Paddle boat owner has earned his dock I find it...

SATURDAY MAILBOX

May 15, 1999

Paddle boat owner has earned his dock

I find it ironic that Ed Kane, who did so much to make the Inner Harbor an international attraction, will lose his paddle boat business to a nonprofit organization that probably would not exist if not for Kane's investment, time and effort in turning Baltimore's Inner Harbor into a viable, tourist-friendly attraction ("Inner Harbor paddle boats sit idle as owner fights city over dock," May 11).

The Inner Harbor has many fathers, mothers and other relatives now that it's a success. Few remember the situation in the early 1970s when even Mayor William Donald Schaefer's most ardent supporters scoffed at his idea that it could be a tourist attraction.

The Inner Harbor in those days was water and grass. Huge demolition projects had created an open space no one wanted to visit. Fear and total disinterest were all the harbor could generate.

City officials tried and tried to attract private investment. But none were so foolish or courageous, depending on your point of view.

Except Ed Kane.

He had a vision of sailboats and paddle boats and people flocking to the harbor. And he acted on it.

Even his best friends ques- tioned his judgment. He used his savings, borrowed money and built a sailing school and rental business. Within a few weeks of its opening, people were coming from downtown at lunchtime and renting a sailboat.

The area's economic development efforts benefited greatly. Mr. Kane's sailboats on the harbor attracted national and international press attention.

The harbor became a viable site for sailing events, including the 1976 Tall Ships' visit which secured the harbor's reputation as an attractive place to be.

A public-private partnership developed taking advantage of the harbors attractiveness and the rest is history.

As the harbor grew, Mr. Kane threw himself into promoting visits to the harbor from tour bus operators, conventions and area visitors. He invested in a water taxi to link harbor attractions and endured the economic loss until they became viable.

When the downtown trolley lost hundreds of thousands of city dollars, Mr. Kane took it over and successfully linked the Walters Art Gallery, the B&O Railroad Museum and other attractions to the harbor and its visitors.

In justifying their takeover of a private business, a representative of Living Classrooms Foundation stressed its determination to improve tourism. They have a long way to go to match the leadership Ed Kane has demonstrated.

No one has been more creative or helpful than he in attracting out-of-town visitors.

Baltimore has an odd way of rewarding dedication, loyalty, private investment.

Christopher C. Hartman, Cockeysville

The writer served as press secretary in Mayor Schaefer's administration.

An agency to restore the city

It seems every time I open the editorial page, I find a reference to Baltimore losing 1,000 people a month, saying that someone has to do something to stop the hemorrhaging.

In March, it was under the heading "Rebuilding Baltimore beyond the Inner Harbor" (March 21); in April, it was "A wish list of options for the city's next mayor" (April 24).

Let us make some suggestions.

Marcus Pollock and I have written a book, "The Urban Transition Zone: A Place Worth a Fight," that sets out a plan for increased public investment in neighborhoods undergoing demographic transition.

It is from such neighborhoods that the city is losing population. Reclaiming those neighborhoods is most productive, least expensive and, in the long run, most helpful to the poor and disadvantaged. Homeownership is not the silver bullet that many claim it to be. Baltimore's housing stock seems supremely suitable for quality rental by young people who work in the city. Why not create quality rental communities from our small rowhouses?

Trying to reduce violent crime by targeting high-violence areas and the drug trade there accelerates population loss from transitional neighborhoods as it drives drug-related crime into those areas.

Large-scale demolition in blighted neighborhoods, without a corresponding effort to prevent vacant houses in weakening neighborhoods only guarantees that many more vacant houses will turn up in the weakening neighborhoods, as they turn from weakening to needy.

One of the most astounding aspects of current revitalization strategies is that no solid analysis supports any of the funding decisions.

So much money is spent with so little analysis. It's like building a rocket to send someone to the moon, believing the moon to be 100 miles from Earth because that's how far it looks to someone's naked eye.

What should we do? We recommend establishing an Office for Rebuilding Baltimore's Neighborhoods. Its mission would be to save as many of the hemorrhaging neighborhoods as funding will allow.

The office should have the ability to fund revitalization efforts in these neighborhoods on a competitive basis.

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