Well, the results are in. On the issue of indoor dining, Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney — who for months has delayed joining the rest of Pennsylvania in allowing indoor seating in Philadelphia restaurants — has voted with his feet, or rather, his mouth.
Kenney, whose Administration has repeatedly pushed off allowing flailing local restaurants to allow diners inside, was spotted this weekend enjoying an indoor meal in Maryland at a friend’s restaurant.
The problems with this image are manifold. First, it exemplifies exactly the double-standard that many feel from the governing elite: one set of rules for the rulers, the rest for the ruled. Does it remind you of the ruinous nursing home policy our state’s Health Director, Rachel Levine, pursued — while moving her mother to safety at a luxury hotel? It should. How about Philadelphia public sector employees quietly negotiating time-and-a-half to work from home while private sector workers and entrepreneurs were left to fend for themselves, at the same time funding this growth in the public payroll?
While Kenney himself would be the first to claim that he is following “the science,” Philadelphia has either hit its threshold and should allow restaurants to reopen, or it has not. The current date for indoor dining, September 8th, was set on August 20th, far enough in advance that a public health justification on a descending curve would have been exceedingly difficult to predict.
Moreover, if it’s too dangerous for Philadelphians to be sitting down across from one another at a table, wouldn’t Kenney’s very presence at an indoor restaurant pose lethal harm to the other diners? That has been the rationale for keeping restaurants closed — that there is too great a risk among Philadelphians — so either it’s bunk, or Kenney doesn’t care when it comes to his own meals.
This is not about science, it’s about government. And as Mayor Kenney has endorsed eating inside for himself, even with all those Philadelphia germs he must have carried into Maryland, our city should stop putting it off and allow indoor dining at 25% capacity or more right away. Yes, a few weeks will make a difference for local restaurants — it could mean life or death for them.
This is not about science, it’s about government.
Local government should be racing to assist restaurants as they attempt to navigate outdoor dining and face the limitations of space and weather. Telling restaurateurs and merchants to make do with tables set up on the sidewalk and in commandeered parking spaces essentially signs their death warrant.
There are other ways to help business that the government should be racing towards. Clearing traffic on side streets with a high proportion of businesses, such as 13th street in Center City, to create “open air markets” — where Covid-19 is exceedingly unlikely to spread — would be a welcome development and a lifeline for many to survive this pandemic into the fall weather. This would also provide a social space for residents who desperately need one, and who are growing more isolated (sometimes dangerously so) as our region has closed up. Those who are susceptible to Covid-19 are not the only citizens whose health and wellbeing we should be considering.
Temporarily modifying parking regulations on commercial streets to facilitate curbside pickup is another way the city can ameliorate traffic patterns, and ensure a speedier recovery. A member of our staff recently had their car towed from a nearly vacant 1800 block of Walnut in the middle of the afternoon — and was levied a hefty parking fine — for pulling over to pick up an online order from a local shop. This is absurd, and shows an institution (the PPA) that is doing its best to get in the way of consumers, rather than ease the burden on all of us.
Those who are susceptible to Covid-19 are not the only citizens whose health and wellbeing we should be considering.
The same idea should be brought up on a larger scale for street celebrations in Philadelphia; with proper social distancing, these events would be perfectly safe — certainly safer than massive protests that have run through the night and day during Philadelphia’s “summer of rage,” which have elicited approximately no concern from the “health experts” in Philadelphia. Block parties and events in parks should be encouraged as among the safest options for socialization available to us at this time.
It’s time to open up our city and let people gather, safely, again. Just look at the picture of Mayor Kenney dining indoors, and do as he does — not as he says.
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