Gar Joseph | Turn your radio on: Mary Mason's coming back

IN AN ACT of civic vandalism, WHAT (1340-AM), the "Voice of the African-American community," was silenced on Jan. 11.

Led by morning host Mary Mason, the station was a daily town meeting on politics, on crime, on education, on racism, on a dozen other issues that affect black Philadelphians.

Bill Cosby was a frequent caller. It was where Gov. Rendell, Mayor Street and schools CEO Paul Vallas had to answer to the community.

Then the station was sold, its employees laid off. In a year with an exciting mayor's race.

But there is good news. Mason will return to the airwaves in plenty of time to engage an ongoing debate about the mayor's race. Maybe on a station with a stronger signal. Heck, a can with a string has a stronger signal.

A source close to the talk-show legend says she is in discussions with five stations. A decision is likely within a few weeks.

Mason has been besieged by calls from listeners since her show ended. Some miss the morning prayer. Others longed to hear what she would have said about the death of Frances "Mom" Williams, civic leader and mother of a former state senator and grandmother of a current one. Williams was the first person honored as "Mother of the Year" by Mason's annual Mother's Day luncheons.

After 50 years on the air, Mason ought to be able to say goodbye to listeners and not just have the plug pulled. It appears she'll get that chance.

Martin, Barack and Chaka

A poster distributed at the annual Martin Luther King Jr. luncheon this week (and seen on this page) gave the clear impression that the civil-rights leader's torch had been passed to - mayoral hopeful Chaka Fattah and presidential hopeful Barack Obama.

Smart move by Fattah, right? Well, no. Fattah's people say he had nothing to do with it.

The poster bore no markings indicating who had paid for it.

Turns out it is the work of the October Gallery in West Oak Lane, which "put it together as a piece of artwork to commemorate Martin Luther King Day," according to Fattah campaign spokesman Solomon Jones.

Oh, and they just happened to choose Fattah? Why not Dwight Evans or Michael Nutter?

October Gallery manager Levan Redcross said King, Obama and Fattah were "three images that are part of the community."

Asked who had paid for this poster featuring a mayoral candidate four months before the May primary, Redcross said that's "proprietary" information.

Hmmmm. A cynic might think this is a cheap ploy to avoid the city's first-ever campaign-contribution limits.

Miller draws a crowd

For years now, the 8th Councilmanic District, which stretches from part of North Philadelphia up through Germantown, Mount Airy and Chestnut Hill, has been a battleground.

Councilwoman Donna Miller has faced two or three opponents in hotly contested primaries since 1999. This year's battle is biggest of all: Five opponents.

Irv Ackelsberg, the former managing attorney at Community Legal Services, announced his candidacy this week.

So did Alex Talmadge Jr., the former city commissioner who gave District Attorney Lynne Abraham a good fight in the 2001 primary.

Greg Paulmier, leader of Germantown's 12th ward, is hoping his third try for the seat will be a charm.

Deborah Williams, who ran as a Republican in 2003, will run this time as a Democrat.

And Cindy Bass, the senior policy adviser to U.S. Rep. Chaka Fatah, is weighing a run.

"I think the race is wide open," Bass said. "I don't think the power of incumbency is the rule of thumb in this case."

No, but the more opponents she has, the fewer votes Miller needs to win.

Goodbye, Glancey

After 24 years on the Board of Revision of Taxes, 17 of them as chairman, David Glancey is retiring March 2.

You might think his $70,000 job is obscure and boring, but you'd be wrong.

The BRT sets property values for all real estate in the city. It's in the midst of changing the assessments to a full-market-value system. Property owners and politicians are both living in fear of the change, which is planned for 2008, and could hit some homeowners with big increases.

The successor to Glancey's hot seat will be chosen in mid-February by the Board of Judges of Common Pleas Court. The judges will also decide whether to reappoint BRT secretary Robert N.C. Nix III, whose six-year term expires and who wants to succeed Glancey as chairman. The post would give him a matched pair of board chairmanships, the other being the Fairmount Park Commission.

Two names have surfaced for Glancey's seat: Eugene Cohen, a former Common Pleas judge, and Municipal Court Judge Alan K. Silberstein, whose wife, Dveral, has served on the BRT since 1992.

Common Pleas Judge William Manfredi, whose nominating committee is screening the BRT candidates, said he's received a letter saying that if Silberstein is chosen, his wife will resign.

A third potential candidate could be former state Supreme Court Justice Russell Nigro, who is also mulling a run for the high court.

Manfredi said that candidates have until Feb. 1 to send in a letter of interest and resume. *

Staff writers Gar Joseph, Dave Davies and Mark McDonald contributed to this report.