Crazy John and Kenny Bird

West side: In buying out two felons' businesses, city must balance competing redevelopment goals.

June 17, 2000

UNDER THE LAW, the city has to treat "Crazy John" Kafouros and "Kenny Bird" Jackson just like any other merchants whose properties are condemned to make way for the $350 million west-side redevelopment project. That the two are convicted felons cannot play any role in determining their relocation compensation.

The sandwich shop and game arcade belonging to Kafouris, an international fugitive, is easy to deal with. It can be moved almost anywhere.

Jackson's El Dorado strip club is a far more complicated matter.

Many neighborhoods have campaigned against adult entertainment so successfully in recent years that only a handful of adult entertainment establishments remain outside The Block. Even that traditional red-light district has shrunk considerably as a result of City Hall policy and fear of AIDS.

Over the years, Jackson, who has been convicted of manslaughter and firearms charges, has cultivated political connections. City Council President Sheila Dixon is now helping him relocate the El Dorado to a city-owned building in an area east of The Block that had been cleared of adult entertainment establishments. After all is said and done, the price tag will approach $1 million.

Our main objection is not the price, although it seems excessive. We are more worried that by even considering placing the El Dorado so close to Port Discovery, the city could harm the children's museum and redevelopment activity nearby.

Mayor Kurt L. Schmoke's 12-year administration moved slowly but steadily toward eradicating The Block. Mayor Martin O'Malley should not now rush to breathe new life into that sordid relic of Baltimore's past.

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