February 7, 2014 - From the Blog
A Message from Live Baltimore’s Executive Director, Steven Gondol
It’s tough to see the city you love bashed in the news or railed against in Internet-published articles that get social media buzzing. It’s tougher still when it’s literally your job to defend and promote that city.
Baltimore takes its share of criticism, and even we at Live Baltimore can’t pretend there are no problems. The recent crimes that have occurred in the Southeast are nothing to take lightly. I know because my family—myself, my wife, and our young son—live there.
And yet, I, my staff, and so many of the neighbors we work with every day continue to believe in Baltimore.
My role as Executive Director of Live Baltimore puts me in the unique position to get around the city; to hear stories from not just one, but every neighborhood. So maybe when problems plague one area, it’s easier for me to find comfort in the knowledge that Baltimore is bigger than one week’s events or one neighborhood’s tale.
Everyone has a right to his or her view. And I fully encourage conversations that will better Baltimore. But I have noticed a pattern, in so many of the opinion articles regarding our city, that deeply troubles me. There’s a format I read more and more that goes something like: Step 1: rehash Baltimore’s problems; Step 2: blame our politicians and call them out by name; Step 3: threaten to leave; and then, somewhere at the bottom—after much of your audience has stopped reading—Step 4: throw in a few positive things about the neighborhood you live in and state that you hope it gets better.
As residents of Baltimore City, I propose that we rethink this format and ask ourselves what problems we’re solving by creating a forum for bandwagon complaint. What responsibility do we take for our words—words that might influence a great neighbor to move out or keep a great neighbor from moving in? Before we strike out on the Internet, to what extent are we pondering: What am I trying to achieve? What will the consequences of my statements be? At what point will the civic discourse I create become destructive?
I posit: We don’t need more voices explaining, “this is why people leave.”
The truth is, there’s a reason over 620,000 people choose to live here, even if at times the ‘why’ is lost. I read too many comments on Baltimore-bashing articles from people who don’t live in this city—equally happy to enjoy our bars and restaurants as they are to speak out about why they’d never move here. Meanwhile, we hear too little from folks who maintain perspective on the benefits of city life, balancing them fairly with the challenges that Baltimore, like all cities, faces. There are too few sentiments from folks who recognize that there’s more ‘good’ here.
When new and prospective residents create a profile on LiveBaltimore.com, we ask them, “why Baltimore?” Here’s what we hear every day:
"I was born and raised here in Baltimore City. What better location, than Baltimore City, to continue to reside and raise my children. Baltimore City is home to me."
"The people who live in Baltimore are committed to making this the best city we can be. There is a great sense of community here as well as great activism."
"There is an authenticity here that you don't get elsewhere. This is a city where people that don't fit anywhere else find the place they belong."
"Baltimore, and especially Bolton Hill, allows us to express our love of living in an urban build environment while living in a quiet, almost village like community."
"To me, Baltimore feels like home even though I have only been here for 2 years. I'm able to easily afford living downtown next to the inner harbor where there is plenty to do and lots of friendly people."
Live Baltimore’s mission is to accelerate the growth of Baltimore City’s population. And while we don’t do this through policy, it's times like these—when social media is abuzz with negativity—that it’s important we remind the community that Baltimore’s story is one of many voices. If we as citizens of Baltimore could, with intention, better incorporate these ideas into our conversations, could we see our population grow by even more than the 1,100 residents we gained last year?
I welcome your comments and feedback to my email.
Steven Gondol is Executive Director of Live Baltimore and a graduate of the University of Cincinnati with a degree in Urban Planning. He and his family reside in the Patterson Park Neighborhood.