Tuesday, June 27, 2006


Longtime South African Parliament anti-apartheid leader Helen Suzman has died at the age of 91. She served in the South African Parliament, gamely fighting apartheid legislation, usually all by herself from the early 1950's until her retirement in 1989.When Nelson Mandela became President of South Africa, he found various ways to give her the recognition for her lifetime of courageous leadership that she deserved.I remember reading about first her about the same time I was reading Alan Paton's novel, Cry the Beloved Country, as a high school student. The most haunting words of that novel--"We are caught in the toils of our selfishness"--a character repeated over and over again reminded me of the difficulty she had in fighting for the rights of the overwhelmingly black South African majority at a time in which they did not have the right to vote or many of the other rights that others took for granted at that time.Her eloquent speeches of dissent were heard with immediate effect, but they served to gradually tear down the resistance to equality over time. When the South African government worked out a transition plan to turn South Africa over to the winners of poopular elections in which all citizens could vote, she deserved a good share of the credit for making that day possible.

January 1, 2009



This morning, Rep. John Sabatina and I joined Lawncrest Community Association President Bill Dolbow, Councilwoman Marian Tasco, Police Commissioner Charles Ramsay, and numerous police and civic activists, in dedicating a plaque in honor of Gottlob Klemmer. Bob Pantano of WOGL was the leader of the ceremony, and music was provided by the Philadelphia Police and Fire Pipe and Drums. Snacks were provided by IBEW Local 98, as they have done for other dedications.Patrolman Klemmer, who immigrated to the United States from Germany when he was ten years old, was shot in the line of duty on Tuesday, January 14, 1919, and died as a result of the debilitating effects of those injuries on September 11, 1927, at the age of 53.Because of the lag time between his shooting and his death, Patrolman Klemmer was not on the original Fraternal Order of Police list of police killed in the line of duty. This ceremony was held, with the enthusiastic support of the FOP and the Lawncrest Community Association, after research by Councilwoman Marian Tasco's office demonstrated that his death was directly caused by his shooting. The will next year officially put him on the list of police killed in the line of duty at a ceremony in which other recent police victims will be added.Numerous police organizations support the honoring of slain police in this fashion. Backers of the plaque dedication program, initiated by attroney James Binns, include American Legion Police Post 937, Custodes Pacis, FOP Senior Citizens, Inc., Hellenic-American Law Enforcement Society, International German American Police Association, League of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, Legion of Cornelius, National Organization of Black Law Enforcement Executives, National Organization of Black Women in Law Enforcement, Philadelphia Emerald Society, Polish Police Association of Philadelphia, Retired Police, Fire & Prison Guard Association, School Police Association, Shomrim of Philadephia and the Delaware Valley, and the Spanish American Law Enforcement Association.Klemmer left a wife, Catherine, and two children, Karl and Ruth. They produced a substantial family between them, a good number of whom were represented at the ceremony.The Hero Plaque program was inititated by attorney James Binns, who spoke eloquently of the police contribution to Philadelphia at the Klemmer dedication. I believe today represented the 60th plaque dedication for a Philadelphia police officer (the 18th this year). A total of 280 police have tragically lost their lives as a result of on duty injuries.Dan Gleason, the husband of my late aide Pamela Gleason, was killed on duty in North Philadelphia in 1986, near the North Philadelphia welfare office and the North Philadelphia train station. Then-Secretary of Welfare Walter Cohen (no relation to me, but a cousin of Chamber of Commerce President David L. Cohen), placed a plaque and a small garden in front of the welfare office in Officer Gleason's memory.The Hero Plaque Program is scheduled to have a dedication in Officer Gleason's memory next year. That event is being coordinated by Northeast Times reporter Tom Waring, who has been in touch with surviving members of the Gleason family, now mostly located in the King of Prussia area.

October 21, 2008



Former Inquirer editorial page editor Ed Guthman, who served in that position from 1977 to 1987, died Sunday of amyloidosis at the age of 89. (His successor as Inquirer editorial page editor was David Boldt, now retired and living and blogging in Bolivia.)Guthman began the practice of the Inquirer making endorsements in primary elections. Previously, the Inquirer had just made endorsements in general elections.Among the first group of people that the Inquirer endorsed Guthman's leadership in 1977 was Ed Rendell, then a candidate for District Attorney running against incumbent D.A. Emmett Fitzpatrick. Rendell won, of course.Among the first group of City Council candidates that the Inquirer endorsed was my father, David Cohen, who defeated three incumbent City Council members to win the Democratic primary for City Councilman at Large in 1979.Guthman's editorials often took an angry tone, but he was genuinely motivated for a better Philadelphia.Guthman was best known as a Pulitzer Prize winning journalist (he salvaged the reputation of a professor and ethicist Melvin Rader falsely of enrolling in a summer school for aspiring communists), and as a longtime aide to Attorney General and U.S. Senator Robert F. Kennedy. He met Robert Kennedy when both were doing investigations of corruption in the Teamsters Union, he for his longtime employer the Seattle Times, and Kennedy for a U.S. Senate committee. His first book about the Kennedys, We Band of Brothers, was a national best seller, and three other books on Robert Kennedy followed. Guthman left Senator Kennedy to become editor of the Nashville Tennesseean.After leaving Philadelphia at the age of 68, Guthman began a long-term career as a journalism professor at the University of California in Los Angeles, calling on alumni of the Inquirer and other newspapers to address his students from time to time. He also became a civic activist there, helping start the Los Angeles Ethics Commission, and successfully pushing for the school built on the site of Senator Kennedy's assassination to be named after him. He built up a wide groups of friends in Los Angeles, who honored his contributions to the city last December.His Inquirer obituary today is entitled "An Unwavering Servant of Nation and Journalism," a good and useful summary of his career and his life.



I was able attend her funeral this afternoon at Goldstein's Rosenberg Raphael-Sacks, and the large room in which it was held had virtually every seat filled and a dozen or more mourners standing. Judi Eden was one of the more prominent of a large number of Philadelphians who devote themselves to the welfare of our city. She wanted to get things done, and didn't particularly care about the getting any credit, at times preferring to avoid any resentments by not getting any credit at all for her efforts.I pre-eminently knew her through her relationship to other people: she was at times a key campaign aide to Representative Babette Josephs, a valued adviser on center city development and the interests of center city residents to Councilman David Cohen, and the self-proclaimed "unofficial campaign manager" to City Councilman Darrell Clarke, and the mother of active journalist (the Forward, and the Jewish Telegraphic Agency) Ami Eden. She was a John Street appointee to the Zoning Board, and a Michael Nutter appointee to the commission looking at developing a new zoning code.But the woman from Defiance, Ohio, I learned today, was not only active in wildly diverse arenas--the arts, and gay rights, the Philadelphia bar association and committees dealing with zoning law, the Jewish community and her synagogue, her own center city neighborhood and the world of local neighborhood organizations--but was also an extremely loving and attentive mother, mother-in-law, grandmother, and friend who took into her household occasional young people without a secure, happy homelife and constantly enriched and supported the lives of her entire family and wide circle of friends.She took great joy, her husband Avi said, in bringing people from different strands of her life together--such as when she provided her home as a venue and detailed guidance to the Street Administration and domestic partnership advocates in working out a meaningful compromise. People on both sides of this issue, Avi Eden noted, were at her funeral.She even--in her most difficult diplomatic task--Avi Eden joked, got John Street and Michael Nutter together on occasion. Mayor Nutter attended the funeral, as did Sharif Street.She died of cancer at the age of 61, and chose not to fight it, not to negotiate with God for a little bit more time, but to get on with her life and live it as best as she could without letting the fact that she was dying of cancer dominate her household, her friends, and family. The last two weeks of her life were spent welcoming a large number of visitors from all over the country who came to say to goodbye and relive old times.Center city is better, Avi Eden noted, for the innovations she pushed as a citizen activist and zoning board member. Outdoor dining was one of her casuses, and stores on the first floor of parking garages was another one.She was an active force behind the creation of SCRUB, the organization headed by Mary Tracy which taken a lot of zoning issues into the courts.



Sam Evans, one of the most interesting people I ever met and certainly the oldest friend I ever had, died yesterday at the age of 105. His death received front-page coverage in the Sunday Inquirer, a tribute that Evans, a consistent media-basher would have appreciated.The Inquirer obituary, available at philly.com, tries to place Evans life in the context of his times. That is an especially difficult task for a man who was born early in the administration of Theodore Roosevelt--who stirred national controversy by inviting black leader Booker T. Washington to the White House--and died during the Presidential campaign of Barack Obama.Evans was a tall black man of regal and enviable bearing, and he was throughout his life a leader. Sometimes it was fair to call him a black leader, and other times he was just a leader. Increasingly, he focused on international issues, attempting to mobilize support in the U.N. for worthwhile goals, something the Inquirer does not mention.The Inquirer does detail his rise from poverty in Philadelphia, from steel worker to janitor to piano player to concert impressario to politician to civil rights leader to government official to foundation leader.2008 is the 40th anniversary of Evans' 65th Birthday. In the 1960's, Evans returned to the Democratic Party (where he had a position promoting physical fitness; the Inquirer's description of his job is far less sweeping than Evans' own description) from the Republican Party, where he had gotten a position on the State Athletic Commission.The 1960's were the decade that most put Evans on the political map as a key organizer of about one-sixth of the total of people who attended Martin Luther King's March on Washington, as a leader of President Johnson's election campaign in Pennsylvania, a leader in Mayor James Tate's re-election campaign,a leader of the city's anti-poverty program, and head of the city's program for the Bicentennial celebration to be held in 1976.Evans deserves credit for helping popularize the concept of the block captain as a key civic leader, and building career ladders for blacks from positions ranging from law school and medical school entrants (he developed extra weekend classes, attended by Michael Nutter and many others) to the position of Mayor of Philadelphia (he helped push the hiring of the first black managing director).He went back and forth between racial advocacy and advocacy for the citizens as a whole, supporting politicians of various races at various times, seeking a balance of interests in his own mind and then trying to sell that balance to others. His last active participation in a contested mayoral campaign was for Sam Katz against John Street.He will be missed by many people for his insights, orginality, and humanity."Always think BIG," he told me. "Don't just try to solve small problems; try to solve big problems." Evans lived up to that standard decade after decade, and well deserves the accolades and critical attention he is and will continue to be getting. Anyone looking for a book or dissertation topic on the city of Philadelphia could well consider looking at studying his life.

June 15, 2008



I knew Paul Washington somewhat, and he was a close friend of my father.Paul Washington was a great man, always alert to the possibility of injustice, always inclusive, always seeking to lead to better ways to do things.His most significant achievement may well have been his key role in the ordination of women as Episcopal priests when that was considered a highly radical thing to do. He was always more concerned about being right than being respectable.He was involved in many social movements designed to help low-income people in general and to rebuild North Philadelphia in particular. The growing sense that the area has value--and that the people there have value--would greatly please him. Adding his name to the existing name a few blocks around the church he helped make nationally famous is a fitting tribute to his leadership and his character.

September 17, 2007



Lady Bird Johnson, the widow of President Lyndon Baines Johnson, and one of an ever-diminishing number of living links to the Great Society goals of that administration, died today at 94.Although their marriage was sometimes strained, she was an active advisor to her husband, and a strong public supporter of the initiatives of his administration in numerous areas. She played an important role in his rise from Congressional aide to U.S. Senate Majority Leader, and helped make the family owned television station a profitable venture. She supported his decision to retire in 1968 after he did poorly in polls and the New Hampshire primary,She was best known for her highway beautification efforts; she succeeded in reducing the number of billboards on interstate highways. She was able to protect her two daughters, Luci and Lynda, from the sometimes destructive effects of too much publicity and celebrity. Her son-in-law Charles Robb served as Governor and Senator from Virginia until his re-election defeat in 2000.

July 12, 2007



Jim Capozzola, a pioneer Philadelphia blogger at the Rittenhouse Review and other blogs (he also had a blog denouncing ex-Communist, ex-Black Panther backer turned reactionary Republican David Horowitz), has died at 44.You can find as many obituaries as you able to read without too many tears in your eyes at PhillyFuture and by googling his name. A kind, decent, and friendly man, he was a liberal Bush-basher who mainly focused on other things, a gay man with many woman friends, a former Wall Streeter who struggled at odd jobs and most recently at a P.R. job to make ends meet, a sickly man who lacked the money for good medical care, a man with political ambitions (he eyed the Democratic nomination against Arlen Specter in 2004) who active in Chuck Pennachio's campaign to get the Democratic nomination in competition with Robert Casey in 2006.One of the first regular bloggers on the Philadelphia scene--he started just a week or so before Duncan Black started Eschaton--he encouraged many others by his character, skill, and graceful writing. I did not know him personally, but I read his work from time to time, and deeply admire him for who he was and how he influenced others to speak the truth as they see it with his indomitable mixture of candor and grace.He founded the Rittenhouse Review in April, 2002, and made his last post in March, 2007. His five years of blogging will be read and studied, laughed at and cried about, for many years to come.

July 3, 2007



Gene Mansdoerfer, 94, a resident of Lawndale since 2001 and a resident of Olney from his birth in 1912 until 2001, died on May 24, 2007 and was laid to rest at Crescentville United Methodist Church, at Hasbrook Avenue and Sentner Streets, on Friday, June 1, 2007.I knew Gene for over 30 years. He was the patriarch of the Olney neighborhood, the man who had led just about every organization there from the Tabor Rifle Club to the Big Four Fathers Association to the annual Fourth of July observance. The program for his funeral services listed roughly three dozen Olney-based organizations that had given him an award.In an era that was increasingly one of transience and short-term commitments, Gene was a man who personified roots. Even as old man, he made long-term commitments, quietly contributing to make his church handicapped accessible and to get new stained glass windows. A longtime lay Methodist leader, he was a member of three local Methodist churches in his lifetime, and as a teenager helped set up the seating for the opening dedication ceremony of the church in which his funeral services would held 80 years later.The son of a German immigrant who emigrated to Olney shortly before he was born, Gene variously supported himself as a wallpaperer (a now-rare occupation he had in common with my grandfather, uncles, and a couple of cousins), a newsstand operator, and as a court crier. He retired under pressure from the latter position when he was a vigorous 77 or 78.About ten years ago, I complimented Gene on how well he looked and how active he remained. "I am not going anywhere," he said.To many people today, "I am not going anywhere" would be a statement of failure. To Gene, it was the epitome of the way he led his life.From time to time, Gene's life intersected with politics. He was an active supporter of Dwight D. Eisenhower's presidential campaigns, and was the senior former political candidate in my legislative district, having run as a Republican nominee for State Representative in 1954 and 1956, and as a Republican nominee for district councilman in 1959.His pre-eminent purpose in politics was the same as the pre-eminent purpose for which he devoted his life: helping others. He made it his business to get to know and lobby for community purposes the Democratic elected officials who carried Olney with increasing regularity over the years, even as he maintained his Republican credentials by dutifully signing nomination petitions for the no-chance Republicans who opposed them.He liked Councilwoman Marian Tasco, me, and a variety of other elected officials, but Mayor Frank Rizzo was his special hero. He identified with Rizzo's status as the son of an immigrant, a man who devoted nearly three decades to the Philadelphia Police Department, a man who gave a lot of help to others, a man with a genuine and humorous earthy charisma.One of his eulogizers categorized the various attendees by occupation at a 1975 dinner attended by 600 people giving Gene an award as "Mr. Olney" and then added that Frank Rizzo was there and ended prolonged applause and serenading of Gene by urging the ceremonies to begin. The timing of the event was likely influenced by Gene's desire to give Rizzo a friendly non-political audience of his friends as Rizzo faced a tough Democratic primary against State Senator Lou Hill, the stepson of former Mayor Richardson Dilworth and the candidate of Democratic Party Chairman Peter Camiel.Gene's deep, genuine, and extraordinarily rare devotion to the people of Olney has a legacy in his daughter Jean Pleis, who is now the publisher of the Olney Times, a community newspaper that goes back to the 1880's. It was Jean's moving to nearby Lawndale, and her willingness to serve as her father's caretaker, that led Gene to move to Lawndale in 2001. I would see Gene and Jean together at meetings of the Lawncrest Civic Association and Friends of Tacony Park as Gene was well past 90.Both the Inquirer and Daily News wrote detailed obituaries about Gene. They can be found for a while at http://www.philly.com/inquirer/obituaries/7780801.html and http://www.philly.com/dailynews/obituaries/7739412.html. Although Gene exemplified the best of Olney's civic virtues, his extraordinary devotion to the welfare of others stands out beyond the context in which he lived. I will think of him as the Last of the Great Volunteers, and I doubt I will ever meet his equal in passion for community service again.

June 2, 2007



Ray Shafer, Pennsylvania's Last Liberal Republican Governor, Dies At 89

Factionalism in politics is generally a fact of life. But sometimes the labeling is absurd. When right-wingers attack "liberal" Republicans today, they are often attacking backers of Barry Goldwater, Ronald Reagan, and Newt Gingrich.
Today, Pennsylvania's most prominent Rockefeller Republican died. Calling Ray Shafer, Governor of Pennsylvania from 1967 through 1971, a Rockefeller Republican is not name calling: he placed Rockefeller in nomination at the 1968 Republican National Convention, and then served on his staff when Rockefeller served as Vice-President under President Gerald Ford (1974-1977).
I never met Ray Shafer, but he appointed me to his Youth Advisory Council at the recommendation of Lieutenant Governor Ray Broderick, a New Deal lawyer with my father and mother in the Rural Electrification Administration. The Youth Advisory Council did not do much that I recall (I remember chairing a subcommittee meeting or two on now-forgotten subjects) but it was typical of Shafer's desire to reach out to dissident voices in the Vietnam War era.
Shafer was, in a sense, the Manchurian candidate of Pennsylvania liberalism. He campaigned relentlessly across the state throughout his one term in the state senate and one term as lieutenant governor, generally mouthing platitudes. He came from a rural, rock-ribbed Republican area. In his state senate term, he did not give a single speech on the floor of the Senate. Who would have guessed that his silence, generally assumed to be consent, masked profound differences with Republican orthodoxy?
His 1966 gubernatorial campaign against former cable television entrepreneur Milton Shapp--then a novelty as the first to defeat an entrenched party organization with an expensive self-funded media campaign--was overshadowed to a large degree by negative tactics against Shapp by the Philadelphia Inquirer, other media, and the Republican Party. "It's Safer With Shafer," was his slogan.
With the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, the death of his original running mate--former Attorney General and gubernatorial candidate Walter Alessandroni, tragically killed in a plane crash in young middle age--was symptomatic of how he would make decisions. He called various Republican leaders, and asked for their recommendations. He then chose my father's friend Broderick, one of the most liberal Republicans one could find. He chose Broderick, however, in the name of east/west ticket balancing, and maintaining good relations with the Philadelphia Republican party leadership.
Shafer was the Mikhail Gorbachev of Pennsylvania's Republican Party. Step by step, he led it away from where it had been and into the vanguard of progressive leadership. Republicans started ridiculing him as the cartoon character Dudley Doright. But he persevered, staking out position after position far to the left of the Republican Party and occasionally to the left of the Democratic Party.
Legislative Democrats were also frustrated by him. Having positioned themselves as the modern 20th century party eager to solve the problems of the day, they were stunned to find a man they had considered to be a troglodyte in an empty suit agressively fighting on their turf. They wanted him to either deliver Republican votes to provide funds for the programs he was publicly advocating, or to stop what they considered to be posturing.
Shafer sometimes was able to provide money to go with rhetoric, as spending for education and welfare skyrocketed. But, all too often, he was caught in a political no-man's land between the Democrats whom he fundamentally agreed with on the vast majority of the issues and the Republicans who put him in office, whom he disagreed with on the vast majority of the issues.
When his term expired as Governor, he angled unsuccessfully for a federal judgeship and agreed to chair a national commission on drug policy, which recommended the legalization of marijuana. His years as a Rockefeller staff member were low-key, as was the rest of his life. He headed a small corporation for a time, and then worked for a Washington acccounting firm, dispensing legal and political advice to corporate clients.
He served a brief stint as President of his alma mater, Allegheny College, in which capacity he sent his only post-gubernatorial letter to the legislature on a matter of university concern. As I write this today, I deeply regret that I did not pick up the telephone and have a conversation with him.
He stayed away from Harrisburg, and stayed away from the state Republican Party. He had not only burned his state Republican bridges; he had nuclear bombed them.
Milton Shapp succeed him as Governor with the slogan "Now You Know: It's Really Safer With Shapp." Shapp though pursued progressive policies with the same sense of indirection that Shafer had employed, making it more difficult to mobilize public support behind him. But Shapp had Democratic majorities behind him, and thus got far more done than Shafer had.
Former Pennsylvania Governors tend to fade into obscurity after a while, and the passionate debates about the policies they pursued tend to be forgotten as well.
But Ray Shafer deserves to be remembered. In an era in which the Republican Party is seen increasingly as a party of right-wing extremists, Shafer stands as a symbol of the road not taken. Had Rockefeller been elected President in 1968, and appointed Shafer to a major position, certainly the politics of the 1960's and 1970's would have been quite different.
What Shafer and Rockefeller basically stood for was the concept of two progressive parties, competing on the basis of who could do more for the public. That concept is dead today. With Shafer's death, its small band of adherents has shrunk even more.
As far as I know, Shafer never apologized for his term as Governor, and never expressed regrets. All he did was to follow the example of his early career, and retreat to a prudent silence. As the saying goes, you have not converted a man because you have silenced him.

December 12, 2006



City Councilman David Cohen Valued Victims, Despised Stereotypes

A year ago today, my father, Philadelphia City Councilman at Large David Cohen died six weeks short of his 91st birthday. He died in the last hours of Jewish year 5755, and several people recalled the old Hasidic folktale that dying on the last day of a year is a sign of righteousness.
David Cohen was obsessed with doing the right thing. He ran for office 11 times (19 times counting primaries separately), and the only public opinion poll he ever authorized was to determine whether to withdraw from a mayoral race in favor of a more moderate candidate. The idea that one should poll to determine what positions to emphasize or favor was repugnant to him.
He wanted a world without victims. A Philadelphia Congressman once called him the greatest labor lawyer in Pennsylvania. He legally represented more people in the Philadelphia traffic court than any elected official ever. He was against rigid deadlines that he knew some people could not meet when it was necessary for government to do anything. He did not believe in getting along to go along. He broke with his family's tradition of Republicanism and his own initial inclinations to back Franklin D. Roosevelt for President in 1932. Given a high ranking legal staff position in the Rural Electrification Administration in 1938, he quickly immersed himself in solving the problems of his fellow REA workers and was shortly elected to a nonpaid position as a union local President.
Having attended high school with African-Americans, he recoiled at the segregation in Washington, D.C. and joined legal and other organizations--and protest demonstrations--committed to civil rights in the 1930's and 1940's.
Returning to Philadelphia after working for the REA in Washington, D.C. and St. Louis; the CIO in St. Louis; the U.S. Army, where he was a staff seargeant, in the South Pacific; and progressive unions in New York City, he actively engaged in both building up the Democratic Party in a once-Republican stronghold and in protecting the rights of communities and minorities of all kinds.
When the Democrats in 1964 attempted to nominate for the U.S. a brilliant and generally progressive state supreme court justice who just happened to be a notorious red-baiter, he recoiled a this violation of his rule that government should not create victims.
Incredibly, the race for the Democratic nomination for U.S. Senator was so close that his decision was a decisive factor in the opposition candidate's--Genevieve Blatt-- narrow 400 vote statewide primary victory; his recommendation to voters in his election division led her to carry his election division by something like 149 to 17 while she was generally losing the surrounding areas. He added to his help to her by joining her legal defense team to preserve her victory.
Armed with a strong sense of personal efficacy, he tried unsuccessfully to draft a friend to run for District Attorney and ran him self for Democratic Wardleader of the 17th Ward (he was to serve over 39 years in this position) and the Philadelphia City Council (he was to serve 29 out of the last 38 years of his life there).
One of the key tests of lawyers is that they should be good at issue-spotting, and few were better at it than he was. He was against unfair treatment of police personnel and against police brutality, for instance. He was against mandatory retirement and against cutting pensions.
He was against watching too much television and against allowing politics to block the development of Philadelphia cable TV channels. He was against keeping minorities out of neighborhoods and against scaring white people out of neighborhoods. He was against excluding anyone from access to political decision-making.
One of the joys of writing for the Daily Kos is catching up with people scattered around the country who knew him in some capacity at some time. He is widely missed as a caring and deeply responsible man whose devotion to others and to his conception of the common good was extraordinarily intense.

October 3, 2006



Emily Sunstein, a bipartisan reformer who played key roles in mayoral campaigns of Joseph Clark, Richardson Dilworth, Arlen Specter, and Bill Green, and the gubernatorial campaign of Milton Shapp, died at the age of 82 on Saturday April 21 of complications of an auto immune disease at Thomas Jefferson University Hospital.
She became active in the Philadelphia Democratic Party in 1947, when the fiery, eloquent, and articulate Richardson Dilworth was the Democratic candidate for Mayor, in a campaign managed by future Mayor of Philadelphia and U.S. Senator Joseph Clark.At that time, while the Democrats had won numerous Philadelphia elections for state legislative and Congressional offices--and even had a U.S. Senator from Philadelphia (Francis J. Myers, later the Democratic Majority Whip who was succeed by Sen. Lyndon B. Johnson and head of the Redevelopment Authority)--they had been shut out of mayoral elections by a combination of the machine trading of favors (some legitimate, some not) for votes and outright vote stealing. Dilworth's campaign awakened Philadelphia, and began the building of a strong Democratic coalition between party regulars, political independents, organized labor, newspapers, and moderate to progressive elements of the business community. Sunstein and her fellow reformers in the Southeast Pennsylvania Chapter of the Americans for Democratic Action reveled in the relatively unalloyed idealism of Joe Clark, were frustrated at the greater pragmatism of Richardson Dilworth, and grew to actively hate what they perceived (with a mixture of truth and neglecting of evidence to the contrary, in my judgment) as the transaction by transaction, pedestrian leadership of Dilworth's mayoral successor James Tate.Stunned that massive liberal defections from Tate were not enough to elect District Attorney Arlen Specter against Tate in 1967, and frustrated that the effect of the liberal defections was to push Tate to the right and towards the active embracing of ADA target Frank Rizzo as his mayoral successor, the ADA actively worked to draft Congressman Bill Green to run for Mayor in 1971, despite the ADA's active opposition to his late father's leadership of the Democratic City Committee.Sunstein and her ADA allies succeeded in getting Green into the mayoral race, but were frustrated that many voters preferred either newly minted State Representative and former assistant City Solicitor Hardy Williams in his bid to become Philadelphia's first black mayor, or preferred my father, David Cohen, a "Young Turk" City Councilman from Northwest Philadelphia who was deeply involved in numerous city issues, as their mayoral choice. Green's claim to be the "winnable" anti-Rizzo candidate was frustrated by Green's reluctance to actively distinguish himself from Rizzo enough to please many voters, and by an active effort the Daily News, black radio stations WDAS and WHAT, and elements of the Rizzo camp to promote Williams as the Rizzo alternative.After Rizzo's decisive victory over Green, ultimately his one-term successor--despite Green's polling showing a neck and neck race--Sunstein became deeply frustrated. Her obituary notes her 1967 quote warning of "the ominous polarization that is threatening Philadelphia;" this accurately describes her motivation for her strong support of Green, for two years the Democratic City Chairman, whose Kennedyesqe eloquence inspired many across racial lines.The energies of four failed mayoral campaigns--Green's, Williams', Republican nominee Thacher Longstreth's, and Cohen's (he withdrew for Green about ten days before the primary and later headed Democrats for Longstreth)--created a lot of focus on Philadelphia elections in 1972, but clearly showed the factional and ideological differences in the Democratic Party.The last political statement from Sunstein that I recall was a letter to the national ADA newspaper, sent sometime around 1972, where she accused liberal Philadelphia Democrats of dividing "a fantasy pie." She dramatically underestimated the solid usefulness and the political good that would ultimately come from the various reform efforts focused on local politics. But her worries about the dangers of factions splitting up the progressive vote certainly have echoes in this year's Democratic mayoral primary.Her frustration with Philadelphia politics after 35 years of steady civic effort led her to biographical writing about early feminist Mary Wollstonecraft (whose criticisms of the role of women in her 1792 book A Vindication of the Rights of Women were strongly echoed two hundred years later) and her daughter Mary Shelley, the author of the novel Frankenstein, or the Modern Prometheus in 1818 and the second wife of the great romantic poet Percy Bysshe Shelley.Her books won national and international acclaim and established their author as both a great biographer and a thinker of substance and vision. Her interest in feminism was perhaps strengthened by her early association in the Clark-Dilworth reform movement with 1980's National Organization of Women President Molly Yard Garrett.I knew her husband Leon slightly as a fellow board member of the Philadelphia chapter of the American Jewish Committee, but I have no recollection of ever meeting her. I know from her public record and the words of others, however, that she left a very deep and continuing imprint on the public life of Philadelphia and beyond. U.S. Senator Arlen Specter, for instance, might never have been elected District Attorney without her active mobilizing of Americans for Democratic Action behind his candidacy.



The death of the police officer in Reading, and the recent death of Officer Skerski less than a mile east of the current border of my district, bring back memories of the murder of Patrolman Dan Gleason in North Philadelphia.Dan Gleason, a father of six, was a friend of mine. His wife, Pamela Gleason was a very active community, political and church leader who worked in my district office until she finally gave birth to enough children to end her prodigious ability to both work and raise children.Dan was killed 20 years ago this June. A marker honoring him stands outside the welfare office in North Philadelphia near where he was killed. Even more tragically, several years after his death, his resilient widow, seeking to find a suitable stepfather for her children, was killed when her date got into an automobile accident with her in the car. The Philadelphia City Council unanimously passed a bill amending the city's pension law giving her orphan children their father's pension.Any killing is wrong and leaves an irreplaceable vacuum in many people's hearts. The killing of a policeman is even worse because it sends a message of fear and helplessness throughout the communities involved.Serving as a police officer takes great courage. All police should be provided with bulletproof vests, training, backup and job assignments that maximizes their chances of serving safely.

August 6, 2006



Life is unfair, President Kennedy was famously quoted as saying. No one suffered as much from the unfairness that life is capable of than Sally McIntrye. She gave her life to serving others and ultimately lived and died in desperate poverty.I first met Sally when she was a community leader in the northeastern part of the Logan section of my district: that is to say the area south of Tabor Road and east of Broad Street. She was a fiery leader, mobilized in part by COACT--Community Organizations Acting Together--a foundation funded coalition staffed by Fred Dedrick, now a workforce development specialist, and formed with the goal of getting people mobilized to improve their communities. COACT worked closely with the Catholic Churches in its area, and Sally, an ex-nun, ex-Catholic school teacher, a frequent church goer, felt greatly encouraged by this development. She was elected and continuously re-elected as head of her group. She took to neighborhood problem solving with gusto and zeal. Whether the issue was zoning, abanoned cars, neighborhood cleansups, or whatever, Sally was there full of passion and facts.A registered Republican, she found in my legislative office and its staff a major source of strength. She gave us tests as to whether we could solve one problem or another, and we did a good job passing first one test and then many others. Month after month, year after year, decade after decade Sally McIntyre became a constant in our 5th Street office located at 5th and Champlost, 6001 N. Broad Street.One day, she asked if she could volunteer to help. My staff said yes. So she kept coming back, day after day. We tried unsuccessfully to save her home from being torn down, but we could not. Sally's lack of money--she had not had a job outside of being a teaching nun and had never married--meant the house was in such disrepair it was considered unsafe by the people who inspected it. It was not a close question.We did succeed in getting her placed on Social Security Disability, and getting her admitted to the Medicaid drug program for extremely low income people.Sally's family was disinclined to do much to help her. Her needs were too great for them to meet. But her neighbors--almost all African-American--came through.She lived in one house as a boarder for several years. But then the house was sold. Another neighbor let her stay for free, but apparently imposed conditions that were unacceptable to her. We tried and failed to get her into Section 8, but we ran up against the large backlog of Section 8 applications that had precedence.We got her into a boarding home. But Sally did not like it. On Tuesday, she was back in our legislative office. She was there when the last staff member left. When staff members arrived early on Wednesday morning on May 3l, they found her body laying on a couch.Funds are being raised to pay for her burial. If you would like to contribute, please call Mable Windham, my office supervisor, at 215-924-0895 or 215-924-3690. One can endlessly second-guess Sally's decisions that led to her life of poverty. My theory is this: she was a tremendously independent woman, and found the discipline of the workforce, or the compromises of marriage, or the sacrifices required of the Catholic clergy, to be too confining. She lived life on her terms, devoted her thoughts to serving others, and paid the price for lack of attention to her own needs.

May 31, 2006


I introduced the resolution honoring Ed Bacon at the request of the Ed Bacon Foundation because I deeply admire Bacon. He was never afraid to take a stand, never afraid to submit his vision of the study to the critical scrutiny of journalists, historians, fellow planners, and the public. I am sure that each and every one of his views can be debated. The important thing is that he had clear positions that stimulated thought and constructive action--and on the whole he changed Philadelphia for the better. He did not try to hide his views in the lexicon of bureaucratic doubletalk or bury them in committee reports. From his early efforts to tear down the Chinese Wall to his late-life efforts to preserve access to skateboarders in Love Park, he was gutsy, informed, passionate, and persuasive. Philadelphia's 21st Century rebirth owes much to the long-term visions of planners and governmental officials now deceased and somewhat forgotten. The development of Fairmount Park, the Benjamin Franklin Parkway, City Hall, Society Hill, numerous neighborhoods in center city and elsewhere, the Art Museum, and the Delaware and Schuylkill rivers as increasingly safe water attractions for new residents and tourists all were the result of deliberate but somewhat controversial decisions that had long term public benefits. The language and the philosophy of public good can be misused for narrow private ends. The more informed the public is, and the wider the circle of actively concerned citizens, the less likely this will happen. I hope the Ed Bacon Foundation has a long life and a constructive role in making the 21st Century a period of successful experimentation in creating a livable city at the heart of a dynamic region. The late U.S. Senator Robert Kennedy, a hero to me and many others in the Baby Boom generation (I was Co-Chairman of his Philadelphia student campaign committee in 1968), liked to quote George Bernard Shaw's statement that "Some see things the way they are and say why. I see things that never were and say "Why not?" That is the spirit of Ed Bacon, and that is the spirit we need for Philadelphia to be an ever greater city in the future.

May 30, 2006


Murray Friedman, one of the Jewish community's greatest intellectual historians and the longtime regional director of the Philadelphia branch of the American Jewish Committee, died May 20 of amyloydosis at the age of 78.

He remained a registered Democrat to the end. Unfortunately for Democratic lawmakers like myself, this fact was merely a deferential nod to his impoverished past and the majority sentiment in the American Jewish community. Murray never backed away from his groundbreaking commitment to basic civil rights and improving race relations. But he increasingly saw the Republican Party as a key element of the American mainstream and an important corrective to what he saw as the cultural excesses and political failures of the 1960s.
As a polemicist, Murray could be irritating or inspiring — or sometimes both simultaneously. He was always hungry for facts or informed opinions. He lived the Walter Lippman epigram that "when everyone thinks alike, no one is thinking very much," and he would express his deepest respect, friendship and understanding for those who disagreed with him.

There was no way to win an argument with Murray, but I found that one could end an argument with him by quoting a recent book. A voracious reader himself, Murray had a childlike joy in finding other book readers. If Murray had read the book I quoted, he would discuss it. If he had not read it, he would praise me extravagantly for having read it before he did and then probe to determine whether it was worth his reading, too.

His intellectual nemesis was Leo Pfeffer, the legal strategist for the American Jewish Congress, who, in amicus brief after amicus brief, helped convince the U.S. Supreme Court to raise the church-state wall, creating a legally enforced secular meeting ground for those of any faith and those of no faith. This meant no officially sanctioned school prayer, only limited state support for parochial education and many bans on specific governmental efforts to promote religion. Murray found these positions excessive and believed that they threatened the long-term interests of the Jewish community. While he dedicated his life to helping American Jews break into the American mainstream, Murray worried that eventually the rise of secularism would erode Jewish life in America, much more so than the increased political activism of Christian conservatives.

Murray's drift from the Democratic Party started with his book "Overcoming Middle Class Rage," which, from the perspective of a 1968 supporter of Hubert Humphrey, advised Democrats on how to appeal to the law and order constituencies of Richard Nixon and George Wallace in order to beat Nixon in 1972.

He was a critic of affirmative action, but Murray was no Archie Bunker, or Archie Bunker apologist. He had come to Philadelphia after being driven out of the old Confederate capital of Richmond, Va., by local opposition. His problems were publicized nationally by syndicated columnist James Kilpatrick, whose article "The Rise of Anti-Semitism in the South" clearly blamed Murray for the alleged spike in anti-Jewish sentiment.

The young Murray, who was run out of Richmond, where he served as head of the local chapter of the Anti-Defamation League, was like the Philadelphia Murray: urging dialogue between black and white leaders, befriending the passionate and the uninvolved on all sides, even winning the friendship of a Ku Klux Klan member who doubled (for compensation and expenses) as an ADL informant. Down there in the 1950s however, Murray was clearly risking his life.
Philadelphia was a safer place in those days. But it was the last city in the National League to have black baseball players, and a city where the hiring of black transportation workers had led to a famous strike by the CIO transport workers local in the 1940s. He would need to muster all his diplomatic skills to help defuse racial tensions in the City of Brotherly Love.

During his four decades heading the Philadelphia chapter of the American Jewish Committee, Murray developed personal rapport with leaders of both black and white communities. His support for the civil rights legislation of the 1960s was strong and unwavering. When blacks achieved the voting strength to run winning campaigns for mayor starting in the early 1980s, Murray commissioned academic studies showing that Jews were much more likely to vote for black candidates than were other white Philadelphians. In the mid-1980s he helped found Operation Understanding — an educational program that worked to build bridges between black and Jewish high school students by sending groups of teenagers to Israel and Africa, and to black and Jewish historical locations in the United States. The initiative was his signature public achievement to improve race relations in Philadelphia.

On the national level, Murray's greatest contribution may have been his role in helping to save the U.S. Commission on Civil Rights from abolition, by cooling the anti-civil rights rhetoric of some of his fellow Reagan appointees.

Murray viewed the world much as the American Jewish Committee does. In this perspective, the country is divided into ethnic groups or tribes, each of which has its interests and outlooks. Jews should seek to ensure continuity in America by forging alliances with as many groups as possible, and to thoroughly investigate obstacles to this venture.

It was this view that led Murray to ask tough questions. What was the relevance of the black-Jewish alliance of the 1950s and 1960s to current times? How do we strengthen this alliance while advancing our own interests? How do we form alliances with other groups all across the public spectrum? Why not seek out common ground with the Christian Coalition, for instance?
To talk to Murray was to hear the themes of his books, sometimes before they were published, sometimes afterward (two of his final works will be published posthumously — one on Commentary magazine, the other on political conservatism in the Jewish community). He lived in the books he wrote. Always valuing people for what they were and what they contributed, he lived in the realm of ideas.

Murray created the Feinstein Center for American Jewish History at Temple University — his own think tank — in part to help him write more books and spawn more books that he would like to read. He strongly advocated that the American Jewish experience — no less than the history of Israel — be taught in American Jewish religious schools.

His last words to me — spoken shortly before the program celebrating the 20th anniversary of Operation Understanding — were typically in the form of a question, bringing back his deep and abiding passion for black-Jewish relations.

"Things have changed since the 1960s, don't you agree?" he asked. It was a typical Murray Friedman conversational beginning. "Yes," I told him, "things have changed, for better and for worse." And then, before we could get down to serious discussion, each of us was greeted by other old friends, and our discussion, between two living friends of more than 30 years, was permanently over.

But thanks to his intellectual and organizational legacy, we can be sure that the discussions and arguments will not end.

June 3, 2005


Thank you for a very moving obituary of your father (Maurice F. Raub). You can be proud that he blazed so many trails for others to follow, that he did so much to help his patients, that he fought so hard against his cancer, and that his love your mother was so enduring and inspiring.
Losing a parent at any age is difficult. May the memories of all he meant to you and your family console you in the days and years ahead.

June 13, 2005


Ed Becker was a constituent of mine when my district included his house in Northwood from 1981 to 2001. I was proud to have a nationally recognized jurist in my legislative district, and he was always very friendly when we would occasionally meet.Our lives intersected in important ways at various points. His wife, as a girl, was my wife's frequent baby sitter. When my father was running for Democratic wardleader in the 1960's against the choice of then Democratic City Chairman Francis R. Smith, the party machine threw various obstacles at him, such as renumbering all election divisions in the 17th Ward so that all the early roll votes for wardleader would have been against David Cohen, and stopping him from obtaining watcher's certificates for his Democratic Committeepersons.Becker was then the attorney for the Republican City Committee, and the Republicans had a majority on the Court of Common Pleas. Becker was thus involved in the litigation on the renumbering of election divisions, and he sided with my father, helping him win the case and the ward leader election.I had only one legal case before Becker, and it was a pro bono one. Becker wowed my client, who died about six months ago, with his wit, brilliance, and empathy. He ultimately decided in my client's favor, although he decided that the facts led to legal conclusions on different subjects than I was focusing on.Perhaps his best known case was the one he decided in poetry. The opposing counsel to my father's law partner, Harry Lore, submitted a short legal document in poetry. Delighted at the opportunity posed by Judge Becker's acceptance of the document, Lore responded with a long brief in poetry. Inspired, Becker then offered his case opinion in poetry. It was the kind of achievement--like the sending of a midget up to bat in an American League game 50 or 60 years ago--that could only be done once.His wife Flora Becker, who survives him, was the Republican nominee for Congress against Bob Borski in 1984, and served with me on the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts in the late 1990's. She was an extremely active Arts Council member, and was deeply missed by her colleagues there when her term on the Arts Council expired.A partisan before reaching the bench, Becker retained his ties to active Republicans. How he handled the perception of conflict of interests is fascinating. One active Republican lawyer from Becker's neighborhood told me the story of how he argued a case before Becker against a lawyer Becker hardly knew.When it was the Republican lawyer's turn to speaker, Becker regaled the court with long conversational disclosures of what good friends he and the Republican lawyer were. The opposing lawyer got only a cursory acknowledgement. Then Becker issued consistent rulings against the position of his good friend, and decided the case 100% in favor of the lawyer he hardly knew.

May 21, 2006



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