Friday, June 7, 2013

Dust Settles at 22nd and Market and the Storm Begins

As the dust settles at 22nd and Market, the fallout is spreading through Center City. Sean Benschop was the crane operator at the site and tested positive for marijuana and pain killers at the time of the accident, and will likely be charged with six counts of involuntary manslaughter.

The straight dope is that Benschop shouldn't have been driving a crane at the time. But Philadelphia's seemingly run by as many unfit criminals as it employs, and every city agency remotely tied to this disaster is doing everything in their power to deflect the spotlight from their own role in the collapse.

L&I has been on damage control shutting down Rosewood, a new bar all the way across town near 13th and Walnut because it employed Griffin Campbell Construction, the same contractor demolishing 22nd and Market. It's a cheap way for L&I to say, "look, we're doing our jobs," despite the fact that they not only granted Griffin Campbell a demolition permit on West Market Street, but didn't shut down the site after calls about the unsafe conditions were placed to Philadelphia's 311 non-emergency service.

L&I made various claims regarding the 311 calls, from confusion over the address reported to simply verifying that the site did indeed hold the permits that they themselves granted. Philadelphia's big, but it's not as if a misplaced digit in the 2100 block of West Market Street could cause confusion over the location of the site. So many demolition projects aren't taking place on Market Street that those in charge of safeguarding our addresses would be scratching their heads and saying, "Huh?" In fact, it's the only demolition project actively taking place on Center City's Market Street anywhere.

That's obvious, of course, which is likely why as soon as people starting pointing their fingers at L&I, L&I swooped in and shut down a loosely connected business. Of course, let's not forget that L&I is the sole organization that licensed these creeps in the first place. Maybe it's time to shut down L&I, a difficult endeavor when they're responsible for shutting things down. After five years in office, have Nutter's balls drops?

Not likely. City Hall is doing it's own damage control, and it's perhaps even more opportunistic than L&I's. After all, L&I is just covering their ass. But City Hall is full of politicians, more callous and criminal that any pot smoking crane operator. 

Clarke is playing politics the old fashioned way, one voters in this city seem to routinely ignore. He's proposed a 10% tax on vacant property owners. If you don't know anything about Councilman Clarke you might be thinking, "Great!" But if you're reading this, you're likely familiar with the fact that Clarke presides over one of the most blighted wards full of property hoarding slumlords, and it's a common perception that he does everything in his power to keep it that way, including allowing the Divine Lorraine to be all but sold for scrap.

So why would Clarke want to slap a 10% tax on his most powerful constituents? Well he already proposed the idea more than a decade ago and it was never enforced because (for reasons I can't figure out) it's not legal. In other words, Clarke knows the proposed tax will fail and so do his cronies, so he sit back and tell his voters, "Hey, I tried, blame bureaucracy."

It's a cheap political tactic that City Hall has been peddling since the beginning of time and for some reason it still works here. Street did the same thing when he openly opposed the smoking ban, telling business owners and the lingering smokers he was looking out for them while everyone knew it was inevitable.

We expect these games when we're talking about unions or business licenses, but when politicians use the tragic death of six people for their own gain, it's beyond disrespectful. It's detached and sick.

Meanwhile City Council hasn't said one word about L&I's role in the tragedy, and likely won't, at least not yet. That doesn't mean the aftershock won't find its way to all responsible. L&I's infrastructure is about as stable as 22nd and Market and City Hall still operates under the delusion that its voters still buy print journalism.

The whole story is surfacing and those responsible don't even see it. L&I will have to do a little more than shut down one bar and City Hall will have to do more than charge one crane operator with the whole disaster to save face, they're going to have to step up and admit their roles, and the administration will have no choice but to act.

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