Maybe old merchants can be taught new tricks.
During a trip to the Ninth Street Market on Tuesday, it appeared that all the vendors were complying with the new regulations designed to make the row cleaner and more attractive to shoppers.
It has been one month since Councilman Frank DiCicco’s cleaning and trash removal plan for the Italian Market, spanning from Christian to Federal streets, took effect.
The changes forced the removal of all trash receptacles — many of which are there illegally — from the western half of the street and started weekly street cleanings by the city’s mechanical brooms.
"The residents are ecstatic," DiCicco said. "A lot of the odors that were permeating are gone. It looks cleaner."
Until recently, the western half of the street had been overrun with large trash receptacles, wooden pallets, boxes and rotting trash. Some business owners on that side of the street complained the mess hurt their stores, but those on the east side, in particular some of the produce-stand owners, claimed they had no option.
Several produce vendors declined to talk about the changes. Bob Dees, an employee at Julie’s, a bread shop on the 900 block, said the changes did not affect the business he works for because it did not have a trash bin, but he thought the street looked better. Still, Dees wondered how those who had the Dumpsters were able to adapt.
"The ones that don’t have a garage, I don’t know what they are doing with [the trash]," he said.
For those who read about Councilman DiCicco in this newspaper and still want more, look for his new 30-second television commercials. He has been making small-screen appearances on the CN8 network and several other cable stations since Aug. 1.
When asked about the spot, the councilman said it is "not unusual" for city politicians to buy air time. He and his political advisors had intended to start running the commercial in October, he said, until he learned it would not cost much more to start a couple months earlier.
DiCicco noted he has run similar "public-service announcements" introducing himself and providing his office phone number in the past, hoping to reach out to voters prior to an election, but those aired much closer to election time. The councilman will run for a third term in 2003.
DiCicco scoffed at the suggestion that the spots had anything to do with last month’s Second Ward election, which he lost to ward chairman Tony Palmiere. Rather, he acknowledged, it has more to do with next year’s Democratic primary, which is still nine months away, and possibly the November general election.
Various sources, and DiCicco himself, have speculated that the councilman will have a Democratic challenger. DiCicco said he has a guess whom that might be, but declined to go public with his prediction.
Rumors are the challenger will be backed by John Dougherty, an ally of Mayor John Street, treasurer of the Democratic City Committee and business agent of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98. After the Second Ward election, DiCicco claimed some political foes, including Dougherty and Street, tilted the election in Palmiere’s favor.
"I am certainly getting ready for the election because there are people out there who have been trying to find someone to run against me for about a year and a half now," DiCicco said. "I think they are getting close."
More reasons to stay
Building on the momentum started at the first Reasons to Stay Summit held back in June, Bella Vista activist Vernon Anastasio and community leaders from around the city have scheduled a second citywide meeting.
This time the concerned citizens will assemble at the Quaker Meeting House, Fourth and Arch streets, on Sept. 19 at 7 p.m.
Anastasio, president of the Bella Vista United Civic Association, said participants will be divided into committees to address the issues they previously determined to be key to keeping people in the city — tax reform, school reform and city services. A fourth group will address general issues.
By the end of the meeting, the committees will reassemble and begin working on a draft of what Anastasio is calling the "Declaration of Neighborhood Empowerment," which he said will outline ways "to make the neighborhoods a better place to live and do business."
A third summit will be held to finalize this draft. After that, Anastasio said, the declaration will be presented to politicians around Philadelphia.
"We’ll take that platform and ask folks who run for city offices throughout the year if they’ll sign. Do they want to give us reasons to stay?" We will support those who are with the neighborhoods and fight those who are not."
Those interested in attending the meeting must register by calling 215-925-2997 and indicating in which of the four committees they are interested in participating.