Incorporating the The Germantown Chronicle & The Northwest Independent

6661 Germantown Ave • Philadelphia, PA 19119 • 215-438-5171 •



The first in a series

You have all read the novels and seen the films that outline how Gangsters have taken over cities and neighborhoods with their racketeering tactics. It’s really not all that hard to envision it being used by politicians.

First you have to take steps to eliminate the competition, make it too dangerous for any new competition to even think about moving their products or services into a given area, control law enforcement at the street and court level, and make sure no investigations by higher authorities up through the federal government ever succeed.

Now, I know that sounds like a film about 1920s/30s Chicago, but it is how the Democratic Party dismembered this city and turned it into a racket run from the top, for the benefit of the top, and at the expense of those who used to be that majority middle class and of course all those at the lower end of the economic spectrum. So solidly entrenched is it that no one from inside the party or outside will dare try and bring reform government to this city; probably the most corrupt in the nation, if the paved over facts are brought to the surface.

How did they do it? Well, at first opportunity and circumstance were on their side. A pent up Democratic revolt on a 70 year old Republican machine gave them control just when the post World War II boom was taking place. It was the perfect forum for a revolution and for about 20 years from 1950 to 1970 that oldest of cities, a gritty reminder of the past, was reborn and with all new players.

Folks who are not aware may be surprised to learn that Philadelphia did not reach its peak recorded population until the census of 1950, and a good portion of that was a migration from the South and the presence of decent paying union based jobs that were diverse and in both blue and white collar industries.

Even under the Republican regimes, this city had more homeowners as a part of its population than any other, one of the best public transit systems and school systems in the nation. Folks wanted to come here for quality of life and secure employment, and even with its political and social warts it was better than many.

But after a few years in power, with voter registration changing rapidly, the Democratic machine saw new opportunity to craft a machine that even New York’s Tammany Hall would have genuflected to. But much of that opportunity lay in a new process that did not begin to exist until the very late 60s and grew extensively in the 70s and 80s. I am talking about public money disbursement through the political machine and the best part from a manipulative politician’s standpoint was that there were to be almost no compliance or disbursement practices that you could not get around.  Bernie Samuels, the last, and some considered the most greedy Republican mayor, never had it so easy.

But there was another shoe to drop, and that made it even easier to grab on to millions in public dollars claiming it was going to be remedial in nature to society’s ills. All you had to do was get your neighborhood designated “Blighted."

All of sudden blight was desirable. The talk in the Democratic City Committee smoke filled rooms and hallways was “how soon can you get your neighborhood designated blighted?”  Formalized blight meant federal dollars on top of federal dollars and state dollars on top of state dollars with even less focus on meeting standards of performance or filing required quarterly documents and tax returns. Even looser yet was the almost non-existent follow up on the part of the IRS for returns from nonprofit corporations - - the newest and most giving of all gravy trains in American governmental history.

Next installment: How to destroy a neighborhood and get paid.

Jim Foster

The Independent Voice