Busy Signal

By Tim Whitaker
Add Comment Add Comment | Comments: 3 | Posted Jul. 4, 2007

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Not since Mayor Frank Rizzo got caught up in a bribery controversy and flunked a lie detector test he said would prove his innocence has there been a mayoral moment as disturbingly clownish as the one we witnessed last week.

That of course would be the spectacle of Mayor Street sitting in a lawn chair waiting to buy an iPhone.

"I'm a gadget guy," Street told reporters.

He's also, with all due respect, a nitwit guy.


Buffoonery of this magnitude attracts attention, including national media, which naturally thrives on stories about public figures who act in ways most would consider less than rational.

That proved the case last week.

The Associated Press reported Street's iPhone stakeout in generally lighthearted detail. It quoted nearby bystanders who both defended and ridiculed Street's decision to wait in line.

No harm, no foul, right?

Well, no. When readers reached the end of the AP story they were greeted with this disquieting closer: "Philadelphia recently had its 200th slaying of the year. The city's murder rate is up from last year, the deadliest in nearly a decade."

And that's the point.

The mayor doesn't get it.

Doesn't get that how you walk and how you talk matters. Perception is reality, and reputations--ours as a city, for one--are at stake when you act weird.


In recent months Street has been getting banged but good by most everyone who makes a living working a keyboard. It's been a journalistic pile-on.

The criticisms cover a wide terrain. But they all circle back to the mayor's perceived remoteness and isolation from the affairs of the city. Some feel he doesn't seem appropriately concerned about the violence in the city.

"I believe the fact that we are a country at war has something to do with the attitude of people in the streets," Street told the Daily News in January. "Let me tell you, it's not just this city. I have seen it everywhere and I've talked to people a lot about it."

Like that. Weird.


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