In 1919, the first shovel penetrated the ground in what would become a 5,249 foot-long expanse in Philadelphia known as the Ben Franklin Parkway. It was envisioned as our city’s answer to Paris’ Champs-Élysées, a celebration of culture that would bring countless visitors from near and far.

The celebration of our nation’s founding on July 4th, the historic process that occurred just two miles away, took a big hit this week when two police officers were wounded during the annual Wawa Welcome America program. They were shot right at the terminus of that grand boulevard, on the steps of the famed Philadelphia Museum of Art.

When a body is rotting, one looks at the head. And as the violence in our city continues to spiral out of control, the words of our mayor become all the more profound.

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“I’m waiting for something bad to happen all the time,” Mayor Jim Kenney said, after learning of the police shootings. “So I’ll be happy when I’m not here, when I’m not mayor.

Well, then. Kenney’s exit, along with that of District Attorney Larry Krasner, seems like a way to begin to fix a decaying city. The degree of violence during this tandem’s alleged leadership is stunning.

When Kenney took office in 2016, 277 homicides were reported for that year. The final tally for 2021 was 562. The math tells the story.

City police have been held back by a woke attitude that addresses perceived racial inequities by discouraging arrests and allowing violent criminals to leave lockup with no bail required. Countless minorities who live with the fear of crime are increasingly calling for better policing. But so far the woke contingent, of which Kenney and Krasner are poster children, are slow to react.

There was a time when the Parkway was a serene place to hold celebrations. Starting in the 1970’s, bands and booths lined the thoroughfare each fall for Super Sunday. It was a mellow setting, where hundreds of thousands gathered to sample foods and listen to bands. Shootings were not even a thought.

But that has changed. Now, many people feel compelled to avoid such crowds, adding to a feeling of isolation that was already fed by the pandemic.

Kenney’s exit, along with that of District Attorney Larry Krasner, seems like a way to begin to fix a decaying city. The degree of violence during this tandem’s alleged leadership is stunning.

The erosion of civic life in Philadelphia is being felt all over, in step with the increase in crime. Other metropolitan areas — from New York to Chicago to Baltimore — have equally naïve leaders commanding rudderless ships.

It is time Kenney granted his own wish and stepped down from his position. And one would hope that an impeachment proceeding in the state legislature, calling for the removal of Krasner, would gain ground — however daunting that process seems.

General Colin Powell once said: “Leadership is solving problems. The day soldiers stop bringing you problems is the day you stop leading them. They have either lost confidence that you can help them or concluded you do not care. Either case is a failure of leadership.”

Leadership has clearly taken a hiatus in Philadelphia. As surely as that fist shovel dug into the ground of what would be the Ben Franklin Parkway, so the influence of new leadership needs to penetrate the veneer of a damaged city.

The sooner the better, as we look to salvage our city.

Jeff Hurvitz is a freelance writer and Philadelphia native.

3 thoughts on “Jeff Hurvitz: Parkway shooting shows Philadelphia’s failure of leadership”

  1. Not only the increase in crime but the overall swamp the city has become. Water main breaks, pot holes that a car can literally fall in to, trash pickup delays, abandoned vehicles, public schools in disarray, basically the entire infrastructure of the city. No one is held accountable for zero city services. The pandemic can only be blamed for so much. The city was going down the toilet several years ago. And yet Kenny was re-elected. Shame shame

  2. Our elected representatives need to hit the pause button and do something they probably don’t want to do. Look inward and ask themselves am I doing the very best job for my constituents and the citizens of this city? They need to be honest with themselves. Am I just repeating the convenient party lines and following an agenda I know isn’t working? Do I have the courage, the guts and the nerve to do what needs to be done even though it’s not progressive but smart, not “woke” but moral? The silence over our district attorney’s failed strategies speak loud volumes to these questions. The recent responses to Mayor Kenney’s public remarks about the office he’ll be glad to walk away from also proclaim a lack of vision. Many berated him but none offered an outline over what they would do differently in terms of crime and violence, because let’s be honest. What is place right now isn’t saving lives.

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