Here in the great United States of America, people often look down their noses at undemocratic third-world nations where the huddled masses can’t get despotic rulers to consider what they think.
Then there’s Philadelphia, where the ruling elite also act as if there’s no reason to fear the wrath of the public. In this city, apparently any action committed in the name of politics is reasonable, so long as no one dies.
By that standard, several City Council members not only see nothing wrong with State Rep. Dwight Evans’ using strong-arm tactics to get his way in awarding a charter-school contract; they are are angry at Mayor Nutter for having the gall to make public the findings of an investigation into the matter.
“I think having this out in the public right now without any law enforcement agency doing due diligence is a disservice,” said Councilman James F. Kenney. “I think Dwight deserves the benefit of the doubt until law enforcement looks into this.”
Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco suggested that Nutter never should have investigated what is common in Philadelphia in awarding government contracts. Councilman Frank Rizzo said “there’s nothing wrong” when a “powerful politician” uses that power to help “a legitimate organization.”
Notice how Council members are ignoring that in this case a public process was developed to allow taxpayers to have some input into the expenditure of tax dollars, but a “powerful politician” decided to ignore their voices.
According to the investigation ordered by Nutter, Evans used meetings set up by former School Reform Commission Chairman Robert L. Archie to bully the operator chosen by a public advisory commitee to run Martin Luther King High School into backing out of the contract.
The five-year, $50 million contract then went to a company favored by Evans, but after all the negative publicity about the deal, that firm, too, backed out, leaving King under the School District’s direct control.
Evans may not have committed a crime in allegedly threatening to use his clout to make running King difficult for the the company that dared to compete against him. But it’s hardly in the best interest of the city to see an elected official stomp on the notion that politicians should serve the public.
Six years ago, when other legislators were running scared after their predawn vote to give themselves a pay raise, Philadelphia politicians hardly broke a sweat. They didn’t fear any backlash by voters who are accustomed to having their will derailed by politics.
It’s up to Philadelphians to let the politicians know they’re tired of being treated as if they’re living in some foreign country where what the public wants doesn’t matter.