Statues Commission: Select random citizens

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.

Troubled statues: Columbus (left), Rizzo. (Photo: CBS News)

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. 

18 thoughts on “Statues Commission: Select random citizens”

  1. HAPPY TUESDAY !!!
    pallie,
    A timely bit of info, for sure. No Doubt Kelly Lee and staff put a lot of effort in “trying ” to get this draft ready for ordinance. I assume ( bad word ) that this review committee act will become city ordinance.
    I disagree on your thought process for obtaining committee members. Think serving on a jury. Most of those serving are not my equals. Philadelphia citizens should be asked to volunteer . You would get concerned citizens that care about the history of the United States as well as Philly.
    I presently serve my township as a member of the Zoning Hearing Review Board and the Zoning Ordinance Review Committee. The purpose of the zoning ordinances is to give direction to anyone who wants to do anything in your township. The Hearing Board listens to a township resident appeal the zoning ordinances that effect their property. Such as a pool or home business. We listen and some of us make an informed decision. I, myself do due diligence in knowing and understanding the ordinances in question. I also take it upon myself to visit the property in question to further understand the request and to add more intelligence, I take pictures of the property. Some members do nothing more than vote – always for the resident.
    The Zoning Ordinance Review Committee is much more complicated. We review the entire township zoning ordinance and address each and every section on its merits – or lack of.
    The most important part of this undertaking, is for the committee members to understand who or what they are reviewing. As you stated. Kate Smith sang songs that in her time wasn’t racist. On that statement alone, there should be no reason for the removal of the Smith Statue. Christopher Columbus is the same. The Jewish, Spaniard, Italian adventurer was not a racist. Quite the opposite. This is what the committee members would know, because they actually read some history books. Not just listened to “woke America”.
    Had I be a Philly resident again, I would have my name on the volunteer list a long time ago.
    Tony

      1. HAPPY WEDNESDAY !!!
        No Stu, I’m not okay with that, and that is not what I said. That is what you said.
        The example that I used is a very real township zoning hearing board. That person petitions the board and wants “relief” as it is called and they are supposed to show a hardship. Rather than have people on the board ( such as now ) that don’t really care about the zoning ordinance, nor do they want to learn the ordinance, they just vote in favor of the person with the grievance.
        The purpose of the township zoning ordinance is to maintain the quality of life that we want . We are a rural community. We don’t want huge apartment complexes nor high rise buildings. You can only have business in a defined area. If you, a board member, don’t want to follow the law as it is written, then why are you on the board.
        So forget about your aclu board members. Advertise for knowledgeable people that want to serve the city in its best interests. Sorry to say, I can’t fire the board that I am associated with in my town. Do it your way, and you will have the same problems that I am having.
        Tony

        1. Tony,
          Don’t you think all of this will be moot if those leftists who have Joe’s ear have their way? What’s it called? ….An expansion of the inner city for Equity’s sake??
          No more suburbs.
          Tom

          1. HAPPY THURSDAY !!!
            Tom,
            You are correct, sir.
            In the socialist mindset, we’ll ‘pave paradise, and put in a parking lot’.
            Tony

  2. In reference to the statues, the WOKE group are batshit crazy, and the blame has to be leveled on the politicians and officials who are cowered by this group. All one has to do is have a group of three or more moan on social media about something they say is racist, and it’s gone.

  3. Setting aside the snide remark “The crows were not scared” as being guilty until the new advisory scarecrow proves otherwise the word advisory has no meaning. When you place layers of different groups of citizens some highly educated others with a GED and others with a political agenda you end up with the original dilemma. I applaud the naming of any committee of volunteers all of whom have the intellectual credentials to make well-studied conclusions with evidentiary hearings where the public can provide ample input. Why we slip into this inclusion and diversity back-scratching theory from wokes is irrelevant. You are right about the statues as Kate Smith who raised 500 million for the USO which today would be a billion dollars against any contribution that the Flyers have given to any military assistance program.

  4. Stu, you’re are correct in saying that the late Ed Snider never would have allowed the Kate Smith statue be removed.
    Notice they do these things in the middle of the night…the cowards!
    We here in South Philadelphia want the Christopher Columbus statue to remain and uncovered and to stay in Marconi
    Plaza. We will get many signatures for that. The gutless Mayor not only wants the statue removed but also change the
    the Columbus Day holiday to Indigenous Day. You don’t remove holidays and rewrite history…the Indigenous people
    can have another day to celebrate!

    1. HAPPY TUESDAY !!!
      Barbara,
      The real people, as we have been called for millennia, aren’t looking to take the place of Columbus. What would really help, is fro America to do some required reading. Go back to the beginning, when the white man first came here. Go to the years when the Cherokee were marched across the country – “The Trail of Tears”. Learn about when the great white father, in his infinite wisdom, decided that the Indian was better off white. That he didn’t need to speak his language, wear his clothes or follow his customs. Read about the real Carlyle school. Take a ride through a reservation. One that doesn’t have a casino. See what a real ghetto looks like.
      Maybe then, all Americans can understand what real injustice has taken place.
      Tony

  5. As you said, Stu, in your previous posting: America is falling apart. Actually, it’s not falling apart, it’s is being ripped apart…statue by statue and statute by statute.

  6. From a speech at Hillsdale College by it’s president Larry P Arnn:

    The protagonist of 1984 is a man named Winston Smith. He works for the state, and his job is to rewrite history. He sits at a table with a telescreen in front of him that watches everything he does. To one side is something called a memory hole. When Winston puts things in it, he assumes they are burned and lost forever.  Tasks are delivered to him in cylinders through a pneumatic tube. The task might involve something big, like a change in what country the state is at war with:  when the enemy changes, whole references to the previous war with a different enemy need to be expunged. Or the test might be something small: if an individual falls out of favor with the state, photographs of him being honored need to be altered or erased altogether from the records.  Winston’s job is to fix every book, periodical, newspaper, etc. that reveals or refers to what used to be the truth, in order that it conformed to the new truth……………..

    Winston comes to see that he knows nothing of the past, of real history: “Every record has been destroyed or falsified,” he says, “every book has been rewritten, every picture has been repainted, every statue and street and building has been renamed …. Nothing exists except an endless present in which The Party is always right.”    

    Does any of this sound familiar?

      1. Of course, you refer to the Soviet Union of Stalin’s days in addition to what is happening today.

  7. Philadelphia, PA

    Dear Wetten & readers,

    I’d say the analogy to Orwell’s 1984 is pretty good, but its not exactly what is happening now.

    There is some evidence that American history has been suppressed in degree, though we still have many fine historians. It is a bit strange, in my estimation, that the latest grand American history is being published by Oxford University Press, but in fact this follows a tradition going further back.

    See:
    https://academic.oup.com/jah/article-abstract/52/4/804/764701
    and
    https://global.oup.com/academic/content/series/o/oxford-history-of-the-united-states-ohus/?cc=us&lang=en&

    These are all very good books. But why was no U.S. university press willing (or able?) to undertake these projects?

    Also, if you look into our various “American Studies” programs around the country you will find that they are very frequently devoted to literary pursuits and popular culture –not, one might say, the grand ideas which have guided the republic over the centuries. These ideas are handed over to “conservatives” who, then, if possible, are pushed out.

    The state legislatures, charged with supervision of education, never lifted a finger.

    People ask how it has been possible for the left to gain so much power in academic circles. The answer, basically is “in-fighting” and accommodating themselves to the managerial elites who actually control the money and positions in the colleges and universities. The managers, in turn have accommodated themselves to the politicians most willing to fund them. That is why the universities have basically become supporting constituencies of one political party.

    In contemporary journalistic accounts of American history, it is not quite like Winston Smith in Orwell’s 1984, casting uncomfortable facts down the “memory hole.” It is more like what scientists call “confirmation bias.”

    For sure, you can find many grisly stories of race and race conflicts –and racism– in American history. But these stories are often told without attention to the broader context. Its a matter of “selective emphasis” in more or less the manner of marketing and sales strategy. Just as our politicians now campaign by mass appeal, emotionalism and “sound bites,” our history is now being sold back to us by similar means. The corporate media likes the sparks that fly. But the recognized experts on American history –see, for instance, the titles from the Oxford History of the U.S.– are rarely consulted or quoted.

    So, is the U.S. a racist country? Are we subject to “systemic racism”? Do such claims chiefly benefit particular interests in contrast to others? Shouldn’t we ask our best historians? The most amazing thing about our current leftward “identity politics” is that it blocks recognition of the our distinctive economic interests –where the interests of ordinary people mostly agree across all the racial and ethnic differences.

    The left prospers in the universities and in journalism –just so long as they do not challenge dominant economic interests –and content themselves with arguing about who should be included among the elites.

    H.G. Callaway

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