It took my paralegal two hours to get into the office this morning. Normally, a quick trip on I-95 will put her at our front door in less than 40 minutes. But this is the new normal, ever since a tanker exploded yesterday morning, causing the collapse of a major city artery.
We’ve had uniquely Philadelphian tragedies before. There was the man-made catastrophe of a mayor dropping a bomb on an entire neighborhood in 1985, when Wilson Goode was faced with the MOVE members and their military arsenal. (Of course, they were described as peace-loving, back-to-nature types, with a stash of AK-47s.)
More recently, there was the horrific collapse of a building on 22nd and Market Street which took the lives of six people, including visitors to a nearby Salvation Army store, and injured fourteen others. That was in 2013, under Mayor Michael Nutter.
Now we have another debacle, and it happened under a mayor who famously stated that he couldn’t wait to be out of office. That is perhaps the only thing he, and his constituents, agree upon: he has overstayed his welcome.
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Jim Kenney is the sort of person who has no natural base. The old-style Democrats of the Philly machine have disowned him, the Republicans never liked him to begin with, and the wokesters that now surround the 60-something-year-old are ready to move on. They were parasites to begin with, feeding off of the body politic to advance their goals, one of which included erasing Columbus Day from the calendar, which Old Man Kenney obligingly facilitated. They also pushed for the removal of any vestige of a mayor once supported by Kenney, the legendary Frank Rizzo. They were uniquely successful in that endeavor as well. The final jewel in their triple crown of offense remained out of their reach, since the Columbus statue still presides proudly over Marconi Square, in the heart of Kenney’s native South Philadelphia.
And now that Kenney is at the end of his term, and their standard-bearer Helen Gym has been consigned to the place that defeated progressives occupy after unsuccessful primaries (namely, bright futures as cable news anchors), they no longer have any interest in whether he lives, dies, or takes his girlfriend for dates on Maryland’s eastern shore.
To be honest, none of us really care what he does when he’s officially “gone.” But given the fact that he is still, nominally, the go-to person in the city when tragedies of this magnitude occur, it would have been nice to hear some details from Jim.
Like who employed the driver and what kind of statement is forthcoming from the company. These are not difficult questions. This is not the stuff of deep dive investigations. The truck that caused the explosion, the one carrying dangerous materials, belonged to someone. It did not simply spring, anonymous, from the dew-filled morning air. The company would have had employee logs. The truck, which I have been told was not completely demolished at the time of the accident, must have had markings, a serial number on it, something that would indicate provenance. But we have so far heard nothing other than, “It’s going to be a long while before commuters can get back on I-95.”
For God’s sake, Mr. Mayor Who Is Annoyed He Is Still Mayor, for once in your sad life, act like a leader.
In the meantime, SEPTA has announced it will add trains to its commuter service, which causes all of us who regularly use commuter rail to roll our eyes. Given that they can barely handle the volume they currently serve, it will be a “rhymes with hit” storm when they have to take on additional passengers.
The fact that we are still in the dark about this mess is not the stuff of conspiracy theory. Too many idle minds are suggesting this was caused by a terrorist, or a Ukrainian, or Hunter Biden, or even Ron DeSantis so he can contrast his efficiency in rebuilding bridges after Hurricane Ian with our Democratic incompetence. That, and a Ouija Board, will get you real answers.
But I do think it is despicable that there have been no news conferences with legitimate, tangible, detailed information about how the I-95 collapse happened and who did it. A truck exploded, and we are all caught in the downdraft of its flames. For God’s sake, Mr. Mayor Who Is Annoyed He Is Still Mayor, for once in your sad life, act like a leader.
We deserve it, and now might be a good time to start trying to give it to us.
Christine Flowers is an attorney and lifelong Philadelphian. @flowerlady61