Frank Rizzo Was One Crappy Mayor

Sorry if this offends people, but, amongst this sort of odd, sort of cute, sort of scary, sort of endearing portrait of Bob Brady, we get the main reason why I don't think I can vote for the Congressman as Mayor:

"He kept City Committee together when it could have been Bosnia," says Lou Agre, a Brady supporter and Roxborough ward leader. "He knew exactly what to do: Don't let anyone get too mad, give everyone a little something...

"He's Rizzo without the racism."

I feel bad in a way criticizing Brady, because without having ever met him, he seems like a really nice, sincere kind of guy. And ol' Lou Agre is one of our most frequent readers. But...

News flash: Frank Rizzo was an absolutely terrible Mayor. And, it was not just because he was an inveterate racist, who lined up black men naked against the wall while the press watched, or other wonderful things. Unfortunately, racist urban mayors exist throughout much of our Country's unfortunate history. But there is a reason that despite that, Rizzo still generally is talked about as one of the worst Mayors of all time.

As one quick example, Rizzo is basically single-handedly responsible for setting PGW down the path to debt and destruction that it is currently on. Why? Because he decided loading it up with his buddies was more important than... providing gas. He also presided over huge population losses, scared people away from Philly in the Bicentennial, etc., etc., etc.

If Brady is a nicer, non-racist version of Frank Rizzo, then we are in big, big trouble.

Rizzo without racism?

Racism was the foundation of Rizzo's political power. Rizzo without racism is inconceivable. Without the black/white divide in this City, Rizzo would never have been elected.

Lou made a post a few days ago describing Rizzo as "entertaining." Please. That was the second revisionist reference to Rizzo that I've seen at YPP in the past few months. Rizzo was corrupt, a reactionary, a brute, a divider (not a uniter), a bigot, a right-winger. He was not for the working man, only for his working men.

And I certainly hope that if Brady's going to "give everyone a little something," he doesn't also give his buddies a lot more on the side - as Rizzo always did.

You might be suprised...

just how many times I have heard from older African-American residents in the 36th (South Philly, s of Washington, w of Broad) and 40th (southwest from 57th and Kingsessing to the airport- known to residents as "the forgotten SW") Wards that they wished they could get Rizzo back. I was floored the first time I heard it, but I have now heard the same comment from about 10 people while out canvassing, and the way all explained it was some variation of "Rizzo might have been racist, but at least I could walk down my street". I know 10 people doesn't seem like a lot, but the fact that one said it to me was shocking enough, and given that I only ever personally come in contact with a small number of people, I have to believe that the sentiment is fairly prevalent.

People are prisoners in their own homes, and no talk about civil liberties is (imo) going to persuade them from the opinion that the cops or national guard to be sent in en force to make their streets safe again.

I work for Damon K. Roberts in his run for City Council. Unless otherwise stated this and every comment by myself is the opinion of myself, and not of Damon or any other candidate, organization, committee, etc.

It's important to

It's important to contextualize this.

When Rizzo ran against Rendell in 1992, he tried to atone for his previous sins. He campaigned extensively in black neighborhoods with a message of law and order. Given the crime situation at the time, which is similar to what is happening now, it's not surprising that Rizzo offered something appealing. He died before the election, but polls at the time showed that he would have received a substantial amount of black support.

Does that make up for his actions as mayor? Absolutely not. He was absolutely a racist (and I would add homophobic) and did a lot of horrible things. However, he did try to change his image before dying. I think that's where this sentiment comes from.

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Could be

I wasn't around Philly in '92.

But I was around in the 70s, and I know how divisive Rizzo was. To some degreee, I think that the kind of police brutality advocated as a police tactic by people like Rizzo are responsible for the "don't snitch" attitude that is pervasive today and contributes to the crime rate. The only people that trusted the cops during Rizzo's day where whites of a certain demographic. That's what's so unintentionally ironic about Lou's quote - Rizzo was incredibly divisive.

No matter how many black people are waxing nostalgic about Rizzo now - he was very unpopular in the black community when he was mayor - and for very good reason. And despite perceptions, gang violence remained a huge problem in the 1970s. It wasn't like beating people up worked as a police tactic. I think that people are understandably wanting to have more strict protection against the violent criminals who prey on others in their neighborhoods - but if the police starting utilizing the policing tactics of the Rizzo days there would be riots.

Oh yeah, and I forgot that he was anti-labor (another irony of Lou's comment). He fought bitterly with the teacher's union.

Rizzo was even worse as Police Commissioner

DE II is right on this one. Some day when I have time, I will post on life in Philly during the Rizzo era. He was even worse as Police Commissioner.

Supporting Michael Nutter for Mayor

Hey, even a stopped clock.....



DC33 got a 13 percent pay increase in '75 on Rizzo's watch. Do you think they could put up with such "hostility" in this day and age?

You tell me

Would you call this pro-union?

Regarding the teacher's union:

"In 1972-73, during the administration of Democratic Mayor Frank Rizzo, the union leadership was jailed for violating a back-to-work order after a total of six weeks on strike. A settlement was reached on the eve of a general strike called by the Philadelphia labor movement."

I guess it depends on which union we're talking about, huh? Now, why would that be?

what's your source

for that quote?


I think other sources shouldn't be too hard to find:

For example, there's this:,9171,944611,00.html?promoid=...

"I'm thrilled," said Philadelphia's Mayor Frank L. Rizzo. "Now I can walk around without some teachers jumping out at me."

What thrilled the onetime cop, who had vowed never to give in to the teachers' "arrogance," was that President Nixon's chief negotiator, Assistant Secretary of Labor Willie Usery, had just settled the second-longest teacher strike in the nation's history. It had lasted eleven weeks and two days (two days short of the 1971 Newark walkout) of mounting bitterness that will not soon die. "I don't think we'll even try to talk to the scabs," said Fifth Grade Teacher Anne Philips.

...Court of Common Pleas Judge D. Donald Jamieson issued an injunction to end the walkout. When the teachers ignored him, the confrontation got rougher. Some 317 teachers were arrested for picketing and will be arraigned for trial next week. Union Negotiators Frank Sullivan and John Ryan were jailed for contempt but were permitted to emerge each morning to continue negotiations, then returned behind bars at night. Teachers who continued to work (about 3,500 of the 13,000) suffered tire slashings and other harassment.

...The final pressure came from other unions, which said that their 100,000 members would shut down Philadelphia for a "day of conscience" if the strike was not settled by last Wednesday. At that, Usery closeted himself and the negotiators in a room on the seventh floor of the Penn Square Building. Fifty-two hours later, the room was a shambles of sandwich wrappers and coffee cups —and there was a settlement. The terms: $99.5 million over four years. Mayor Rizzo, who had promised not to increase taxes, said he would raise the money through "a conglomerate of new taxes that won't affect the workingman.

You can poll this one, black

You can poll this one, black folks are not waxing nostalgic about Rizzo.

Good example, there was a judicial candidate, Annette Rizzo (no relation, Fumo's distant cousin if I remember correctly.)

African American ward leaders would not carry her for fear of widespread backlash against them for carrying the Rizzo name.

Many African Americans like Franny, but few African Americans forgot the Bowser campaign (Vote White) and the Black Panthers on Columbia Avenue. That really is the anecdote that most remember...

I do not work for/support any candidate for any office in Philadelphia.

Brady is also way, way more

Brady is also way, way more popular in the Black community than Rizzo. In that respect they are night and day in terms of that issue.

Brady is a guy that you could support if you live in any rowhome community -- which may have been the point initially. Rizzo really had that as his base (white rowhome communities primarily). But many candidates have sough to get that voting base back. (A lot of them have moved away and others are now/were always Republicans.)

In a heads up campaign, Brady would poll any two candidates -- just my guess.

I do not work for/support any candidate for any office in Philadelphia.

Another factor

Rizzo explicitly ruled out privatization of the municipal work force. This may have been an even bigger reason why prominent African-American leaders (e.g., Charles Bowser, James Sutton, Mary Mason) were backing him in '91.


I have been off for a bit relative to our private conversations, but Bob Brady is no Frank Rizzo Sr.. He is the antithesis of him. Your allusion to Bob as Rizzo is, in my opinion, a clear attempt to help your candidate while unfairly hanging a bad city memory on a fair and totally color blind person. Please, don't do this.

Jim, My illusion to Brady as


My illusion to Brady as a non-racist version of Rizzo is because that is what his prominent supporter, and YPP contributer, Lou Agre said he was, in a front page story for the Inquirer.

Where did I say Brady is racist?

The whole point of the post is that Frank Rizzo was a terrible Mayor for a lot more reasons than he was just a racist. So, Lou's comment is no compliment.


In a "nice" and "cute" way you call Bob "scary". You have made this connection in a sophisticated and, I believe, intentional way and I think it is unfair. You know how to start a thread that can tend to go off in a direction that you intend and where it has gone. Considering that you openly support someone else for mayor, you are promulgating a view of Bob brady that is totally false.

Honestly, Jim, you are just

Honestly, Jim, you are just wrong. The portrait of Brady in the Inquirer was pretty endearing- ie, the Bush thing, among others. However, it was scary to hear his supporters say he is a non racist Rizzo, as if that is a good thing. Because take away the racism, and Frank Rizzo Sr. was one bad Mayor.

As I have said many times, I think Bob Brady is a nice guy, and, he has to get credit for the city party becoming far from racist.

And, who exactly do I support?

Anyway, maybe you should take this up with Lou Agre.


maybe the comment you had a problem with was mine. My comment stated that I hope Lou's wrong, and that Brady isn't like Rizzo in respects other than how he treats people of other races.

Dan's a smart guy, but I'm not sure he has the psychic powers to predict and control how people are going to respond to his posts.

This Is Unfair

Councilman Kenney, it's always good to see your name and hear your perspective on YPP, but you're way off base here. The city's paper of record published a profile of candidate Brady, in which a voice the reporter represented as a "Brady fan" compared him to Rizzo. Dan didn't create the comparison, and it's a very reasonable subject for a post and thread. We're all smart enough to keep the ideas of Rizzo as a consensus builder and Rizzo as a racist separate in terms of the comparison to Brady, especially when it's made explicit in the conversation like nine times. You're also smart enough to do so, so I take your stern finger-shaking as disingenuous.

I don't know if I'm reading something wrong here

But once again, I have to take issue with the concept of Rizzo as consensus builder. He built consensus with those of his ethnicity and who were his political allies. Others, he beat over the head or investigated with his own private police force.

This whole concept of Rizzo as a uniter is just mind-blowing.

Just for the record...

...I didn't say he was a consensus builder, that's just how I characterized the Agre quote. I didn't grow up in Philadelphia in the '70s, but I only need to see one photo to guess the idea's pretty much a crock.

one photo?

what does that mean?

I'm going to guess

the Black Panthers strip search.



I guess that was a bit off-the-cuff. I'm thinking of the nightstick in his cummerbund, which goes more to the racism issue and not the uniter/divider theme under discussion. It's a murky place, forget I said it.

Ah, yeah

So many greatest hits photos from the Rizzo era.


Credit where credit is due

Brady's a man who knows--deeply, passionately--when he's made a mistake.

Letting that ball go between his legs in little league still 'totally haunts' him. (From anyone else that'd sound blithe but you actually for better or worse believe him there.)


He sucked.

No matter how people remember it.

I don't care how people think back on it - because of the horrible conditions they're enduring now - not only was he a racist, police in his era thought beating on people (not only blacks, but people with long hair also) equaled law enforcment. It wasn't effective, and the only thing it did was flame racial hostilities.

Oh, and I forgot to mention something else -- he was also a homophobe. Who can forget his promise: "to make Attila the Hun look like a faggot." Entertaining?


has knowingly or unknowlingly created a conversation thread contrasting/comparing Brady and Rizzo Sr.. Not right. Not fair. It should stop. Nothing could be further from the truth.

I never intended any of my comments about Rizzo

to in any way be a comparison of Brady to Rizzo. You're right, Rizzo was a racist - and Brady is not.

But Lou was the one who made the comparison. Maybe you should take it up with him?

Jim, really...

I am not sure what your beef is with Dan on this one: Lou Agre said in the Inquirer that Brady was like Rizzo without the racism. Isn't Lou a Brady supporter?

I agree that this is promulgating a unfair view of Brady, but it came from supporter and I presume that comment was not made without the knowledge that with some voters--mostly white ones--that the comparison would help.

Rizzo v. Brady

If it wasn’t for me what would you have to do in your lives. I know more than most people how bad Rizzo was. Police brutality (but little corruption), racism, cronyism, PGH. PGW, flag day for City employees, homophobia, Schools, etc. I never once voted fro him and circulated recall petitions.

Leaving that aside there is a reason he was called “The Last Big Man in Big City America” (Sal Palantonio)”. Love him or hate him ( and I was in the former category) he dominated the City like no other Mayor since . Further, people felt that Rizzo thought their problems were his problems. That he took violence in their neighborhoods personally. That he deeply loved this City, like no other Mayor.

The real comparison between Brady and Rizzo is not with Rizzo’s policies but with his empathy for the City and its citizens. Brady will take personally every bad school and try to fix it. He will take personally every murder and try to stop the next one. Like Rizzo he is a larger than life personality, and will impose his will on the City to make it better and get things done for all people.

We have had two techno/beauracrats, (Goode Street)a Mayor that forgot about the neighborhoods(Rendell) and one (Bill Green) that most people cannot remember. We need a Mayor with passion and empathy. Who understands the needs and concerns of ordinary Philadelphians. Brady has the empathy of Rizzo and the love of the City without any of the racism, homophobia, corruption or other negatives that came with it.

Once again, an odd way of describing Rizzo

"Further, people felt that Rizzo thought their problems were his problems."

Some people felt that Rizzon thought their problems were his problems - whether or not someone felt that way was contingent on race, ethnicity, sexual orientation, political perspective, etc.

"That he took violence in their neighborhoods personally."

Yeah, he took it so personally that he perpetrated it against some people in some neighborhoods.

"The real comparison between Brady and Rizzo is not with Rizzo’s policies but with his empathy for the City and its citizens."

Rizzo's empathy for select groups of citizens was high - for others, it was non-existent.

Hey, there's nothing wrong with portraying Brady as larger than life if that's how you see him. If you want him to impose his will on the City, so be it. I don't believe that you're making analogies to Rizzo for nefarious reasons. But I can't view comparisons to Rizzo as positive in any light whatsoever, and it does leave you open to charges of appealing to Rizzo loyalists. The friend of my enemy.....

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