Green Genes

They are the first family of Philly politics, having given us a dominant party boss (Bill Jr.), an enigmatic mayor (Bill III), and now a feisty new Council member (Bill IV). But in the Green family, the real drama has always been between fathers and sons

Afterward, as he drove his father back home, Green apologized. “I know, Dad. I broke the rule. I’m sorry — ”

“Did you say what you believed?” his father interrupted.

“Yes,” he replied.

Boss Green rested one hand on the dashboard and the other on his son’s shoulder, and said: “Do it all your life.”

    

TODAY, COUNCILMAN GREEN’S desk in City Hall is the same one his father sat behind as mayor, the same desk his grandfather used as Democratic party boss.

Some wonder if he has ambitions similar to his father’s. He is quickly becoming a fixture on the political circuit, turning up at events all over the city. And many of Green’s new colleagues, seemingly shell-shocked by his initial assault on Council chambers, quickly came around.  

“As a freshman Councilman,” says Wilson Goode Jr., “Bill Green is already one of the smartest members on Council.”

“My advice for him would be to save the name tag his father had on his desk,” says Frank Rizzo Jr., “the one that said ‘Bill Green, Mayor.’ He might need it.”

Initially, Rizzo plays the comment off as a joke, then admits: “I probably shouldn’t be saying this. And I haven’t spoken to him about it. But Bill Green doesn’t strike me as the kind of guy to sit still. So in two and a half years, if the city budget is in bad shape, if the homicide rate is sky-high — none of which I expect to happen — I wouldn’t be surprised if Bill Green was Michael Nutter’s primary challenger.”

For his part, Green insists he wants to “support Mayor Nutter’s agenda.” He also says it’s far too early to start plotting his political future. But when pressed, during a long interview at McGillin’s Irish pub, just blocks from City Hall, Councilman Green charts a potential course that would take him straight to the political stratosphere. “If you look at the history of my family,” he says, “there’s only one office we ran for that we didn’t get, one box we never checked off. That’s the U.S. Senate.”

It’s an audacious thing for a first-term City Councilman to say. But Bill Greens tend to be ambitious. And the newest Bill Green nods and smiles when the narrative he’s living is laid out in front of him: A historic name in Philadelphia politics, long thought dead and buried, is reborn in the form of a prodigal son, with the legacy of two previous generations now his to further, or to cast back into darkness. “Wow,” he says, smiling and lifting a beer to his lips. “When it’s put that way, I guess I have no choice but to continue the dynasty.”

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