BY AMY Z. QUINN Like time, news waits for no man. Keeping up with the funny papers has always been an all-day job, even in the pre-Internets era. These days, however, it’s a two-man job. That’s right, these days you need someone to do your reading for you, or risk falling hopelessly behind and, as a result, increasing your chances of dying lonely and somewhat bitter. That’s why every week, PAPERBOY does your alt-weekly reading for you. We pore over those time-consuming cover stories and give you the takeaway, suss out the cover art, warn you off the ink-wasters and steer you towards the gooey center. Why? Because we love you!
ON THE COVERS
CITY PAPER: Brian Hickey takes to the streets outside the Federal Courthouse to chat up Milton Street as his trial on tax-evasion, fraud and influence peddling charges gets underway. Hijinks ensue, though mostly on the way to the bus stop since the trial’s early days are about as exciting as you’d expect.
It’s arguably the biggest day in his 68-year life. Milton strolls across the blue carpets of U.S. District Judge Legrome Davis’ court-dom sporting a funkadelic multicolored Phillies lid, overcoat, blue sweater, casual green pants and those Reeboks. There he is, the Milton that Philadelphians love to hate, hate to love or look upon with glee knowing that wherever he goes, absurdity follows close behind.
The message seems clear: Since you’re sitting there in judgment of me, the least I can do is show you who I really am; hence the court-inappropriate sneakers.
Then again, the shoes could represent the quintessential Milton move. As in, what jury’s going to believe I’m anything but a bankrupt pauper if I can’t wear anything better than this? If it takes fashion nonsense to convince them that I didn’t pocket scads of money and burn it at the OTB; Bailey, Banks & Biddle; and Neiman Marcus, fashion nonsense it is.
Say what you will about him, but if you say he’s stupid, you’re wrong.
Hickey has a good sense of what’s really going on here — that the feds, unable to get the former mayor, have instead sunk their teeth into Uncle Notlim, aiming to send him to the slam Al Capone-style. Meanwhile, in another courtroom, some rapper who calls himself Capone is on trial as well, with more flash but far less authentic Philly flava.
So, here’s the government’s case: Buoyed by the inherent juice that comes with having one’s brother elected as mayor, Milton hired himself out as a high-paid consultant who told people he knew he had a “small window” to profit handsomely. A company that wanted a multimillion-dollar contract to run maintenance at Philadelphia International Airport bit. In part, they did so because Milton’s company, with zero airport-maintenance experience, would help it satisfy the city-mandated and John-Street-supported Minority Business Enterprise Council requirements that ensure minorities get a piece of the financial pie.
Philadelphia Airport Services (PAS) brought him into the fold, ostensibly to mentor his Notlim Services Management Co. and develop it into an independent entity. To that end, deals were made. Starting in November 2002, Milton would be paid $166,000 a month. He’d return $133,000 of it, pocketing a cool $33,000. (Not that he returned it all, of course.) It’s a tricky financial equation meant to make it appear, among other things, that his company was solvent enough to earn bank loans.
Hickey, obviously treading a line between betraying the confidences Miltie shared while waiting for his ride outside the courthouse, nails the serious-yet-ridiculous nature not just of the entire Street family story, from hot dogs and gas bills to the seat of the city’s power. If only he would have taken the stand before presstime.
PHILADELPHIA WEEKLY: Call this one “When bad headlines happen to good stories.” Seriously, “Strange Bettingfellows”? Ouch, babe. Jeffrey Barg’s cover piece detailing how the anti-casino effort have brought together residents of Fishtown and Pennsport deserved a better topper than that. It’s a good story but falls just short of describing this struggle for what it is: A quintessential example of how residents of a given neighborhood will try to keep the entire world out of their business until they need help with something.
It’s possible one reason the activists haven’t found as much traction as they’d like is because there are actually two groups working with similar motivations, but ultimately different goals. There’s Casino-Free Philadelphia, whose “CasiNO!” placards have been plastered in house windows around the city. The Philadelphia Neighborhood Alliance (PNA), on the other hand, is a coalition of 27 community groups aiming to keep casinos out of neighborhoods specifically.“We’re not anti-casino—we’re anti-site,” says the PNA’s Rene Goodwin, whose wide, elegant house sits in the 100 block of Federal Street, just steps from the Foxwoods site. “We think that’s a more achievable, more realistic goal to get them moved so they’re not in anyone’s backyard.”
So as it turns out the effort to protect one’s own neighborhood is, ultimately, what brings people together.
INSIDE THE BOOK
PW: So, a couple of high-end real estate agents say high-end real estate in Philly is still selling, so that means “So far Philly has avoided the worst of the housing crisis“? This story is incomplete, verging on advertorial, and has a headline that is clearly written for advertisers, not for readers. I’ll give the reporter a pass, even though surely she even knows better, but what’s the editor’s excuse?
CP: The paper’s editor says goodbye, in his usual style, and we add our good wishes to the others who have wished the Swiercz well. See you in the funny papers, dude. “Real” wrestling movie, and attendant weirdness, take over the New Alhambra; Mexico to India, no passport needed.
WINNER: CP, and we think even Uncle Miltie would agree.