Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Councilman Clarke's LOVE Park

Councilman Darrell Clarke is perhaps best known for his district's acres of inexplicably vacant land and surface parking lots. He has a knack for getting re-elected largely by pitting wars between yuppies pushing lofty condos into his turf and blocks of subsidized residents.

He's a dick. But in American politics, being a dick wins elections.

Why is Philadelphia's favorite building, the Divine Lorraine, still vacant? Ask Clarke. But despite being a thorn in the ass of every private developer who wants a piece of his domain, his latest proposal is a complete departure from the man's effort to keep his neighborhoods looking like the opening scene from Trading Places.

Or so it would seem.

Clarke's LOVE Park

With a Chicago company's recent bid for the LOVE Park parking garage, renovation of the park above is still up in the air. Adorned with the city's Christmas Village, the park is a wonderful place. But eleven months out of the year, LOVE Park is a hobo camp dotted with European tourists wondering what that smell is.

It's Philadelphia, Björn. That smell is Philadelphia.

Clarke's plan wouldn't just clean up the park, it would turn the park's management over to his arch nemesis: Private Investors. Clarke sees a LOVE Park, with its lavish fountain and Robert Indiana's iconic LOVE sculpture, surrounded by seven indoor and outdoor restaurants, cafes, and bars.

It's a fantastic vision. With numerous Parkway improvements in place and a reborn Dilworth Plaza on the horizon, LOVE Park is really the last piece in the Renaissance between City Hall and the Philadelphia Museum of Art. It's a great idea, but in Clarke's hands, will we see it?

Clarke is the heir apparent to the Mayor's office. In an all but one-party town like Philadelphia, primary elections determine our mayor. And since only seven people with half a brain bother to vote in those primaries, our city's Democratic party essentially appoints the victor. The Republican party on the other hand doesn't bother sending a worthy adversary to the arbitrary debates. I mean why send your A-game to a fight just to stamp "loser" on their resume?

However, the Philadelphia that has kept Clarke in office since 1999 isn't the same Philadelphia it was a decade and a half ago, particularly in Center City, Northern Liberties, South Philadelphia, and University City. The city is growing, and those moving to the city are educated, informed, and some even know the difference between a Philadelphia Republican and Ted Cruz.

Clarke's plan, if it ever comes to fruition, is certainly exciting. But the plan itself is Poli Sci 101. It's a sophomoric effort to grab some publicity outside his depressed and struggling part of town, an effort that many new voters can smell as easily as that weird poop smell coming up from the cracks between the unglued tiles of LOVE Park.

We likely won't see seven restaurants gracing LOVE Park within the next year and the mayoral election is less than two years away. If Clarke can glide this high into the Mayor's office, will he return to his worn ways and abandon his experiment, or will he cater to the broader scope of the whole city and fulfill the obligations he's laying out?

1 comment:

  1. "He's a dick. But in American politics, being a dick wins elections."

    Best. Quote. Ever.