On the Fourth of July, along the Ben Franklin Parkway in the middle of Philadelphia during the Welcome America festivities, some criminal used the cover of fireworks to shoot two police officers. Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney had two responses. First, he blamed the United States Constitution for the shooting. Then he announced to the world he’s tired of being Philadelphia mayor and can’t wait to be out of office.
Philadelphians can sense when a public figure wilts under pressure, so expect the well-earned booing to start now and last until they “throw the bum out” next year. In the meantime, let’s consider what happened and Kenney’s response.
First, the shooting. Philadelphia hosts the Wawa Welcome America Festival every July Fourth, a musical celebration on the main street that leads up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum (yep, Rocky’s steps). Pop superstar Jason Derulo was the final act, followed by fireworks over the city. Just before 10 p.m., as the fireworks were lighting up the sky, multiple gunshots were fired. There was a line of police officers near the museum steps. One officer was hit in the head, with the bullet grazing his forehead and lodging in his uniform cap. Another officer was wounded in the shoulder. The two officers had been standing near each other when they were shot.
After the shooting, the scene on the parkway was total chaos. With fireworks still going off, the crowds panicked and ran. The police herded the fleeing crowds to safety while some people took cover where they were. Nobody was arrested in the shooting, and there are no suspects. Philadelphia officials said that they still have not determined whether the shots were fired at the police officers intentionally or unintentionally. But here is a hint: Only the two police officers were hit — one in the head — and the two police officers were standing near each other. It’s likely somebody was hunting cops in Philly.
This would have been an excellent time for Mayor Kenney to step into the spotlight and tell the truth about Philadelphia. He could have pointed out that when he took office in 2016, the city recorded only 277 homicides, a total that has steadily grown to the all-time record of 562 murders in 2021, all on his watch. He could have admitted that the policies he and the City Council support, such as banning traffic stops, have created an atmosphere of lawlessness. He could have called out Philadelphia’s de-prosecuting prosecutor, District Attorney Larry Krasner, who seems loath to lock up violent criminals, especially felons who are carrying guns. He could have confessed that the entire progressive political experiment running in Philadelphia for the past six years has been an unmitigated failure, and it is time to re-establish law, order and safety for the good people who still live in the City of Brotherly Love.
Kenney did nothing of the sort, of course, and his response was underwhelming — astonishing, really — even for him.
Kenney blamed the shooting on the US Supreme Court and the Second Amendment to the Constitution. Kenney said that the United States is too accommodating when it comes to gun rights and that if it were up to him he would unilaterally strip Americans of the right to own firearms.
The mayor did not seem to notice that the Second Amendment was in place in 2016 when he was first elected and when there were half as many homicides in Philadelphia. He complained, “There’s a lot of goofballs out there with guns” in Philadelphia, but failed to comment on the fact his fellow Democrat Larry Krasner refuses to clamp down on these “goofballs out there with guns” (a k a felons in possession of firearms) because Krasner believes locking people up for illegally possessing firearms is unjust, ineffective and racially discriminatory. According to Kenney, the violence in Philadelphia was somebody’s fault but certainly not his. His comments call to mind the old cowboy saying: “The biggest liar you will ever meet stares back at you from your shaving mirror every day.”
But Kenney was just getting warmed up. In the next round, he commented that he’s tired of his job. “I’m waiting for something bad to happen all the time,” Kenney said. “So I’ll be happy when I’m not here, when I’m not mayor.”
This is the same Jim Kenney who refused to call a state of emergency over gun violence, despite pleas from citizens and members of his own party to address Philadelphia’s bloodbath. Hearing Kenney’s comments about wanting to leave office, City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart and several City Council members, all fellow Democrats, ripped into Kenney. “This is the most irresponsible statement,” Rhynhart said. “Our city needs leadership, not someone who doesn’t want the job. We deserve better.” Councilman Derek Green added: “Our City needs someone now with the passion and vision to lead us forward. Resign.”
Kenney is not America’s only big-city mayor who refuses to address problems of his own making while watching police be put into danger. Over the Fourth of July weekend in Chicago, there were two mass shootings, a total of more than 50 people shot and nine homicides. In the midst of that chaos, one police officer was ambushed and shot responding to a domestic violence call while a crowd attacked squad cars in another section of the city. Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot’s response, as captured in her Twitter feed, was to: (1) comment about how much fun she was having at parades; (2) complain about gender differences in pay related to the pandemic; and (3) offer her condolences for the mass shooting in Highland Park, which is not in Chicago.
For big-city mayors, admitting they have lost control of their cities and attempting to do something — anything — to re-establish law and order is not only a matter of common sense but of self-preservation. San Francisco Mayor London Breed — once the most woke mayor in the most woke city in America — saw the handwriting on the wall and acted, declaring a state of emergency to address the violence in the Tenderloin district while softly backing the recall of radical District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
There seems to be no chance Philadelphia will see relief any time soon. Kenney’s replacement won’t be sworn in until 2024, unless Kenney takes the advice of his own party and quits now. DA Krasner is slated to be in office until 2026, unless longshot impeachment proceedings take him out earlier. Philly’s citizens are getting the same feeling they did when Eagles quarterback Donovan McNabb allegedly threw up during a crucial part of the 2005 Super Bowl: “This can’t be good.”
Jim Kenney, if you are tired of being mayor of Philadelphia, trust us: The feeling is mutual.
Tom Hogan, now in private practice, has served as a federal prosecutor, local prosecutor and elected district attorney. This piece first appeared at RealClearPennsylvania.