Your August 28 editorial, "A summer job in every pot," was as predictable as it was disappointing. The Baltimore Sun believes the goals of the BUILD agenda are "laudable" just unrealistic in the current economy. In a rather condescending tone, the editorial chides both the candidates and the people who elect them for the audacity of believing that these laudable goals are achievable in the current economic situation. It's what we've come to expect in Baltimore — resignation and cynicism cast as realism.
What was missed in the editorial was the energy expressed in BUILD's August 25 mayoral accountability session for a new strategy, and a fresh approach to our goal to Raise Our Youth, Raise Our City. The evening struck a balance between the hard realities of current budgets and the real possibilities available to us when we are open to doing business differently.
For example, BUILD leaders demonstrated how current funding sources could be repackaged to produce almost $1 billion in school construction funds, meeting more than one third of the current $2.8 billion need. The ACLU has shown how jurisdictions with vision in South Carolina and Georgia have found creative ways to overhaul their school facility needs, simultaneously creating desperately needed jobs. And BUILD made it clear that while we support downtown investment, we call for a fresh look at the way subsidies are so heavily concentrated in an area that is now thriving on its own. Tens of millions of dollars have been excused from the city coffers, and we do not think it irresponsible for the citizens who excused those dollars to call for an accounting.
Alas, the Sun editorial falls prey to the very thing it critiques us for — living in generalities rather than digging into specifics. Decrying "cutting funds to the Inner Harbor" rather than investigating why tax breaks do not include "clawbacks" when the realities of jobs produced do not live up to what was promised. Warning that "the day tourists no longer visit the harbor is the day the city government will be forced to make even steeper cuts" rather than digging into the specifics of lost revenues that could be put toward summer jobs and after school programs and neighborhoods through a community investment fund that would bring some equity to our public investments. These are concrete steps that we have offered, that have worked in other cities, and that we believe would result in a better city for all.
Reading the Sun's editorial, we are reminded of what sets BUILD apart. The Sun believes that our "ordinary folk" just don't get it. That we choose pie in the sky because we're not erudite enough to see what is plain for those making deals on our behalf. We, on the other hand, believe that our members can and should understand the deals the few make in the name of many. We believe that when more of the citizenry are educated and engaged, better decisions are made for all. We believe that a different strategy is possible, achievable, and available for those who believe, as we do, that it's time to Raise Our Youth, Raise Our City.
While disappointed in your editorial, we are heartened to remember that most of our initiatives have been named laudable but impractical by the Sun editorial staff. From rebuilding Sandtown through Nehemiah Housing, to the first living wage ordinance in the country, to the creation of the Child First after school program, The Sun has made its self-assured pronouncements. Yet all these initiatives have occurred, with positive results for many citizens in Baltimore. BUILD has a 33-year track record of holding politicians accountable to promises made during election season. We believe a promise made should be a promise kept, and we will work with whoever is elected mayor to keep the promises made to Baltimore and her youth last week. We invite the Sun editorial staff to meet with us so that we can walk them through the specifics they seem to think we do not know or understand.
Bishop Douglas Miles and Rev. Andrew Foster Connors, Baltimore
The writer are clergy co-chairs of BUILD.Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times