We’re Waaaaiiiiting, Part I

We’re Waaaaiiiiting, Part I

How many days does it take to press charges…or move a statue?

Johnny “Doc” Dougherty Fist Fight              Days waiting:  790

It was February 23, 2016, when the Philadelphia Inquirer broke the following story: “Philadelphia police are investigating an incident in which Electricians union leader John J. Dougherty allegedly hit a nonunion electrician in the face in an altercation at a worksite. 

The nonunion contractor, Joshua Keesee, said that during the Jan. 21 incident in South Philadelphia, Dougherty broke his nose with one blow and hit him above an eye with another.

He said Dougherty lost his temper and swung first. Keesee said he then landed a blow, too, opening a wound in the head of a man who was with Dougherty.

In a statement Monday, a spokesman for Dougherty said the union leader had been involved in a ‘brief physical altercation’ and ‘was not the aggressor.’”

Per PhillyMag at the time: “City police are investigating, … District Attorney Seth Williams referred the matter to Attorney General Kathleen Kane, whose office said Tuesday that she ‘set up a conflict wall regarding the decision to accept or deny the referral and/or initiate charges.’ That’s because Dougherty’s electricians union was a donor to her 2013 campaign.”

To charge or not to charge; why the delay? Surely, it does not take more than two years to figure out whether a fist fight amounts to a chargeable offense. 

The answer may come down to a political back story. The current attorney general, Josh Shapiro, defeated Allegheny County DA Steve Zappala in their Democrat primary; a campaign in which Johnny Doc penned an open letter criticizing Shapiro for taking campaign contributions from anti-union sources.  Why the Doc animus? Conventional wisdom at the time had it that Dougherty was paying back the politically powerful Zappala family, who, a year earlier, provided political support in western PA to Doc’s brother in his successful race for the state Supreme Court.

No matter when Shapiro pulls the trigger on the charge-or-no-charge decision, it will be viewed as a political payback. If he charges, he is punishing Doc for primary opposition. If he does not charge, Shapiro is currying favor from Doc in preparation for his re-election campaign.  So, delay is the politically expedient move but that doesn’t make it the right one.

The Rizzo Statue          Days waiting: 213

It was November 30, 2017, when the Inky broke the story: “After months of protests and public arguments, Mayor Kenney’s administration announced that it would move the bronze statue of former Mayor Frank L. Rizzo that has stood outside the Municipal Services Building for nearly two decades.”  At first there was some confusion as to whether the Kenney administration had the authority to unilaterally move it.  As it turns out, it did not; that would be the exclusive purview of the Art Commission.

Again, there’s politics at the heart of the delay. If you move the statue at all, you enrage the old Rizzo base (read: white ethnic). If you put it anywhere but in some basement in South Philly, then you rile up the anti-Rizzo base (read: everyone else).

For Mayor Kenney, it goes deeper, as the Daily News’ Stu Bykofsky lays out: “In the years following Rizzo’s death in 1991, there was a struggle to find the right memorial for the late mayor. In 1996, a bill was introduced in City Council to rename the Municipal Services Building the Frank L. Rizzo Municipal Services Building. One of the nine cosponsors was Jimmy Kenney — the same politician who is planning to use his rubber-stamp Art Commission to bury the statue in some undetermined place.”

Mayor Kenney knows that time is running out.  He tweeted out last month:

“We’re still considering potential sites … Narrowing down the options. Once we identify a preferred site, we’ll conduct a feasibility study.”

A feasibility study? C’mon Mr. Mayor.  We’re not talking about where to bury a nuclear waste stockpile.

Bad Joke: Q: How many days does it take to move a statue? A:  In Philly, as many days as it takes to make it disappear.

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