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. email@example.com