I really couldn't get enough of Holly Otterbein and Andrew Seidman's recent report on how residents in the South Philly neighborhood where Mayor Kenney grew up are feeling about his first two years as mayor.
To say that they are not feeling the love is a huge understatement. They charge that "Jimmy" has forgotten where he came from. They seemed to think that up until he was elected mayor Kenney, as an Irish Catholic, former Mummer, and son of a firefighter, would have their back in a rapidly changing Philadelphia.
With all due respect, how delusional can you be?
Kenney has been a genuine, progressive ideologue for some time. As such, about all that they should expect is that Kenney might tolerate the culture of the white, working- and middle-class voters that Otterbein and Seidman interviewed at Mick Daniels Saloon and Mifflin Tavern in South Philly. The residents are surprised that Kenney moved out of the neighborhood and now lives in Old City. The only thing that might be a bond is that both parties support strong unions.
However, on such issues as Philadelphia being a premier sanctuary city, there is no way to paper over the divide. Frank Rizzo, the former mayor and police commissioner, was a hero in South Philly, and Kenney's compliance with the need for the New Philadelphia to purge his statue and dishonor his memory doesn't sit well in Jimmy's former neighborhood.
However, the touchstone for the divide involves the Mummers. These neighborhoods are the heart of Mummery. Kenney has turned the sensitivity police on the Mummers and seems to be creating a newer version that doesn't sit well with people like the woman at the Mifflin Tavern who said, "In a lot of neighborhoods, you have kids out on the streets doing drugs, while mine's in the club gluing feathers to a plume."
In the circles that Kenney moves in now, I think many of the people would be happy with doing away with the parade or at least diminishing it. These are the people who lecture endlessly about respecting and elevating various cultures, but can't see any value in the traditions and history of the people who proudly march.
I think what comes through this report is that the people in South Philly thought they had a champion of their way of life in Kenney. Part of my fascination with Kenney is that we have so much in common, but our worldview is so different.
We both grew up in South Philly. We both went to La Salle University. He is the son of a firefighter and I'm the son of a cop. We are both the first in our family to graduate from college. Where did he go wrong? Kidding.
However, my background tells me that I know that the South Philly way says you mind your own business and means you don't tax people to stop them from drinking soda because it's bad for them. Kenney's Old City way says he knows better and you are duty-bound to stop drinking soda.
The South Philly way says if a business owner such as Starbucks tells you to leave their place, you leave and if the cops arrive and arrest you, it's your fault. The Old City way doesn't accept that reality and figures that cops don't exercise good judgment and have to be stopped from overreacting.
The South Philly way loves cars even though there is not exactly a lot of room to park. The Old City way worships the protected bicycle lanes and revels in the days that motor traffic is shut down across vast stretches of Philadelphia.
Kenney is not faking any of this to just appease the progressives that make up a large part of his coalition. He is genuine, and he is driven to create a progressive utopia in Philadelphia.
John Dougherty, the head of Philadelphia's building trades, told the reporters that Kenney hasn't forgotten his roots. "He just understands that the world is much bigger than our neighborhood, where I still live."
My hunch is the people who are calling out Kenney at the Mifflin Tavern and Mick Daniels Saloon will not be very welcome in that world.