The mayor: Blowing up The Block

  • Former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke
Former Baltimore Mayor Kurt Schmoke (Kenneth K. Lam, Baltimore…)
May 10, 2012|By Kurt Schmoke, Special to The Baltimore Sun

During my time in office, members of the downtown business community and other citizens urged me to take action against the area known as The Block. Since the end of World War II, The Block has been a concentration of strip clubs and X-rated bookstores. However, by the 1990s, The Block acquired a reputation for attracting people engaged in drug dealing, prostitution and other unsavory activity. Pressure mounted to close the last remaining block of what once was three blocks of sex-based entertainment. After considering the complaints, I decided to introduce legislation and take zoning action that would eliminate The Block.

Enter the cartoon. In response to my expressed intent to move against The Block, Kevin "KAL" Kallaugher drew a two-frame cartoon that appeared in The Sun. One frame showed me standing before a club on the block, pushing an exploding device to blow it up. The last frame showed several tiny blocks falling down all around me. The message was clear: If we shut down The Block, we would just spread the businesses from one compact site to locations throughout the city. Existing law, in fact, was on the side of KAL's message. Shortly after the cartoon ran, I withdrew the legislation. We decided on other enforcement options as an alternative to "blowing it up." This represented just one of many times when an item in The Sun caused elected officials to pause and reconsider before taking action.

Kurt Schmoke is the dean of the Howard University School of Law. He served as the mayor of Baltimore from 1987 to 1999.

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