Wednesday, July 23, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Kevin Riordan: One way or the other, a Cherry Hill snow job

Snow, sleet, ice . . . bring it on, baby.

I fear no weather, because I feel The Presence - The Presence of Bernie Platt.

I know the mayor of Cherry Hill is out there guiding plows, spreading salt, making sure we all can make it to the mall. Even if he's doing it via cell phone from the Sunshine State.

Dan Keashen, Platt's chief of staff, cited The Presence last week while explaining on Fox 29 how he had misspoken (i.e., fibbed) when previously (and repeatedly) telling a Courier-Post reporter that the mayor was in Cherry Hill during one of our recent snowstorms.

Turns out Platt was in Florida, where for the last 15 years - eight of them while mayor - he's spent February vacationing with his wife.

Nevertheless, during one or another of the storms, the mayor's "presence" was palpable in the township, Keashen says during a deer-in-the-headlights video clip that the Camden County Republicans (talk about a phantom presence) are helpfully showcasing on their Web site.

GOP chair Rich Ambrosino questions the Democratic mayor's judgment "in seemingly having abandoned the township" amid successive snow-mageddons. He also wants Keashen to resign for having told a reporter a succession of untruths, including that Platt rode around town in a snowplow while the flakes flew.

"It was a major work of fiction, or something," Ambrosino tells me. "The extent of the yarn he wove, the absurdity of it, I find frightening. It showed a tremendous lack of judgment."

I meet with Keashen during a momentary lull in seemingly ceaseless storms of snowy headlines. He looks chastened, but shows no signs of resigning - and Platt has been unequivocally supportive.

Keashen does seem resigned to public penance(s). "I misspoke," he says, yet again. "I misspoke, and it was not to protect Bernie. It was not to protect the township. It was a reflex action, and I truly regret it."

Anyone who has a boss surely empathizes. I, for one, never feel far from the "presence" of my editors. I feel they are always looking over my shoulder, guiding my thoughts, perhaps monitoring my Mike and Ike candy consumption via a stealth Web cam.

Sorry. I misspoke.

Meanwhile, anyone who deals with spokesguys and gals, particularly those who work for politicos, can't help but be taken aback by the off-with-his-head talk.

With all due respect to Ambrosino and others, if spokesfolks were asked to resign every time they told reporters something that shapes, shifts, or spins the truth, nobody would be quoted saying anything on behalf of anybody ever again. At least not in the newspaper.

But let's hear what the mayor himself has to say. "First of all, it's not a vacation, because I'm constantly on the phone with the township," Platt, 76, tells me by phone. "I make sure everything is running properly."

(As apparently has been the case. Ambrosino himself acknowledges the township has done a good job snow-wise.)

"I might not be there physically," the mayor continues, "but I am there to take care of what needs to be taken care of."

There it is again: that mysterious, mystical, perhaps even supernatural ability to be present but not present, to be present while absent, to be here yet there.

Perhaps - bet you saw this coming, and, yes, here it comes - it all relates to the mayor's background as a funeral director.

Think, for a moment, of the professionals you have encountered in that field.

The best are very much in charge, but pretty much invisible. They are there, to be sure, but then again they are not.

Yet they do have a presence.

You feel it.

You know it.

And certainly if they, or the people who work for them, don't do what they should, you know that, too.


Contact Kevin Riordan at 856-779-3845 or kriordan@phillynews.com.
Kevin Riordan Inquirer Columnist
Also on Philly.com
Stay Connected