Ed Rendell: The Oral History

Looking back on the former mayor as his political career in Pennsylvania nears its end.

• Rudy Giuliani:
We had some pretty exciting mayors at that time. Ed had won. Riordan had won in Los Angeles. And I was the first Republican mayor in New York in 25 years. There seemed to be a real change in the way cities were governed.

• Time magazine, naming Rendell one of America’s “Rising Democrats” in 1996: Rendell is the Rocky Balboa of American mayors. … Like his fictional Philly counterpart, this former D.A. came out swinging. He balanced the books by facing down municipal unions, privatizing jobs and saving money on everything from leases to insurance. Now he gives mayoral lessons: both Los Angeles’ Richard Riordan and New York City’s Rudolph Giuliani have got pointers. He still has headaches — people and jobs continue to flee the city. But he also has big-time fans — he’s Clinton’s “favorite mayor” — and a strong record to run for higher office on.

• Anthony “Butch” Buchanico, chief of security for Rendell, 1992-’96: When Clinton was president, sometimes he came to Philadelphia every other month. He comes to City Hall one day, he and the Mayor go to David Cohen’s office. Secret Service is there, outside the office. I open the door and walk in, there’s the Mayor, David Cohen, a couple other guys playing Nerf basketball with the President of the U.S. Here I thought it was a fucking high-level meeting, and they’re playing b-ball.


Rendell was easily reelected in 1995. But his second term, despite a colorful start, had fewer triumphs than his first.

• John Street: Ed and I were campaigning in North Philadelphia, and I said, “When we get reelected, we are both wearing red suits at the inauguration.” And of course we both won. I reminded him about it after the election, and he said, “You were serious about that?” So we went down to 2nd Street and bought these matching red suits. After the inauguration, we sneak into a little back room and change into our red suits, and we came out and had a press conference. The funny part about it was, Ed was sick as a dog. He’s sneezing and coughing, and he really didn’t want to be in that red suit. I think Midge had cuffed the pants too short, and the bottoms of his pants were up around his ankles. When the press conference ended, he went to that back room and took that red suit off, and the first chance he got, he donated it to charity for auction. I, on the other hand, wore mine, and I still have my red suit.

• Dave Davies: They definitely lost some momentum in the second term. David was a loss [Cohen left as chief of staff], but there were still capable folks, and they did do some things. There was a whole gun initiative, where Rendell tried to get the gun manufacturers to limit what they sold in cities. That wasn’t effective, but there was a real focus on getting illegal guns off the streets. And he added after-school programs. There was less transformative change in the second term. But there was less to do. The first term was a special time.

Tom McGrath Tom McGrath, Chief Content and Strategy Officer of MetroCorp tmcgrath@phillymag.com