Sunday, June 26, 2016

Red Line: "The fight is not over yet"

For a small contingent of activists the Red Line isn't really dead yet, they say "its isn't over until the last one gives up".

There were about 30 on Saturday that haven't given up yet, they assembled at the West Baltimore MARC lot which has been for years the venue of announcement regarding transit, from O'Malley announcing the preferred Red Line Alternative here in 2007, to Mayor Rawlings Blake urging the Governor to build the line to Hogan himself announcing his Baltimore Link Bus initiative.

The possibility of revival is pinned to the small window that comes from a Title VI complaint that the Baltimore Transit Equity Coalition filed, alleging that Governor Hogan violated civil rights laws and statutes when he cancelled the Red Line exactly one year ago.

The NAACP filed a similar complaint but was not at hand for the anniversary protest.
Red Line protest at the anniversary of the cancellation
Carrying T- shirts and posters with the logo of the Equity Coalition, the group marched to the Helen Mackall Park in West Baltimore, chanting "What do we want? Red Line! - When do we want it? Now!". It was a beautiful Saturday morning and a few folks sat on their porches wondering what this was about. Nobody was persuaded to join, though. People in West Baltimore know many projects that were promised and never happened. Some where never quite convinced that Red Line would ever happen either.

Chief Organizer Samuel Jordan, one of the four community economic development activists who signed the Baltimore Red Line Title VI complaint, pointed out that transit in Baltimore provided a real access to jobs problem:
"One out of three jobs take more than 90 min to get there by transit. Studies show that 45 min is a breaking point. Our roots begin in the title 6 civil rights law. We need a real transit system.. ..This community will bear the brunt of the cancellation of the Red Line. The impact of the governors action have a racial [undertone]. 
Sam Jordan, organizer
Jordan explained that the complaint is based on three corner stones. He says the Governor:
  • Never offered a substantive reason for the cancellation 
  • He called the reallocation of state funds "theft" and said that "there was never an equity analysis done". 
  • The Governor never consulted with the people he damaged. 
New elected democratic candidate for District 9 (West Baltimore), Dr. John Bullock participated in the march and spoke at the park as well, reminding folks how he had participated in an 18 months planning process about station development around the planned Red Line stations (SAAC):
Access is opportunity. Access to jobs is terribly needed. I spent 18 months on the West Baltimore  SAAC. It was a beautiful process. What is the opportunity in our city? (Dr. John Bullock, Democratic nominee for City Council District 9)
John Bullock, Council nominee (D)
Joshua Harris, Green Party candidate for Mayor said:
The Red Line was an opportunity to interconnect our city and break the divisions. It's not over. It only takes a small group to make a difference. We need to unify our city, the Red Line would have done exactly that. (Joshua Harris, Green Party Candidate for Mayor)
Grant Corley who had once co-founded the Red Line Now project support group reminded everybody:
"If a city has no transportation it can't thrive."
 Community member George Carter used to work at Ice House. He said: "We have new lampposts but nothing is done about the vacant houses...If you see a tree growing from the basement through the roof you see decades of neglect....Where is the market? It's a viscous cycle we need to get out of it.  I have seen the community go down. My mother still lives here. It is hard for her to get around. Transportation issues affect us all. 

Dave McCloy spoke as a member Transit Operator Union and as a MTA bus driver. "When the 900 million from the Red Line were taken you were robbed".  Rev Witherspoon junior who lives on Fulton Avenue cited the case of Thurgood Marshall and his suit that became Brown versus Education. "This issue is bigger than politics", he said, adding "this is a human rights issue. It is a righteous fight. Jesus only had twelve and he was able to revolutionize a corrupt system. 
Local artist: "with the stroke of a pen"

A local community artist lamented "they shut it all away from us with one pen stroke. [Once] Baltimore was a community of communities, now it is only a community of businesses."

Glenn Smith who grew up a block from MARC station and had been displaced by the Highway to Nowhere" said about the Red Line: We did everything we needed. All was aligned. Every time we get somewhere the lines is moving. That has to stop!" Mike McMillen, another MTA bus operator and union member from Cherry Hill said his dream was to operate one of the new Red Line trains:"Hogan took my dream away. I travel through the US. We are behind in transit", he said.

Richard Hall who leads CPHA thanked Sam Jordan for pulling this together and reminded those assembled: "We need to grow. Hogan canceled the Red Line through a press conference. He took the state money to build highways in rural areas. Talk to your friends and neighbors to get the Red Line back!"

Jordan in closing the event reminded all that
"the key of prosperity for all of Baltimore is justice for all of Baltimore." 
He said  "Ignorance is the governor's chief ally. We have to educate.
Nobody says the odds in our favor."
Reverend Witherspoon Jr.

The complaint is under review at the federal Department of Transportation. MDOT has sent documentation about the decision making process at the request of US-DOT. As this is an administrative complaint, no court or judge will be hearing the matter. The outcome could be that US DOT will issue a report in which the State may or may not be be reprimanded or even threatened with losing federal funds.

At this point, the matter is still open, though, and no federal reaction is public. US DOT Secretary Foxx is known to be quite outspoken about the link between transportation and civil rights.

Klaus Philipsen, FAIA

Former area resident Glenn Smith
Founding member of the More Transit Equity Group:
access to education via transit

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