Circus sideshow or serious contender? You decide.
T. Milton Street, who hopes to replace his younger brother as mayor, offered an interesting political wager yesterday.
Street promised to drop out of the mayoral race if he fails to draw a minimum of 5,000 supporters to a noon rally at City Hall on March 1.
"If they don't show up, then I'm out," Street said. "That's the end of it. You don't have to worry about me again. All right? OK?"
As Street called upon the city masses to rise up and join him, another mayoral candidate beseeched voters and television- news crews to ignore Street's clown-like antics.
"[Street] is a bad joke," said former Councilman Michael Nutter, one of five other Democrats seeking the mayor's job.
Nutter called a news conference outside City Hall yesterday to denounce Street for "trying to turn a serious election campaign into a local, regional and, eventually, a national joke."
Nutter commented one day after Street, 67, was arrested in Moorestown, N.J., on outstanding traffic warrants from 2004. He was freed from the Burlington County Jail in Mount Holly after posting $3,250 bail.
Standing outside his daughter's rowhouse in Northeast Philadelphia, Street yesterday threatened to sue Moorestown police, claiming harassment and political meddling.
"The warrant was issued in 2004. Why all of the sudden are they enforcing it in 2007?" Street said. "You can't have police departments involved in politics like that."
Moorestown police dismissed Street's claims. "We have no interest in Philadelphia politics. The timing is just what it is," said Lt. Howard Mann.
Street also had some words for Nutter, whom he referred to as "a watermelon man."
"People don't see him as a black man," Street said. "He needs black votes to get elected. I'm going to take those black votes. People connect with me. They feel with me. They can't connect with you because your skin is black and you're white on the inside."
Street said when Nutter was on City Council he only tackled issues "geared toward the white community." He cited Nutter's anti-smoking legislation as an example. "Black people are getting killed and he's talking about blowing smoke in somebody's face - 'Oh, we gotta stop this smoking,' " Street said.
Gun violence is the city's primary plight, Street said.
If elected mayor, Street said he would "deputize" ordinary citizens, giving them the power to make arrests.
Street's latest dust-up with the law reignited questions about his residency. Street yesterday swore he has been living with his daughter on Anchor Street near Bridge for the past few years.
But when asked what city neighborhood his daughter's rowhouse is located in, Street was at a loss.
"You want to know the name of it? I don't know," Street said with a sheepish grin.
Street said the Moorestown home he shares with his girlfriend, Theresa Ragunan, is his "secondary residence" and is owned by Ragunan.
The city charter requires Street to have lived in Philadelphia for the three years prior to the November 2007 mayoral election in order to be eligible to run. Street has maintained a voter registration in the city since at least 1999, city records show.
Nutter vowed to "make every effort to have [Street] thrown off the ballot" if he files petitions with the signatures of 1,000 voters, as required to run for mayor.
"It is absolutely incredible that a person who does not live in the city, who is facing a federal corruption investigation and trial, would even think to present himself as a mayoral candidate," Nutter said. "If Milton wants to run for mayor, he should declare his candidacy in New Jersey."
Ragunan's Moorestown address was listed on a federal indictment accusing Street of failing to report $2 million in Philadelphia International Airport consulting fees as income.
Asked if Mayor Street should try to get his brother to drop out of the race, Nutter said, "I'm not Dr. Phil. I don't really give family advice." But then Nutter added: "I think if he [Mayor Street] cares about this city, he would not want his city . . . to devolve into a national circus."
T. Milton Street said he and his brother haven't talked about his candidacy. The mayor's office yesterday also said the mayor has not spoken with his brother about it. The older Street was arrested on warrants - issued in July 2004 by Moorestown and Pennsauken - for repeatedly failing to appear in court on traffic violations.
Those violations stem from three incidents. On Sept. 15, 2004, he was cited in Moorestown for allegedly driving without a license. On May 21, 1997, Moorestown police issued Street tickets for allegedly driving an unregistered car, driving without insurance, having a busted tail light, and driving with a suspended license.
In Pennsauken on Oct. 20, 1995, Street was given tickets for allegedly driving an uninsured car, driving without a license, disregarding a red light, and failing to wear a seat belt. Each time that he failed to appear in court, a Pennsauken municipal judge issued a warrant for his arrest.
Street posted bail four times, most recently in June 2004, according to Pennsauken's court director.
A police officer recognized Street on Monday and arrested him as he left the 7-Eleven at Camden and Lenola roads, in Moorestown.
Street said he intends to meet with Moorestown police today to demand explanations for their timing. Street said he'll sue if he isn't satisfied. *