Sometimes, without meaning to, Philadelphia’s city government stumbles into doing something right.
One thing last week was the approval of a new citizens advisory board to oversee the police department. Philly has had one for a while, but it was underfunded, understaffed, and had few teeth for enforcement. It was a scarecrow and the crows were not scared.
The new board, if we can believe what we are told, will be better in all respects. Of course, we can’t always believe what we are told and we will wait and see.
The statue issues are not going away.
Going back a few weeks, after Mayor Jim Kenney had stumbled, fumbled, lied, evaded, jogged and jived on the Frank Rizzo and Christopher Columbus statues, city guidelines were created by Kelly Lee, the city’s chief cultural officer.
Before I get to Rizzo and Columbus, I’ve got to get in a shot at the cowardly lion Flyers ownership which removed a statue of the team’s good luck charm, Kate Smith, because a bunch of hyenas raised a ruckus about a couple of songs she recorded nearly 100 years ago that some considered “racist.”
The gutless eunuch owners also banned “God Bless America,” her signature song. I’m surprised they didn’t go full batso and haul down Old Glory.
“God Bless America” is not racist. The other song thought to be racist was also sung by Paul Robeson, an African-American. The Flyers’ actions were the worst satire ever, and— guess what? The Flyers have been a toilet cake since banishing Kate Smith to a warehouse.
Right! The Kate Smith Curse.
When the gutless owners ran like headless chickens from a small mob of critics, they turned the team from the Broad Street Bullies into the Broad Street Pansies.
Anyone who knew the late Ed Snyder knows he never would have sacked Kate. Never.
The Flyers deserve to be mulch until her return. Kate had their back, the Flyboys didn’t have hers. Shame on them.
Well, Philadelphians who want to remove other statues or historic memorials soon will be able to make an online request to a commission, KYW Newsradio reported, the result of City Council action.
Anticipating that other memorials will come under scrutiny, Lee drafted guidelines for removal. This would include solid evidence of behavior by the person honored that is not in line with city values and public support, and also 300 signatures from neighbors — within a 4-mile radius — of the memorial, whether for a statue or simply a name on a street or recreation center.
Requiring neighbors’ signatures is important, because they live closest to it. I don’t care about how San Franciscans feel about those we choose to honor.
Here is a copy of the policy.
Lee starts off with a good statement: Any change — the renaming or making changes to any landmarks or monuments — should be an exceptional event – it should be a high hurdle.
That is on the money, to prevent temporary passions from making permanent changes.
One paragraph tries to have it both ways: Names memorialize the past, and that must be respected, but renaming must align with inclusiveness, integrity and respect for diversity. These values could collide,
The person’s life must be viewed as a whole, historical evidence must be clear and unambiguous, and impact of harm of continued use must be clear and unambiguous.
A mitigating factor would be to address the alleged wrong behavior in a prominent way, with an added placard, for example.
Lee’s plan calls for the mayor to appoint a Landmarks and Monuments Review Commission to oversee the process. Wrong. That makes it the mayor’s pet. I prefer 15 Philadelphians chosen tab random from voting records. No politicians, no academics, no special interests.
The commission makes recommendations to the administration for approval. Wrong. The commission should make the final decision. Keep politics out of it.
Then public meetings to discuss.
The process is a little tedious, but better than letting a jerkheimer mayor make up rules as he bounces along like a cracked pickle ball.