Monthly Archives: November 2013

Happy 90th, Helen Bentley!

By Barry Rascovar

November 27 — HELEN DELICH BENTLEY turns 90 tomorrow. Not only is her longevity remarkable, her accomplishments are truly exceptional.

First female maritime newspaper editor. First female chair of the Federal Maritime Commission. First woman to lead any federal regulatory agency. Five-term member of Congress.

Producer, writer and narrator of a ground-breaking, award-winning television program on maritime activity in Baltimore.

The nation’s preeminent advocate for the maritime industry and, especially, for the Port of Baltimore that now bears her name.

Helen Delich Bentley

Helen Delich Bentley

What a lifetime of achievements.

None of it came easy. Her Serbian parents emigrated to a small town in Nevada that no longer exists. They barely could make ends meet.

She had to battle to succeed. It became a template for the rest of his life.

One Tenacious Woman

Her never-give-up attitude, and her unyielding determination, sets her apart.

So does her feisty, pugnacious and grouchy attitude. She still swears like a sailor and rarely hands out a compliment without a few snarls thrown in.

Before “women’s lib” arrived, Helen Bentley was knocking down barriers.

She remains a legend on the docks and wharfs of Baltimore — a man’s world which she dared enter, ask pointed questions and cover extensively as a journalist.

She didn’t just liberate the waterfront for women, Helen Delich Bentley became the nation’s most important and most influential maritime journalist.

Then she went to Washington as a female regulator in another man’s world. She shook up the FMC. Everyone knew who was in charge for those six years.

Rep. Helen Bentley

Helen Bentley at Ship Christening

Next, Bentley had the tenacity and intestinal fortitude to take on a deeply entrenched congressional incumbent from eastern Baltimore County, Clarence D. Long, because of his unyielding opposition to port expansion.

She lost the first time. She lost the second time. Yet she refused to admit defeat.

On the third try, Helen Bentley did the impossible: She knocked off “Doc” Long, a 22-year congressional veteran and power in the House.

Never Give Up

Few politicians have the gumption to spend six years, and two losing tries, in search of an election day upset. Not Helen Bentley.

Her politics are Republican and deeply conservative. Yet her friends include left-wing Democrats.

Bentley’s ideology never stood in the way of her pragmatic goals and objectives. Results are what counts for her.

Fasionable Helen Bentley

Fashionista Bentley

It was striking at her 90th birthday party at the Baltimore Museum of Industry that praise came from leaders of maritime unions and maritime business leaders, from Democratic and Republican congressmen.

Helen Delich Bentley has been a trailblazer all her life. To use a Latin phrase, she is sui generis“of its own kind/genus” or “unique in its characteristics.” 

So as we celebrate a later-than-normal Thanksgiving Day, let’s also toast the Grande Dame of the U.S. maritime industry — journalist, regulator, congresswoman, advocate and defender par excellence of the Port of Baltimore.

Helen Delich Bentley is indeed one of a kind.

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Baltimore County’s Housing Exclusion Continues

By Barry Rascovar

Nov. 25, 2013 — No one with a sense of history should be surprised by Baltimore County Council’s unanimous rejection of a $13.7 million housing development for low-income families in Rosedale on the county’s eastside.

The county has a long record of strongly opposing housing assistance for families with low or moderate incomes.

Indeed, any politician who ignores the hyper-sensitivity of county voters to keeping the jurisdiction safe for “folks like us” risks defeat.

Map of Baltimore County

Map of Baltimore County

Even the County Council’s lone African American, Ken Oliver, ran for cover last week. He abstained. Oliver voiced heated objections at the council’s private work session but not at the public meeting.

This shameful exclusionary trend — woefully out of step with demographics — isn’t new.

A History Lesson

Nearly 50 years ago, Baltimore County politicians railed against open housing.

When Baltimore Mayor Theodore R. McKeldin invited Baltimore County Executive Spiro T. Agnew in 1964 to work out a metropolitan wide approach to open occupancy laws — hardly a revolutionary request — Agnew rejected the offer for fear of negative voter response.

County Executive Spiro Agnew

Spiro T. Agnew

Open housing laws, Agnew said, “invade the rights of property guaranteed by our federal constitution.”

Fear of change, and especially fear that poor blacks would destabilize neighborhoods, struck an ugly chord with county residents, especially on the conservative, lower-middle class eastside.

As a “progressive” county executive, Agnew did propose a $27 million urban renewal bond issue for deteriorating parts of Towson and Catonsville.

Foes, though, saw it as a plot to bring public housing, and poor city blacks, to the county.

On election day, voters rejected the bond issue by a 3-2 margin.

‘Malicious, Socialistic’

A month later, the County Council rebuffed Agnew’s request to launch a study of blight in the county.

In early 1965, he proposed a local slum clearance program. Within weeks, the County Council killed it.

The atmosphere among opponents was super-charged. They called Agnew’s plans a “malicious, socialistic cancer.”

County resistance to integrated housing accounted for perennial candidate George P. Mahoney’s surprise victory in the 1966 Democratic race for governor. Mahoney ran on the openly racist slogan, “Your home is your castle — protect it.”

Conservative Mahoney beat liberal Congressman Carlton Sickles by a mere 1,939 votes. He won the election in Baltimore County, where he ran up a huge 19,495-vote lead over Sickles (42 percent to 21 percent).

That paved the way for the more “liberal” Agnew’s election as governor.

The Anderson Years

His successor in Towson, Dale Anderson, had a well deserved reputation for opposing integration and affordable housing. He and his cohorts fed voter fears.

Dale Anderson

Dale Anderson

Here’s an example: At a 1970 meeting in Rosedale, with a smiling Anderson in attendance, Councilman Wallace Williams said, “Dale Anderson and the rest of the team will continue to fight hard to stop any major government-subsidized programs with strings attached from coming to Baltimore County.”

Then Williams added in his southern drawl, “And you know what I mean. You know what I mean.”

Indeed the cheering crowd did.

In November 1970, Baltimore County voters rejected by better than 2-1 a state referendum setting up a Community Development Administration. Anything that hinted at public housing met staunch resistance.

Venetoulis’ Reform Efforts

Reform county executive Ted Venetoulis tried in 1975 to improve the housing situation with $40 million in federal funds. But the County Council and the county’s delegation in Annapolis vetoed that effort.

Next, Venetoulis put forth an urban renewal grant proposal. It met the same fate.

Baltimore County didn’t even have a housing agency until 1987. Three years later, a $2.5 million county bond issue for housing programs lost again on election day, the only bond question (out of 10) to go down to defeat in 1990.

Want more? In 1994, hysteria erupted on the eastside over fears thousands of public housing residents would flood Dundalk, Essex and Middle River under an experimental federal housing program called Moving to Opportunity.

Foes claimed 18,000 poor blacks were coming when, in fact, no more than 40 per year would have been scattered throughout the county under the voucher program.

Fierce voter opposition convinced politicians such as County Executive Roger Hayden and Congresswoman Helen D. Bentley to run for the hills.

That included liberal Sen. Barbara Mikulski, who killed the federal MTO funds earmarked for Baltimore. It was not her finest moment.

Housing Exclusion Persists

The new century didn’t change attitudes in Baltimore County.

In 2000, 70 percent of county voters voiced strong outrage over County Executive Dutch Ruppersberger’s carefully worked-out renewal plans for Dundalk, Essex, Middle River and Randallstown.

Clearly, housing issues remain Baltimore County’s bugaboo.

So it is not surprising Councilwoman Cathy Bevins hid behind “councilmanic courtesy” to bury the latest affordable housing plan from a nonprofit group. Nor is it shocking the other council members, including Oliver, let her get away with it.

No one had the courage to say, “This is wrong. We’ve got to address our county’s lack of housing for low and lower-middle income people.”

County Executive Kevin Kamenetz tried to play diplomat, noting his “regret” at “the tenor” of the council’s action. It “sent the wrong message,” he said.

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz

Baltimore County Executive Kevin Kamenetz

His efforts to bring sensible and needed affordable housing to the county won’t be easy.

A New Baltimore County

Back in Ted Agnew’s days as county executive, African Americans made up roughly 3 percent of  the subdivision’s population.

Today, blacks constitute 27 percent of county residents and many of them need better housing options.

The times, they are a-changin’,

At some point Baltimore Countians, however grudgingly, will have to recognize this reality.

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Mizeur’s Promises, Dirty Tricks and more

By Barry Rascovar

THE BIDDING RACE is on. Democratic candidates for governor are seeking to one-up each other on new programs and tax cuts.

All of them ignore the fact Maryland’s finances are unsteady and could continue that way. The next governor is likely to face a structural deficit exceeding a half-billion dollars.

Yet none of the Democratic candidates wants to face that reality.

Instead, they pander to voters.

Mizeur’s Promises

Del. Heather Mizeur leads the pack as far as spending on feel-good projects with money the state doesn’t have .

Del. Heather Mizeur

Del. Heather Mizeur

That’s not surprising, since Mizeur is on the far left of the Democratic spectrum.

Take pre-kindergarten. Both Attorney General Doug Gansler and Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown want to expand it to more four-year-olds. They would dip into casino revenue to pay for it.

What they don’t say is that this will come at the cost of other education programs dependent on the same revenue stream — or the next governor will have to renege on a pact with Maryland’s horse owners and breeders to use a portion of casino tax receipts to resurrect the state’s troubled racing industry.

Mizeur, meanwhile, goes a step further. She wants pre-kindergarten for three-year-olds, at a cost of a whopping $279 million.

She neglects to say how she will pay for this while overcoming a half-billion-dollar structural deficit.

She also wants to boost teacher pensions and salaries through a “Thornton 2.0” commission. The first commission boosted education spending by billions without worrying about how to pay for it.

That seems to be Mizeur’s recipe, too.

She does want to soak the rich — a millionaire’s tax and combined reporting for multi-state corporations. Neither is a giant money-raiser, and combined reporting turns into a money-loser during recessionary times.

Tax Breaks For Nearly Everyone

What really sets her apart, and represents her most preposterous proposal, is her plan to give 90 percent of Marylanders (originally billed as 99 percent) a tax break.

This idea places her firmly in the Heather-in-Wonderland camp.

She will cut the income tax for 9 out of every 10 Marylanders by $112 million.

How will she pay for it? Through the new millionaire’s tax.

It sounds great except for one thing — her millionaire’s tax nets Maryland only $10 million. She’s woefully short of paying for her election-year giveaway.

She also proposes a tax break for small businesses, a vast expansion of the state’s existing $250 million a year school construction program — without listing a funding source — more money spent on job training and massive new transportation projects.

The funds will come from heaven, apparently, like snow flakes.

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MIZEUR ALSO made headlines by choosing a running mate with absolutely no government or elective experience.

It’s the worst lieutenant governor selection since former Ambassador Bill Shepard picked his wife, Lois, as his ticket partner in 1990. *

Once again, Mizeur identified herself as an issues candidate who isn’t serious about getting elected. The vast majority of voters have never heard of her running mate (quick quiz: can you give me his full name?). **

It’s a sign of desperation or a sign Mizeur is running as the gay-rights, super-liberal who simply wants to send a message.

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MIKE PANTELIDES, a former newspaper ad salesman, is the next mayor of Annapolis. To say he is unprepared for the job is an understatement.

Mike Patelides

Mike Patelides

It might not matter.

His predecessor, and loser by 59 votes in this month’s election, Josh Cohen, has done a fine job turning around a dysfunctional, deep-in-debt city government and putting it on solid financial footing.

All that progress came at a cost. Cohen rubbed too many Annapolis traditionalists the wrong way. Too many tax increases. Too many progressive changes.

Cohen actually wanted to rejuvenate the Annapolis harbor area. He wanted to allow a continuing care community to locate in the capital city.

But progress in Annapolis is usually resisted. Longtime residents fight change and protest the slightest alteration to the status quo.

No Progress on Key Issues

They would rather continue Main Street’s decline as a sad collection of tee-shirt and souvenir shops, the town’s terrible traffic and parking headaches and its lack of a coherent plan for the future.

So they dumped an experienced elected official for a 30-year-old neophyte. He’ll ride on the coattails of Cohen’s successes, avoid controversies and reduce city government’s reach.

Downtown Annapolis will continue its regression and residents will continue to insist that nothing change.

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BOO OF THE MONTH goes to the Maryland State Republican Party for reaching a new low during the Frederick town election this month.

The state GOP paid for a round of robocalls to Frederick voters castigating one Democratic candidate for failing to pay her property taxes.

Wrong, wrong, wrong.

What Happened to Accuracy?

Nobody at the state GOP bothered to do any fact-checking. A phone call from the brother of a Republican candidate running for town council was enough to prompt the robocalls.

A newspaper story in May reported the unpaid property taxes, which was enough to spur the Democratic candidate to pay her overdue bill on July 5.

But since no one at the state GOP worries about truthfulness, the robocalls went out wrongly accusing the Democratic candidate of being unable to pay her taxes. (She still won.)

Let’s not allow facts to stand in the way of a good slur. Dirty politics survives in Maryland, thanks to the state GOP.

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LESS THAN ADMIRABLE tactics are surfacing in the governor’s race, too.

Lt. Gov. Anthony Brown has a video intimidator stalking every move of Attorney General Doug Gansler.

The Brown folks chalk it up to “everybody does it” in today’s politics.

Jeff Moring 'tracking' Doug Gansler

Jeff Moring ‘tracking’ Doug Gansler for Brown campaign

That’s not correct, which is beside the point: It’s inappropriate and smacks of harassment.

It also points to a “win at all costs” philosophy within Brown’s camp.

This is the equivalent of paparazzi stalking actor Alec Baldwin and intrusively sticking cameras in his face until he explodes with a barrage of x-rated language.

You’ve got to wonder if Brown intends to employ similar tactics as governor.

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GANSLER DOESN’T WIN a blue ribbon, either, for his shoddy effort to knock down a Brown proposal exempting most veterans from paying state income taxes.

It’s another tax cut Maryland cannot afford, and that’s how Gansler should have attacked this proposal.

Instead, he issued a statement blaming Brown for long delays in processing disability claims at the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs office in Baltimore .

Gansler intimated that Brown — a state official — has a magic wand for fixing problems at the federal level. And then Gansler said as governor he could fix it!

Now there’s a whopper.

The statement smacked of desperation on Gansler’s part. It certainly didn’t get his stumbling campaign headed in the right direction.

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*Republicans Bill and Lois Shepard got 40 percent of the vote in the 1990 general election against William Donald Schaefer.

**For readers who didn’t cheat by googling the answer, Heather Mizeur’s lieutenant governor running mate is Delman Coates, pastor of a Clinton, Md., mega-church.

Read more columns from Barry Rascovar at www.politicalmaryland.com.

O’Malley’s Folly, Part II

More on the ex-Mayor’s Hotel Fiasco

HOW DEEP IS the hole former Mayor Martin O’Malley dug for Baltimore City by insisting that the city put up its own money to build the now-struggling Hilton Baltimore convention hotel?

Here’s what an acquaintance with years of commercial real estate expertise messaged (in an edited form):

“Without getting too technical, there is an old rule of thumb in hotel finance circles, especially when the facility is of scale (i.e., not just an extended-stay hotel but has meeting spaces, etc.).

Hilton Baltimore

Hilton Baltimore

” ‘Break-even’ operations (enough cash available to pay debt service) equals about 1 percent of room costs with an average daily rate (ADR) of 70 percent occupancy.

“So by that math:  $300 million in bonds, 757 rooms requires $396,000 per room. (Yes, the City is in for almost $400,000 per room just in financing alone.)

“One percent of room cost is $396 per night.

“2012 figures show the Hilton Baltimore booked 161,469 room nights, or 58 percent occupancy.

“There is a long way to go on this one.

“Can we have a sidebar on the hotel’s architecture?”

Nowhere Near ‘Break-even’

Here are more comparisons: Projections called from the Hilton Baltimore to post average daily room rates of $214.70 last year. In reality, it reached an average daily rate of only $170.79.

That’s not even close to the $396 per room rate or the 70 percent occupancy rate needed to break even and keep pace with the hotel’s enormous, overhanging debt burden.

Want to know why cities don’t own convention hotels themselves? It’s self-evident.

Why O’Malley as mayor insisted on such a high-risk venture that saddles Baltimore with a money-losing hotel for years to come is still an open question.

It’s one he may have to answer, though, if his national campaign for higher office develops any momentum.

Architectural White Elephant

As for the request for a sidebar on the Hilton Baltimore’s plain-vanilla, view-blocking (from Camden Yards) architecture, I leave that to others with more credentials.

Suffice it to say the building is antiseptic and lacking in redeeming architectural value.

It adds nothing to the city skyline, even as its finances sink the city deeper and deeper into debt.

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O’Malley’s Folly

By Barry Rascovar

BALTIMORE CITY has a white elephant on its hands, a $301 million, deep-in-debt convention hotel it owns because of the folly of its former mayor, Martin O’Malley.

Back when the city was desperately trying to boost its sagging convention business, then-Mayor O’Malley and his economic development team insisted the answer was a convention hotel directly linked to the meeting facility.

He was right, but his method for getting the Hilton Baltimore built has put his City Hall successors in a frightful financial bind that will only worsen with time.

The Lure of the Buck

O’Malley and his inner circle got sucked into the misguided belief that Baltimore could reap a badly needed bonanza by owning the convention hotel itself.

Martin O'Malley

Martin O’Malley

They fell for the preposterous estimate by one developer group that the city could earn a profit of $300 million over 30 years by owning the hotel, and that Baltimore then could sell the facility for $400 million more.

It was buncombe, as H.L. Mencken might say.

Anyone with a whiff of skepticism could smell the hype and spot the puffery of such an outlandish prediction.

Yet it left the then-mayor salivating for a big payoff for his struggling city.

It was a high-risk gamble that required extensive deal-making with doubting City Council members to gain approval on a 9-6 vote.

And then things fell apart.

What Went Wrong?

The Great Recession wiped out all those rosy forecasts for the convention hotel.

This was predictable.

A convention expert from Texas pointed out that cities too often fall into the trap of believing a headquarters hotel will simultaneously increase convention center business and generate enough revenue to pay off bonds.

It rarely works that way.

Pie-in-the-sky economic projections for convention hotels fail to take one pivotal factor into account, he said – the virtual certainty of a sharp economic downturn once or twice a decade that devastates hotel business.

Red Ink Every Year

Hilton Baltimore lost $17 million in its first, partial year during the Great Recession. It lost in the vicinity of $11 million in each of the last two years as the economy continued to struggle.

Hilton Baltimore

Hilton Baltimore

All told, the hotel’s losses top $50 million.

The city will owe $18.5 million on the Hilton Baltimore’s debt next year and $28 million by 2039. The hotel’s revenue last year, not counting expenses, was only $17.4 million.

And if Baltimore decided to get out of the hotel-ownership business, a consultant says it would lose as much a $90 million in a sale.

Thank you, Martin O’Malley.

Was There Another Choice?

Early in the convention hotel discussion, O’Malley said, “We want to do this with as little exposure as possible for the citizens of Baltimore.”

Indeed, there were other options besides city ownership.

One of the three bidders, the prestigious Portman architectural group from Atlanta, offered three different alternatives, including private financing.

But the lure of a giant windfall for Baltimore city proved too powerful.

O’Malley should have listened to one of the wisest voices on the City Council, the veteran urban advocate, Mary Pat Clarke, whose husband is a developer.

Mary Pat Clarke

Mary Pat Clarke

“Should we really be in the hotel business?” Clarke wanted to know.

“Let [private investors] take the risk.”

Another insightful councilman (now a state delegate), Keiffer Mitchell Jr., noted:

“The city should not be in the business of owning a hotel. We have a hard enough time trying to manage our housing stock and our school system. This is one more headache we don’t need.”

Baltimore’s Dilemma

In a premonition of what was to come, Clarke worried that once the hotel starts losing money, “we would really be cutting into revenues the city expects to use for other uses.”

So now Baltimore is stuck with an antiseptic, view-blocking albatross of a convention hotel that diverts millions in city tax revenue away from schools, housing and neighborhood services.

But the person primarily responsible for this debacle is nowhere in sight.

He lives in Annapolis, across from the State House, and spends his days campaigning for national office.

Baltimore’s on-going convention hotel mess is no longer on his agenda.

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The New Segregation in Maryland Colleges

By Barry Rascovar

November 5, 2013 — U.S. DISTRICT JUDGE Catherine C. Blake missed the mark by a country mile in her decision on eliminating vestiges of racial separation in Maryland’s state colleges and universities.

Indeed, her remedy perpetuates Maryland’s “shameful history of de jure segregation throughout much of the past century.”

Blake wants Maryland’s predominantly white colleges to give up popular programs so historically black institutions  (HBIs)can develop monopolies in those areas.

U.S. District Judge Catherine Blake

Judge Catherine C. Blake

This, she reasons, will send white students flocking to HBI campuses.

That idealistic but flawed logic – students have numerous options today that make mass transfers to HBIs highly unlikely – is now guiding discussions between the two parties in Blake’s courtroom.

Central Issue Unaddressed

But the root of the problem remains firmly intact. Indeed, it wasn’t even touched upon in Blake’s 60-page ruling.

The most effective and rational way to eliminate segregation at Maryland state colleges? Dramatically transform the schools that remain overwhelmingly segregated.

Morgan State, Coppin State, Bowie State and the University of Maryland Eastern Shore were established to give African Americans separate college opportunities.

That is still the case – only the education offered at HBIs is too often inferior:

  • Which Maryland state colleges have, by a wide margin, the lowest SAT scores for entering freshmen? The HBIs.
  • Which schools have the highest remediation needs, by far? The HBIs.
  • Which schools have the lowest graduation rates, by far? The HBIs.

Maryland has tried to solve this by throwing money at the problem.  Yet even Judge Blake concluded the HBIs get far more state aid per student than other colleges.

This approach hasn’t worked.

Expensive construction projects for HBIs have given those campuses beautiful new buildings and state of the art equipment. Yet they remain segregated.

And they underperform academically, which punishes students.

Perpetuating the Problem

As long as Maryland supports colleges grounded in perpetuating their role as HBIs, they will remain out of the main stream – and unlikely to ever become well-integrated campuses.

That’s the cruel truth African American leaders don’t want to hear.

Morgan State students

Morgan State students in class

Over the decades they have vehemently resisted any suggestion other than pouring more and more money into the HBIs.

They’re proud of their colleges, which have endured incredible hardships.

They especially don’t want HBIs to lose their special status as incubators for African American professionals.

21st Century Solution Needed

But this is the 21st century, not the early or mid-20th century. You can’t live in the past.

Colleges segregated by sex are nearly extinct. Military colleges are dwindling. Diversity, not exclusivity, is the goal of universities.

It’s ironic that attempts to truly integrate Maryland higher education meet the strongest resistance from leaders of the African American community.

White politicians have gone along with their African American colleagues rather than face a firestorm of angry bigotry accusations.

This simply continues the status quo – a de facto, segregated higher education system.

By the Numbers

Students, meanwhile, are voting with their feet. Every year historically white state colleges draw a more diverse group of students:

  • University College, the online option at the University of Maryland, enrolls more students of color (19,299) than whites (16,713).
  • At College Park, white students (19,669) make up only a little over half the student body (37,241).
  • At UMBC, white students (6,548) constitute less than half of overall enrollment (13,637).
  • At the University of Baltimore, black (2,412) and white enrollment (2,888) is close to even.

Now look at the situation at Maryland’s four HBIs:

  • Morgan State has 273 white students out of total of 6,677 (4 percent).
  • Bowie State has 198 white students out of 4,731 (4 percent).
  • UMES has 675 white students among its student body of 4,454 (15 percent).
  • Coppin State counts just 49 white students out of a total of 3,039 (1.6 percent).

It’s not just whites who feel out of place on those campuses. Even fewer Asians or Hispanics sign up there. It’s a dismal situation.

Blake’s remedy might be part of a broader solution, but simply redistributing popular academic programs won’t do enough.

After all, colleges operate in a competitive marketplace. If HBI campuses remain comfortable islands of black students, other students will simply gravitate elsewhere.

It’s already happening. Shifting academic programs isn’t a compelling answer.

Unpopular Options

What might work? Mergers, consolidations and intensive collaborations among Maryland state colleges.

Here are some ideas – all too hot for politicians or educators to handle:

UMES

Salisbury University and UMES already are engaged in successful intra-campus academics that are popular with students from both institutions.

UMES campus

UMES campus

What’s now needed is a long-range plan to gradually merge Salisbury into UMES.

The goal should be strong academic centers of excellence on both the Salisbury and Princess Anne campuses – only 12 miles apart.

Two-campus institutions are eminently workable. A prime example: Stevenson University’s enormous success operating a liberal arts Greenspring Valley campus and a new, fast-growing Owings Mills campus with a quite different academic focus.

The howls of protests would be fierce. Yet the benefits for students attending a twin-campus University of Maryland, Eastern Shore would be immense.

Morgan State

Morgan State Logo

Morgan State Logo

Of all the HBIs, Morgan State University is best positioned to evolve into an academic gem. It needs special status, though, similar to the arrangement the state established for St. Mary’s College.

It would take considerable extra state support and creativity to develop a range of targeted, demanding, urban-focused programs that appeal to a rainbow of students from Mid-Atlantic states and beyond.

Coppin State

Few students arrive on this West Baltimore campus well prepared. Most need an enormous amount of remedial help. The graduation rate is a terrible 20 percent.

Coppin needs to give laser-like attention to undergraduate education.

An affiliation with the Baltimore City Community College seems the best fit. After all, community colleges do a great job preparing poorly educated high school graduates for the rigors of college academics – Coppin’s biggest failing.

Close collaboration with the University of Baltimore is a necessity, too.

UB offers quality undergraduate teaching for its diverse student body and popular post-graduate programs.

Consolidation or merger of the two nearby schools would be the best long-term outcome.

Bowie State

This campus should become the adopted “little sister” of the University of Maryland, College Park. There’s no telling how many niche programs from the flagship institution might fit neatly onto the Bowie campus.

Bowie_State_University_GatewayThe caliber of teaching would be vastly improved with close collaboration, too.

A second step: Bring Prince George’s Community College onto the Bowie campus to mentor and prepare freshmen for college-level courses.

Adjusting to Today’s Realities

None of the four HBIs should continue to exist in their current role.

Through no fault of their own they represent the shameful, segregated past. They were created and perpetuated to keep the races separate.

That separation remains in place today, but for different reasons.

It is time to put this sad history to rest through steps that truly integrate Maryland’s HBIs into this century’s more inclusive American society.

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