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Saturday, April 2, 2016

ICON Magazine City Beat Column, April 2016

    City Beat April 2016

If Mayor Kenney gets his way, Philadelphia may have the most expensive soda tax in the world.
Kenney wants to raise the tax to an unprecedented 3 cents per ounce in order to fund that ambiguous money sucking vortex known as “the schools,” namely his pre-K plan for low income students. Philadelphia’s tax on sugary drinks, if approved by City Council, would be the most expensive in the nation, raising the cost of some large bottles by three dollars. Sweetened iced tea will also be affected as well as mixed fruit drinks, which after Kenney’s tax would cost almost 4 dollars a bottle. City Hall is on a major brainwashing campaign to convince the public that Pre-K is essential and worth extra tax dollars. The Mayor’s Office of Communications has been sending out missives announcing endorsements of the sugary drink tax, but we are not impressed by the names on that list.

    Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez wants to provide municipal ID cards for illegal immigrants. These ID cards would provide access to city services; allow illegal immigrants to file police and fire reports, open bank accounts, get gym discounts and museum memberships. Cross the border illegally and you are rewarded a gym membership! It’s about time we broke the law so that we can finally get a coveted Planet Fitness card. Sanchez’s bill has the support of the mayor, who sponsored a similar bill in 2013.  

  A recent headline caught our attention:  30 Vetri Employees Lose Job after Immigration and Background Checks. Marc Vetri sold his Vetri Family business to Urban Outfitters, Inc. in November of 2015, never suspecting that the new owners would discover that 30 of his employees had entered the country illegally and working for his company. Vetri expressed shock at the Urban Outfitters purge and said, "We wish all these workers could continue to work for us.  They're so loyal, and they're hard workers. Some of them have been over to my house, and I bring my kids to their houses for play dates. It's very sad."  


The 2016 Saint Patrick’s Day Parade honored the martyrs of the 1916 Easter Uprising in Dublin.  Jane Duffin, Editor of The Irish Edition, gave us VIP passes to the reviewing stand where we spent 3 hours gazing at the back of Mayor Kenney’s head. The mayor was in front of us at ground level on a single chair, his presence inconspicuous at first. No security detail, no entourage. He blended into the scenery as if he were “Mr. Joe Average,” a far cry from the previous mayor who was always on a public ‘peacock strut.’  Once people discovered the mayor’s whereabouts, shouts of “Hi Jimmy!” filled the air. When a loud ceremonial gun went off, the blast caused Jimmy to lose his balance and fall off his chair. Dazed, he looked in our direction, shook his head and laughed. “I thought for a moment it was an execution firing squad!” he exclaimed, relieved that he wasn’t on the ground. It was ironic that no photographer was present to catch this rare moment, but we saw and heard it all. We like Mayor Kenney’s good humor (despite our criticisms of some of his policies), and were quick to tell him that we would do anything to protect him. 

   We missed the memorial celebration for West Philly artist Joseph Tiberino at Dirty Frank’s although we hear that the bar was so packed a passerby might have thought the drinks were free that day. Artists from all over came to honor a city legend who along with his long deceased wife, Ellen Powell Tiberino, came to be known as “The West Philly Wyeths.” The Ellen Powell Tiberino Memorial Museum was founded in 1999, several years after Ellen Powell’s death from cancer at 54.

The tragic death of Colin McGovern, 24, stabbed to death in Rittenhouse Square during a fight over a hockey hat, should be a warning to students who like to ‘bar hop’ through Center City in drunken groups. McGovern was with friends at 3 AM when he said something provocative to 40 year old Steven E. Simminger because he didn’t like the hat he was wearing. Simminger did not take the high road, said something back, and then the two wound up fighting until McGovern wound up dead. Moral: Urban psychopaths  come in many guises, so its wise to curtail beer-fueled snarky comments when you come across a solitary misfit in your travels. Expect the unexpected if you throw caution to the wind.