Lewis Katz Took Responsibility. Philadelphia Needs More Like Him.

Five Philly "leaders" who need to follow the great man's example.

I didn’t personally know Lewis Katz but clearly this was a man who exemplified the best of our city: a leader, a business success, a charitable man, a good man, a family man. His “story is amazing” and he performed “many acts of kindness” according to Ed Rendell, up until his last act of buying the Inquirer and Daily News, where he “… knowingly overpaid tens of millions of dollars of [his and his partner Gerry Lenfest’s] own money to ensure that both papers would live on in Philadelphia and would have total journalistic freedom.” The enormous outpouring at his memorial service this week only proved how much he was loved and will be missed.

As a business and community leader Lewis Katz did his job well. The city cannot afford to lose men like him. Sadly, his loss only reminds us of what’s left behind. People who we look to as leaders who are not doing their jobs. Three examples …

Tom Corbett

Just last week the School Reform Commission took the unprecedented step of violating the city’s charter and not approving a budget that would, all involved agreed, be calamitous for the city’s school district.

The commission is pleading. Pleading with the city for more money and a sales tax increase. Pleading with the teachers’ unions for concessions. Pleading with the state for more funding.

This is a terrible situation and requires leadership. There are too many parties, too many pieces of this puzzle. And there is only one person in the position of power that can provide that kind of leadership. That’s our Governor. The leader of our state.

Fracking? Highway repairs? Unemployment? I cannot think of another Pennsylvania problem that is so important that it supersedes the education of 200,000 children in the state’s largest city. This is not political. This is about doing the right thing for so many. And this should be a governor’s number one concern. He should be here, in this city, rolling up his sleeves, ready to compromise, bringing parties together, working out a long-term plan and showing leadership. But he’s not. He is no Lewis Katz.

Jannie Blackwell, Bob Brady and Kenyatta Johnson

This week, the “ticket fixing” case continued to run through the courts and some of our city’s leaders have been implicated. According to an Inquirer editorial “… The system was so ingrained, a clerk for former Judge Willie Singletary testified last week, that it was routine to get requests for consideration from the offices of U.S. Rep. Bob Brady, head of the city Democratic Party, as well as from City Council members Jannie Blackwell and Kenyatta Johnson. Brady and Johnson have denied that allegation; Blackwell couldn’t be reached for comment.”

If the allegations are true, then shame on Ms. Blackwell, Mr. Brady, and Mr. Johnson. If the allegations are true, not only are they taking money out of the hands of a city that desperately needs every penny it can get  (see above) but are showing, by example, the arrogance and privilege and corruption that infects people who have been elected to lead and who claim to actually care. If the allegations are true, who could trust you enough to do business with you? Not Lewis Katz, I’m sure.

David Montgomery

Ask anyone who knows David Montgomery and you’ll know that he shares many of the qualities that Lewis Katz had — a competent businessman, friendly, philanthropic and kind. But, as CEO and part owner of the Phillies, Montgomery is sadly driving a stake through the heart of the city.

After receiving so many taxpayer millions to build a stadium and then putting a championship team on the field that won our hearts, he is now overseeing the sad decline of an institution that is so important to the city’s economy and psyche. His lackluster, rudderless and disinterested team is playing to half-filled stadiums and still charging some of the highest ticket and food prices in the league. And that’s because he’s allowed his general manager to put together some of the lousiest deals in MLB history and to continue on his track as the worst General Manager in the league.

This is not just about baseball. It’s about image, jobs, lost opportunitie,s and leadership. It’s about t-shirt sales, game nights at bars, away-game vacations, sales taxes, SEPTA rides sold, and all the other ways businesses and government do well when their team does well. Ultimately he is responsible. Montgomery has recently suffered health problems and I hope he recovers soon. Because we need him. We need him to lead like he did only a few short years ago when the Phillies were champions and the city benefited. Like Katz would have, will Montgomery and his partners make the tough decisions we all know should be made?

It’s been a sad week for Philadelphians. Not just because of who we’ve lost. But also because it reminds us of who we’re left with. Will the death of Lewis Katz inspire any of these people to step up to their responsibilities?

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