Cumberland Times-News

Letters

April 3, 2013

Planter issue highlights city’s identity crisis

The proposal aimed at preventing specific groups from loitering downtown through the placement of physical barriers is not only underhanded, but it highlights a real need for collective discussion regarding the preconceptions of some prominent community members towards those compromising Cumberland’s lower socioeconomic classes.

Furthermore, it reflects the larger identity crisis that Cumberland faces as a whole, a crisis stemming from the slow death of manufacturing jobs and fueled by an unwillingness to think beyond the unjust yet popular model of redevelopment as gentrification at the expense of the poor.

We must ask what the underlying sentiments are that have led some to want to passively control the visibility of those considered to be less attractive citizens? (I mention passive control because certainly the idea of city authorities actively explaining to citizens deemed unattractive that their undesirability has cost them the right to enjoy a public space would be viewed by all as both absurd and illegal.)

To answer this question a good starting point is a review of the March 15 Times-News article outlining the Downtown Development Commission’s attempt to gain approval from the Historical Preservation Commission for the construction of fencing designed to deter the use of planters as seats (“Downtown irons out planter debate,” Page 1A).

In that article downtown manager Ed Mullaney argues that storeowners are experiencing financial losses resulting from the “perception” that Cumberland is as a place where one has to endure unpleasant interactions in order to spend money. In that same argument he claims that a poll of business owners would prove his point.

But, determining causation requires a much more rigorous methodology than simply asking storeowners to express their opinion regarding a community subset and then taking that opinion as fact.

Perhaps business is slow because some of the goods and services provided downtown are not vital locally or are simply unwanted even by visitors. Perhaps Cumberland’s destiny as a bustling tourist attraction is faltering due to a whole host of factors both known and unknown.

By witnessing community leaders cave to this desire to posit blame wantonly despite not knowing the causes concretely one can begin to see the ways in which prejudice sneaks into policy.

Prejudicial tendencies toward the poor are not without some justification. Poverty, or more aptly, the perception of poverty, often creates discomfort amongst people from better economic circumstances.

This discomfort is rooted in empathy, but it is also rooted in misunderstanding, in guilt, and in fear. As a result, a pointed disdain easily develops and the self-confrontation and awareness necessary to combat contempt remain dormant.

The challenge is to instead face learned prejudice and to rail against it through finding commonality, through meaningful engagement, through conversation, and through compassion.

Without question some business and government leaders are doing just that, providing youth with opportunities to learn bicycle maintenance, developing policy that allows food stamps to be used at farmers markets.

Programs like these are exactly what downtown leaders need to embrace, ideas that ensure economic growth does not inherently marginalize one class of people for the sake of another.

The HPC’s comments (and some members of the DDC’s willingness to respect those comments) citing diversity among downtown patrons as a sign of success further exemplifies existing awareness to the fact that catering to prejudice is a lousy excuse for community building.

This is encouraging and it should be commended. It gives strength to the idea that Cumberland is uniquely positioned to define itself in a wide variety of ways, some of which will hopefully give voice and empowerment to those who would otherwise be pushed aside.

Seth Moessinger

Cumberland

  

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Letters
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    April 1 marked the beginning of April Envi- ronmental Education Month in Maryland — and with Earth Day coming up on April 22, Maryland has much to celebrate.

    April 20, 2014

  • Support Canal classrooms with tax-deductible gift

    While your April 17 article (“Park Service opens Canal classrooms,” Page 1A) described this exciting program accurately, your readers may be wondering how they can help support this new educational opportunity for school children in Allegany County.

    April 18, 2014

  • Ivan Hall story brings back memories of a unique man

    I enjoyed Mike Sawyers’ Ivan Hall story. It was well written and brought back some wonderful memories of my Cumberland days and especially, an unique man.

    April 18, 2014

  • It’s a secret It’s a secret

    Could someone enlighten us about why not even the names of the two entities bidding on development of the Footer Dye Works building can be divulged?
    A Times-News article about the bids included an explanation from a lawyer for the attorney general’s office about the need to keep the names and other information secret at this time. Despite that, the logic of not divulging at least a little more information escapes us.

    April 17, 2014 1 Photo

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    Now that Maryland has become the 17th state to (finally) decriminalize possession of marijuana, one could say that the legislature and governor should be patted on the back for doing the right thing.

    April 17, 2014

  • Which approach to the school makes sense?

    What exactly is the long-range plan, according to the Allegany County Commissioners?
    I’ve read in the Cumberland Times-News that the current County Commissioners intend to spend $9 million to construct a new high school.

    April 16, 2014

  • H.O.G. Rally coming to Cumberland in June

    Let me introduce myself. My name is Francine Kraft and I am the Maryland/Delaware State H.O.G. Rally Coordinator for 2014.
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    April 16, 2014

  • Access to trout ponds hard for those who have trouble walking

    I took my 5-year-old grandson Easton, who lives in Cumberland, to the Evitts Creek three ponds on March 31, the day it was stocked with trout.He had the joy and excitement of catching his first trout and two more. I have a Maryland fishing license and trout stamp.

    April 16, 2014

  • Wait long enough; they will die off without being cared for

    The letter to the editor of April 14 (“Military veterans have few friends in Washington, D.C.”),  I am afraid, hit the nail on the head — sort of — about this next set of returning veterans.

    April 16, 2014

  • Translations differ, but the message is eternal

    This letter is in response to a recent letter titled “One cannot compromise on God’s word” (April 13 Times-News). I had previously written a letter titled “Why are compromises so difficult to achieve” (April 7).

    April 15, 2014

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