It’s been a week since Mayor Kenney had a one-on-one visit with Meek Mill in jail. It bugged me then, it bugs me now, and I’ve finally figured out why.
Throughout his political career, Kenney has been Philly’s Jimmy from the Block, reliably reading the pulse of the populace when it comes to calling out the disloyal, the silly, and the abusive.
In 2014, he jumped all over Chris Christie, a Dallas Cowboys groupie and vocal hater of Philly’s sports fans. Jersey’s then-guv was spotted cheering with Cowboys owner Jerry Jones during a game in which the Birds fell to Dallas.
Where was he cheering?
At the Linc, the fool.
Fat-shaming aside, it had to be said.
In 2017, when the Friends of Rittenhouse Square instituted a ban on park users sitting on the square’s walls, because that’s where weed users liked to toke, an exasperated Kenney tweeted to his constituents, “Sit where you want.” In a wink-wink follow-up, he added, “… please don’t litter, or graffiti the walls or smoke weed so obviously that you scare olds my age.”
Thank you, Mayor Don’t Sweat the Small Stuff.
And last week, Kenney minced no words about the handcuffing at Starbucks of two black men whose crime was waiting for a friend to show up.
“Heartbroken to see Philly in the headlines for what — at least based on what we know now — appears to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018,” Kenney tweeted as video of the incident went viral. “Like all establishments in Philly, Starbucks should be a place where everyone is treated the same.”
Heartbroken to see Philly in the headlines for what — at least based on what we know now — appears to exemplify what racial discrimination looks like in 2018. Like all establishments in Philly, Starbucks should be a place where everyone is treated the same https://t.co/oHC9m6ExsG
— Jim Kenney (@PhillyMayor) April 14, 2018
Amen and amen again.
But if everyone at Starbucks should be treated the same, so should everyone incarcerated for a parole violation. But unless Kenney’s spokespeople (who didn’t get back to me) are withholding important intel, I don’t recall the mayor ever visiting a prison to hear firsthand a jailed probation violator’s story.
Kenney, who is always pressed for time, gave Mill an hour. How many jailed probation violators would die for just five of the mayor’s minutes, let alone 60?
No question: Our justice system needs reform. There are stories to be heard and told, including Mill’s. But no one has been stopping Mill from speaking or preventing his heavy-hitting supporters – like Jay-Z, the Sixers’ Rubin, and New England Patriots owner Robert Kraft – from raising the roof in his defense.
But Kenney’s visit reeks of preferential attention to a famous young man with the right friends. And it’s ignorant of Mill’s own belief that a prior imprisonment for a probation violation, imposed by the Honorable Genece Brinkley, was a game-changer for him.
“You know, you were my pit stop” back then, he told Brinkley on Feb. 5, 2016, as he begged to be spared jail for a fourth violation. “I believe you saved my life. Not even talking about music. I believe hanging in South Philadelphia, I would be dead, in jail, at this point.”
Brinkley took pity, gave Mill a 90-day house arrest, and he rewarded her faith in him by violating probation for the fifth time, last November. Fed up, she sentenced him to two years.
After visiting Mill, Kenney told CBS Philly, “I’m hoping that the system sees the interest in this young man and [that] the things you do when you’re 18 years old, you don’t necessarily do when you’re 30.”
What does that say to jailed probation violators who don’t have the “interest” of the public or of a powerful ally like Jay-Z? That they should pound sand?
Also, Mill is not in jail for what he did at 18 but for what he has done since, which is to repeatedly defy the judge’s orders. Kenney’s concern for Mill makes chumps out of probationers who follow the rules, including the rules they don’t like.
None of this is to say that the rapper does not deserve a new trial, as DA Larry Krasner advises, because Mill’s arresting officer is Reginald Graham, on the DA’s list of 29 officers who lack the credibility to testify in court.
If Graham goosed up the charges against Mill, as he has been accused of doing, then this is a different legal matter altogether for Mill. Even though Mill, in the same 2016 meeting with Brinkley, copped to being a bad dude even prior to his arrest.
“Before I came in front of you,” he said that day, “I was a drug dealer, carried a gun every day. I used to be on the street every day doing non-positive things. Bad things all the time.”
So he’s self-aware. But so are less well-connected prisoners whose names we’ll never know.
Maybe Kenney is just star-struck. Because if any other mayor had done what Kenney did, Jimmy from the Block would’ve called bull**it.