Create Something!

Start your own thing.  Whether it be a community group, special interest group, online community/activist activity, etc., this is a way for you to make a mark on improving the City’s quality of life.

Becoming a walking booster club for the City

After you do all this learning, doing, saying and creating….then you can start talking.  Especially to when you go out-of-town.  I work in the DC metro area and I talk about Baltimore quite a bit.  When I visited Connecticut last Christmas, I talked up Charm City like it was nobody’s business.

And for the love of God, stop complaining about haters.  I get so tired about hearing that term.  Its played out, find another term to use.  ‘Haters’ are going to be wherever you go.  Get over it and keep it moving.

There is your Civic Xanax folks.  Take once daily with our municipal water supply that is so clean companies bottle it to sell as ‘spring water’.


Event: State of the Harbor Conference

Inner Harbor
Photo of the Inner Harbor, Baltimore
Source:  Kevin Harber (Flickr)

On Saturday, February 5th, the first annual State of the Harbor Conference held by Baltimore Waterfront Partnership. The Partnership’s initiate Healthy Harbor by 2020 seeks to have a ‘swimmable, fishable Inner Harbor’ in the next nine years. If you are from Baltimore, you are probably already aware that the Inner Harbor is in need of tender loving care. To learn more about this event, go to http://www.healthyharborbaltimore.org/


The Great Meetup Experiment of 2011

I signed up for Meetup.com about a year and a half ago to become more involved in activities around Baltimore and DC. But it never happened. And here are my excuses for it not happening:

1. My extreme commute to and from work. We are talking about 1.5 hours each way. From Monday-Thursday (and sometimes Friday) I was too worn out to attend anything extracurricular on a week night.

2. My sometimes retiring personality. It’s weird because I can hold court when I need to (which is a lot considering the field I work in) but sometimes I don’t want to get ‘into character’.

In 2011, I want to harness the power of Meetup.com – which will enable me to learn more about my city, make connections and perhaps provide value to whomever I come into contact with along the way. With that said, the great Meetup Experiment of 2011 will commence. I want to participate in 3 activities per month to start.  Posts on the outcomes of these activities will make it to Wicked Urbanity.

People of the interwebs have you ever participated in a Meetup event?  If so, what is your take on the event and Meetup.com?


I Wish I Still Lived in Bolton Hill…

But I like having a driveway and not sharing a wall with anyone else.

Last year (for reasons beyond the significance of this blog) I moved from the outer limits of downtown Baltimore. I lived on the edge of Bolton Hill on Park Avenue. And it was great. My apartment, the convenience to everything – downtown, Penn Station, the Light Rail, the Meyerhoff Symphony, the Lyric Opera House, all those wonderful restaurants on Charles Street – good times.

As an urban planner, everyday I work on projects that focus on sustainability, mixed-use developments and the creation of livable neighborhoods, my living arrangements fit what I did, what I preached.

Then I moved. To Northeast Baltimore. To a neighborhood that looks like an older suburb but with more charm. This is the part of town I am originally from so there is some nostalgia on my part. However, unless you live on (or very close to) Harford or Bel Air Road, Moravia Road or Northern Parkway, public transportation is not convenient at all. You have to drive everywhere, ugh. I suppose you could drive to the bus stop or the Metro station but then you have to deal with parking issues (and overzealous meter monitors). And gas is above $3 again which makes matters more challenging.

But I like driving sometimes.  Living in a completely residential neighborhood isn’t all bad.

I think this makes me some sort of urban planning/new urbanism hypocrite.

Ah well, maybe I will move back to a more dense environment at a later time.  Because I really enjoyed it as well.

Rant over, will get back to posting less emo blog posts this week.


A Holiday Break of Sorts…

Until January, I will be on a blogging hiatus. In between finishing up an essay on sustainability, family business, and side business commitments, my blogging venture has suffered a bit. I have roughly 30 something topics in the WordPress blog queue to address and will get to finally finish them in the new year. With that said, have a wonderful holiday season and enjoy the following ‘Christmastime in Baltimore’ photos.

Washington Monument Lighting
Baltimore December 2010
Source: live.dangerously (Flickr)

Season’s Greetings from a Baltimore sidewalk (North Charles Street)
Seasons greetings on the sidewalk
Source: mddailyrecord (Flickr)

This photo appears to be somewhere in Downtown
baltimore building glowing christmas star
Source: photographynatalia (Flickr)

34th Street, Hampden
Decorated to the nines
Source: cr4ig. (Flickr)

Continental City Fife and Drum Corps, Mayor’s Christmas Parade
Continental City Fife And Drum Corps
Source: meg21210 (Flickr)


From the Its Not All “The Wire” File – Dashboard Photos

About a month ago, I went on a twitter rant about the lopsided perception of my home city, Baltimore. One of my twitter followers, who is from a city that shall remain nameless *cough – only 200 miles north of Charm City, financial capital of the U.S. and arguably the world, cough* mentioned it was the television show The Wire that made her wary of visiting Baltimore.

Do not get me wrong, The Wire was a great show. It was also pretty accurate about the underbelly of this town. However, an outcome of the show has created a one-sided, not so great view about the city. I can remember a few years back sitting in Denver International Airport waiting for my flight back home when I overheard a conversation between two women. One from Baltimore, one not. The woman from not from Baltimore, based in part on watching The Wire, admitted she had her doubts about the city at first. But she did get a chance to visit and was pleasantly surprised.  Being within earshot of this chat put me into a mental battle to not insert myself into their conversation but I managed to keep to myself.

Now I do know this woman only hit the tourist spots based on the neighborhoods she named (Inner Harbor, Fells Point, Canton, Federal Hill, you get the idea), but this woman was surprised that even those neighborhoods existed. Why? Because the perception is that Baltimore is all ‘shoot-em-up’ alley, rowhomes in dire neighborhoods, the and the drug game.  Does this exist?  Yes.  Is it the whole story? No.

With that said, I plan to resume with my very amateur photography again by taking and posting photos of my town depicting the opposite of this unsavory image. The photo below shows a corner in the Mount Vernon neighborhood.

As an urban planner,  the lack of street activity on a beautiful Sunday afternoon is a cause for concern. However, it’s a pretty good shot.  As the title of this post implies, I took this photo from inside my car.  Enjoy!

In the near future, I will provide more photos from this day and others.  Just as soon as I master PhotoShop in order to black out images of car tags!

Neighborhood:  Mount Vernon   Location:  Charles Street @ Eager Street – Headed North