FRANK RIZZO LIVES again?
I'm not talking about the At-Large City Councilman who has his Dad's name.
I am talking about the One, the Only, the Original - the Cisco Kid, the Loved/Hated, Admired/Despised, Cop/Police Commissioner/Mayor/Radio Host, Democrat/Republican, Uniter/Divider who had one big entree on his menu: "Lawn order." For a side dish, he had "pleese."
That's "law and order" and "police."
Rizzo once defined a conservative as a "libral" who had been mugged the night before. Philadelphia's current murder tide has people turning toward what might be seen as conservative remedies.
If it's true that when you're a hammer every problem resembles a nail, the Riz was a "pleese" hammer and every problem looked like a "crimnal."
I knew the man and knew he was sincere. Whether it hurt or helped him politically, "lawn order" was his North Star.
Today, "lawn order" is a top priority of the five Democratic mayoral candidates. That's because crime/drugs/violence is the top issue in most voters' minds. Although most murders plague "inner city neighborhoods," reading about gun fights in the paper almost every day creates a citywide psychology of fear, of things being out of control.
Candidates are responding to this. Rizzo might say "they are trying to out-Attila Attila the Hun."
Dwight Evans: "The most important responsibility of government is to provide safety and security."
Chaka Fattah: "These are my two priorities. There are going to be additional police officers and additional resources."
Tom Knox: "It's time for action. How many more studies and summits and proposals must there be before we - the people of this city - raise our voices and say, 'No more'?"
Bob Brady says he'll hire another 1,000 cops, probation and truant officers.
Michael Nutter would allow cops to stop and frisk citizens for weapons in targeted zones. Had Rizzo suggested anything like that, the editorial writers would have lit their torches and picked up their pitchforks.
Enforcement ideas that Rizzo floated - which brought cries of "police state" from well-intentioned hysterics with fearful fantasies of a new Mussolini - today are being embraced.
We have. We're immersed in a culture of violence and if you're not afraid for our city, you
haven't been paying attention.
You can blame broken families, drugs, a lack of education and the limited opportunity that shadows high-school dropouts. You can blame violent movies, gangsta rap, even the war in Iraq.
Whatever the causes, here's the effect: We are more murderous, and murdered, than 20 or 30 years ago. Homicide is the No. 1 killer of young, black males in America. Gun violence in Pennsylvania kills African-Americans at a higher rate than any other state and Philadelphia tops Pennsylvania. This is not how we want to be leading the nation.
So when each Democratic candidate calls for more police, even before they call for more social programs, there's been a profound shift in the political climate. The Republican candidate (should the GOP be able to find one) will promise more cops, too.
A balance will have to be found between police powers and civil rights, but when gunfire is ringing out on city streets, when children are gunned down in front of their schools, the first thing you want is for it to stop.
No "freedom" is more important than freedom from murderous scum.
Frank Rizzo always knew it.
Now everyone knows it. *
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