For an example of how apparently intractable the problems of a northeastern city can be, one need only look at Philadelphia. After doing so, ponder again how Sisyphean a task it was to clean up New York City the way Rudolph Giuliani did.
We learned this morning that Paul Vallas, an educational reformer who made his bones in Chicago, will be resigning as commissioner of the city’s embarrassing school system. He did some good work, but apparently found Philadelphia’s political waters too difficult to navigate.
This reminded me of when Alfred Testa was sacked as the director of Philadelphia International Airport. He was brought in to improve what may be the most thoroughly fubarred airport in North America, and then was fired because while trying to clean up corruption he peeked under the wrong rocks and discovered one of new mayor John Street’s rainmakers was using concession licences at the airport as his own patronage slush fund.
It also reminded me of what happened to John Timoney. He actually made progress as police commissioner in the late nineties. But he cracked a few too many protester skulls when policing the 2000 GOP Convention and was sent packing. And this was in the city that lionized former police commissioner and mayor Frank Rizzo, who was famously photographed with a police baton in his tuxedo when summoned from a banquet to quell some riots. Currently, Philadelphia has a murder problem way bigger than New York City’s.
Of course, during this time Philadelphia has been hemorrhaging population, can’t attract business, and boasts of one of the most confiscatory tax regimes of any city. And the sports teams are in a historic championship drought, unless you count indoor lacrosse.
So to become a Rudy Giuliani supporter, then, all a Republican familiar with Philadelphia’s travails has to do is this: Imagine how highly you would esteem a man or woman able to clean up that cesspool. Then ask yourself if a messy divorce, brusque manner, or limited tolerance of blue state social values would keep you from supporting that person for president.