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About face: Social justice supporter Johnny O willing to sell out historic Black community to developers
Posted by Buzz Beeler on 26th August 2020
Once again, Johnny O is more concerned about selling out to developers than serving his constituents. (Photo Credit: Facebook)

After our article about the Middle River protests garnered more than 17,000 views, we felt the need to continue stirring the proverbial pot when it comes to pointing out social justice hypocrisy in our community.

This article will focus once again on County Executive Johnny Olszewski and his continued ignorance when it comes to serving his constituents.

While Johnny O boasts about improving government transparency and pledges support for radical social justice movements like BLM, his actions show that he remains nothing more than a patsy for the developers who want to fill Baltimore County with projects that citizens don’t want.

The latest issue involves the proposed Red Maple Place, a 56-unit affordable housing project that would go on a 2.5-acre plot of land in East Towson.

For those unaware, East Towson is a historically black community that was founded by freed slaves.

Why would our county executive, as stated in a Facebook post, “trade the stability of an African American community in order to keep a campaign promise?” (Photo Credit: Baltimore Sun)

We received an email that contained a recent Facebook post that expresses deep resentment against the Red Maple Place development:

Unfortunately, there will not be an Historic East Towson in the future if the ill conceived and unwanted Red Maples Project is allowed to move forward. The current County Executive is a staunch and vocal supporter of Red Maples and seems to be willing to trade the stability of an African American community in order to keep a campaign promise.

According to the opposition, the Red Maple Place development will increase school overcrowding, force children to be redistricted out of their current school, and accelerate flooding along the Herring Run Watershed.

Finally, Red Maple Place opponents claim the project violates the spirit of the HOME Act by “continuing to concentrate specialized housing in minority or economically marginalized communities.”

One member of our county government is attempting to stem the tide. Republican County Councilman David Marks introduced legislation and a zoning change in February that he said would “at least address many of the concerns” that residents of historic East Towson have with the proposed affordable housing development.

But will Councilman Marks’s efforts have an effect, or will the rest of the council simply continue their pattern of rubber stamping Johnny O’s edicts?

After all, County Executive Olszewski has expressed support several times for the Red Maple Place project. According to an article in the Capital Gazette, Johnny O was quoted as saying his office is “committed to ensuring that Red Maple Place will be an asset to the community and the residents of our county as a high-quality, affordable housing option.”

One particularly poignant statement from the Facebook post shows that the other council members, just like Johnny O, will most likely follow the money:

The local Towson establishment has allowed developers to carve up Historic East Towson for decades. The surrounding affluent communities, usually always ready to voice an opinion about social justice issues, have been deafeningly silent on this issue.

It is not surprising that the affluent members of Towson have had little to say on the subject. We’re sure their only comment, made in private, would be, “Not in my backyard.”

Our editor reached out to Johnny O via email to ask the county executive, who now seems more “woke” amid all the BLM protests and social justice movements, if he still supports the development that will “deprive a historically black neighborhood of open and green space.”

As our long-time readers would expect, the only response our editor received was a standard auto-reply … along with the sound of crickets.

In our piece on the Middle River protests, we challenged Johnny O to do his job and protect the citizens of Baltimore County.

We repeat that challenge here.

Mr. County Executive, forget the developers who’ve lined your pockets with campaign contributions. Forget the affluent Towson communities who publicly support affordable housing right up until the point that it threatens to bring down their property values. And forget trying to keep a campaign promise at the expense of a historic neighborhood’s residents.

Rather, show your constituents that you care about more about preserving the green space within a historic Black community than cramming another development down our throats.

Time will tell whether our county executive chooses the path that makes sense … or the path that makes him dollars.

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