Citizens air concerns about crime, discrimination

April 03, 1997


Staff Writer

If Washington County businesses are violating federal law by discriminating in hiring, the U.S. Justice Department needs to become involved, U.S. Rep. Roscoe Bartlett said Wednesday night during a forum at Bethel Gardens Community Center.

"If what you say is happening is happening, that's illegal," said Bartlett, R-Md., after hearing numerous complaints from people who said local businesses refused to hired black people or kept them from progressing to better jobs.

About 25 people attended the forum, organized by Hagerstown minister the Rev. Philip Hundley and Brothers United Who Dare To Care.


Discrimination, drugs and a flawed welfare system were among the top concerns voiced.

Hagerstown resident Amy Pape was one of many people who said they see racism and discrimination as major problems in Washington County.

Pape, 28, a scientist with a Fortune 500 company, said that higher education helped her benefit from affirmative action but that her boyfriend, who lacks a college degree, has faced discrimination when seeking a job locally.

She said that businesses openly told her boyfriend they won't hire blacks.

"I've been there," said several others in the audience.

Sam Everett said open drug dealing in the Jonathan Street area was his biggest concern.

"You have people who don't want to come into respectable businesses," said Everett, 56, who lives north of Hagerstown but said he cares about the community, where he attends church and is exalted ruler of Elks Club No. 278.

Everett and several others said there aren't enough police officers assigned to the Jonathan Street area.

Bartlett said he felt the way to attack the drug problem was to eliminate the market by hitting drug buyers, most of whom come in from more affluent areas, with stiffer penalties.

He said he felt sorry for the young people selling drugs because they grew up seeing it as the only road to success other than sports.

Audience members said they agreed customers were coming in from other areas but said the drug dealers were not local kids.

Dr. Sandra Fowler said she was concerned about the way the welfare system discourages working by taking away health care benefits from people trying to get out of the cycle.

Fowler, 30, said a lot of people coming to see her at the Potomac Street Community Health Center lack adequate coverage because they make just a few dollars more than allowed.

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