WHEN I WAS ASKED last week on WPVI's Inside Story my theory on the fall of Philadelphia District Attorney Seth Williams, I thought back to a scene I was involved in that sums up how things work in Philadelphia. I was a judge in a charity dance contest, and Seth was a contestant who wowed the crowd. As I talked to Seth after the event, then-U.S. Rep Chaka Fattah, indicted for corruption, invited me to his table for a drink. Everything seemed normal in Philadelphia.
I've seen such things play out over the years. My theory about Seth and the ongoing number of Philadelphia officials in trouble is that a significant part of it is due to Philadelphia being America's longest running one-party town. Philadelphia has had Democratic mayors for 65 years and counting. Republican representation in City Council is tiny. At every level, the message is that being in good standing with Democratic power-brokers is all that matters. It makes it much easier to feel public corruption is your due.
While this one-party system has become a major part of our lives, Philadelphia continues to lead the nation's biggest cities in poverty rates. It's a fair point that you can't fully blame widespread poverty on Democratic policies alone. However, why does Philadelphia consistently lead the nation in poverty rates? Could it be that the widespread corruption inside Philadelphia over the last several decades has contributed greatly to this?
Maybe this system and its inherent corruption also continue because voters have come to accept corruption, widespread poverty and one scheme after another that is hostile to business.
Last week, I received a distressing call from Joe DeFelice, city Republican Party chairman. He was passionate about Republican candidate Lucinda Little's receiving only 198 votes in a special election in the 197th District of the state House. He and Green Party candidate Cheri Honkola have alleged widespread voter fraud that they claim resulted in Democrat Emilio Vazquez's win and a formal investigation by the D.A.'s Election Fraud Task Force.
DeFelice was even more passionate about the fact that because of a felony committed by the Democrat who previously held the office, and her replacement being proven to have not lived in the district, the Republican candidate was the only name on the ballot. He couldn't understand how a district that is the center of one of the country's biggest open-air illegal drug centers with widespread poverty and violence would choose more of the same.
I think the same lack of logic might have led Mayor Kenney to be successful in gaining traction with his sugary drink tax. The February numbers show that the city increased its revenues from $5.9 million to $6.4 million in taxes on the drinks. Kenney's cynical calculation that people will be worn down and pay for sugary drinks in Philadelphia appears to be paying off. Of course, his genius is that a lot of the money won't go only to pre-kindergarten programs, but also to pension plans and public works projects that will reward more insiders.
Of course, this one-party town pride was reinforced last Saturday when participants of a pro-President Trump Make America Great Again rally that started at Independence Hall and was supposed to march to Eakins Oval was abruptly stopped and told to disperse at City Hall by the police. The marchers had permits, but there were fears of violence that might come from the mob that shadowed the Trump people. Many of these people wore masks to hide their identity and had no permits to march.
The police reported that the most important thing was no injuries and no property destruction were reported. I report that what was lost was an opportunity for the rule of law and true intellectual diversity to be protected. It's time we realize a one-party town breeds corruption, cynicism and, at best, mediocrity. Is there really anything much to lose?
Teacher-turned-talk show host Dom Giordano is heard 9 a.m. to noon weekdays on WPHT (1210-AM). Contact him at www.domgiordano.com