Last Thursday, this paper reported that state Sen. Vince Fumo steadfastly refused to name the groups or individuals that donated millions to the Citizens Alliance for Better Neighborhoods.
The next day, the organization’s spokesperson, Ken Snyder, called to say the senator and the nonprofit had a change of heart.
"To lift the cloud that has been unnecessarily hanging over our charity," stated a release, Citizens Alliance divulged that PECO Energy had contributed $17 million since 1998, and Penn’s Landing Corp. had kicked in another $3.5 million. Another $10 million came from a special committee with ties to the Delaware River Port Authority.
This is the second part of the Review‘s wide-ranging interview with Fumo. It was conducted before he went public with the Citizens Alliance donors and before the state Senate finalized the budget last weekend. The senator could not be reached after the announcement, and refused to comment through a spokesperson.
How is your relationship with the mayor now?
It’s pretty good. I talked to him the other day about the [Philadelphia Regional Produce Terminal plans] that we are working on.
It’s a working relationship. I gave a decent amount of money [for his reelection campaign], he can’t complain.
Is it better than it was during the governor’s primary?
He and I had a falling out before that. The governor’s primary wasn’t really pivotal to him. We had our differences on a lot of things, and we still do.
But I think he is a changed person to some degree. He is never going to be warm and fuzzy, but he is a different kind of an individual than he used to be.
What is your take on the election and the bugging?
No question the bugging was the difference in the election. We were tracking that independently as it was going down … On our polls, as opposed to some of the others, Street was always up … but always when you removed the margin for error, it was a dead heat — never up enormously. The minute the bug hit, he went off the charts.
Are you concerned that the bug issue hasn’t gone away?
The bug issue with this administration is going to be a problem. You had former President Clinton and former Vice President Gore come in and basically blast the FBI and the Justice Department. Those guys don’t take that nicely. I think they are still hovering and waiting. Every day there is a new revelation. So I don’t think that’s going to go away.
How much could this hurt the city, assuming the worst is true?
If it goes really bad, it’s going to be a problem. What my gut tells me and from what I know of John Street, I don’t think they are ever going to indict him for taking money or anything like that. That’s not his style.
They can come up with something creative, but straight out, I don’t think they are ever going to find him taking money, even from his closest friends.
After the way Councilman Frank DiCicco was targeted during the primary, you must be happy with the way he came through.
It was a terrible ordeal. When you got slimy people giving you grief, just for the sake of giving you grief, when they have unlimited amounts of union funds to do it with … it’s an ordeal.
Frankie has to live with… three to five, six full-time union employees making $100,000 a year whose jobs appear to be to follow him and harass him. He’s done very well and I think it toughens you.
In the end … what people think of Frank DiCicco vis-�-vis [Local 98 business manager] John Dougherty is like this [Fumo outstretches his arms] … an enormous spread.
Dougherty gets his [thrills] with fraternity pranks and Frankie is out there cleaning streets. In the end, the public understands that.
You and Dougherty used to be allies. Do you think you will ever sit down … has there been any attempt to sit down and smooth things over?
[U.S. Rep. Bob] Brady has tried a couple of times and Dougherty has some severe problems. And until he comes to grips with them, I don’t know how you can ever sit down honorably in a room with him.
I find him to be someone who can’t keep his word. You can’t make a deal with someone who can’t keep his word.
One of the reasons I think I have gotten to where I’ve gotten in this business is that I am known for keeping my word. I keep my word when it hurts, that’s the test … Anybody can do it when it’s easy.
That’s why in Harrisburg, Republicans respect me, as well.
When has it hurt you?
I’ve had some bad ones, when I’ve put up bad votes for stuff and take heat.
I don’t give my word freely. I’m not like Eddie [Rendell], hey, whatever you want, don’t worry about it … and then find out there are two conflicting things.
I’ll be very cautious about giving my word, but when I give my word, you can go to the bank.
What do you think about the job Gov. Rendell has done so far?
It has been a tough first year for Eddie. He’s learning about Harrisburg. Before he got there, I don’t think he ever met a true Republican.
When you look at Republicans in Philadelphia City Council — Frank Rizzo, Brian O’Neill, [the late] Thacher [Longstreth] — they’re kind of like Democrats that belong to a different clubhouse. And he comes from Manhattan, where Republicans don’t even exist.
He gets to Harrisburg and he meets guys from Armstrong County and Lancaster County, and can’t understand that they are true believers. They don’t believe in taxes, they just don’t believe in it … And they like him but they are never voting for that stuff.
So it has taken him quite a while [to adjust], and we are the only state in America without a budget. Hopefully, by next week I’ll have that done for him, but he doesn’t make it easy.
You kind of expected this, right? [Fumo backed Robert Casey in the 2002 primary, largely because he believed Casey would be more palatable in Harrisburg.]
I thought it was going to be difficult, but I didn’t expect it would be this difficult.
If there are going to be slot machines at racetracks and probably other sites, do you think South Philly, particularly the Navy Yard, is a good location for this? [Note: Slot-machine legislation did not pass through the Senate last weekend in the final budget proposal.]
Not really. And I’m upset that PIDC gave a two-year lease to the guys who want to build a track down there because one of the issues with the produce market is, where do you put it? [The management of the Philadelphia Regional Produce Terminal has stated it needs more room and is being wooed by New Jersey to move across the river.]
The track site is an ideal site for it. It’s not ideal for a track … and it’s possibly jeopardizing 1,000 jobs from the produce market.
What makes that a better location for the produce market?
What the produce market is, is a giant supermarket for restaurants and suppliers.
You want to be able to say to them, "Come here, it’s one-stop shopping." Not only can you get your produce, you can walk over there and get your seafood, you can get whatever else you need. Philadelphia can do just as well with non-track venues.
Would the current site remain an industrial zone?
I think it would stay food-zoned. They may change it. The stadium district is still emerging. When you go to a football game and drive down there, it is still a mess. I don’t know who thought up the idea of having 20,000 people park their cars and walk across the street [Pattison Avenue] while cars are trying to come this way … I don’t know why they didn’t put up a separate gate for pedestrians.
It’s a mess. You are going to have to wait and see what happens when they implode [the Vet] for parking. You may need [the produce market site] for parking, you may need it for something else. But it is in a good area and it’s valuable land.
Had New Jersey not gotten into the game, we probably could have gotten away with rehabbing it and spending a lot less money … But now the cat is out of the bag. They want a state-of-the-art facility, and Jersey is prepared to give it to them. We are going to have to meet that, and I think they will.
So you’re confident it is not going to move.
I’m not there yet. But I feel better about it than I did when we started.
You mentioned the Sports Complex Special Services District. When they were trying to form, people said you were getting involved, telling neighborhood directors not to come to meetings, controlling votes …
Look, it’s in my district. I have a responsibility to the groups that wanted my advice. They are still kind of split down there. In fact, I think they had an election [two weeks ago] and [district representative] Barbara Capozzi lost and got all upset and was blaming me. I didn’t even know they were having an election. [Capozzi, a Packer Park-based real-estate broker, has maintained that Fumo was interfering with the workings of the district by quietly manipulating some of the members.]
I hope it works out OK. So far I don’t know. The thing that has saved the traffic situation there has not been the special services district. It has been the location of the stadiums — that they are away from [the neighborhoods]. It remains to be seen what’s going to happen when you implode the stadium, which is right there, and then start bringing cars in to park. That’s going to be the test of the stadium district — whether or not they can effectively manage that traffic. We don’t know yet.
If it weren’t for me, there wouldn’t be a stadium district. I’m the one that demanded that. I’m the one that made the teams put the money in. So, I set it up, and I can’t have anything to say about what is going on in my district?
I think the mayor takes credit for it, too.
Yeah, he takes credit for it, too. Sure [sarcastically]. He was really worried about South Philadelphia, I know.
Does the stadium district have the power to control these things, or are the neighbors overwhelmed?
They are not yet, but the test is going to be when you start parking cars at the current Vet Stadium site. They are empowered to do something about it, and we are going to wait and see.
I just got this report — only because I went to dinner with [attorney] Christian [DiCicco, Frank’s son] last night and we were talking about it — that they came and they wanted to put in some kind of waterslide facility. That’s millions of dollars and I’m saying they don’t have that kind of budget.
Somewhere down there. They think all the problems are solved. They have to be thinking ahead. What are they going to do when that stadium comes down? They may need that money for traffic control and you want to build a waterpark?
When people were saying you were most involved was when the SCSSD was trying to hire an executive director. Did you have someone particular in mind?
There was somebody we thought would have been good. They weren’t successful. We didn’t pout and go away and take our marbles. We’re still there. We go to meetings constantly.
Was your candidate one of the finalists?
I think he was one of the finalists, yes.
You have to be suspicious down there because you basically have an entity — and we fought for this, it wasn’t John Street that said you had to have more community [representatives] than the teams.
That’s really the dynamic, the community vs. the teams. That’s where the tension is always going to be. So, if one group sells out and gets in the pocket of the teams, where’s the community?
What is your future politically?
I really enjoy my job. Maybe because it’s me, but I have seen people in similar situations do much better when they are in the job that they want and they are not trying to get to another job.
When people are ambitious — when they want to become a mayor, governor, whatever the hell it is — they do irrational stuff. They don’t worry about their district and they’re, like, nuts …
How much longer would you like to stay in office?
As long as my health holds out. [The senator officially announced his bid for reelection yesterday.]
They’re not going to have to drag you from the Senate floor?
When you are in leadership and you’ve got the responsibility of Philadelphia on your back, you don’t just go home and go to sleep at night. Your mind is moving a mile a minute, just like a chess game, and how do I get leverage to get this for this?
I mean, I’ve got all these lists. The mayor wants restoration of drug and alcohol programs, I’ve got to get that done, it’s a big number. How do I want to reach rural Republicans? How do I cajole Democrats? In that sense, it’s stressful.
But there are times when it’s a fabulous job and it’s fun.
The way I gauge it, the day the fun days are outnumbered by the aggravating days is when I leave. I can say honestly the fun days have been more than the aggravating days. Kind of close, but they still have an edge …
The criticisms won’t drive you out?
That you live with, you get upset about it, but no, it’s the tension of the job. I’m sitting there playing a chess game for my district and my city against Republicans that have the majority, and I’ve got to know where those levers are.
Interestingly enough, in the 25 years I have been in the Senate, I have only been in the majority three years. So you don’t have to be in the majority to get stuff done. If you read any analysis written by any newspaper in Pennsylvania, I get a lot of stuff done.
You have to do that by force of will, by intelligence, by guts. That’s what’s stressful.
At this point, the senator is told he is late for an appointment to record a message for Dominic Sabatini, the retiring president of Penn’s Landing Corp. The interview continues in the senator’s taxpayer-funded Cadillac DeVille.
So this is the car you’re getting all the heat over.
If I had a Chevy, you would criticize me. The amount of time I spend in this car is a lot. You can see back there we got this thing [Fumo reaches from the front seat and tugs on a pair of wires coming from the trunk]. We’ve got wires all over the place.
This is for my computer. We do e-mails going up and down the turnpike. Once in a while, I have to sleep in here … We spend a lot of time in this car.
It’s the same one the governor has. It’s the same one, well, the mayor’s got that truck, but normally it’s the same one that he would’ve had.
After 25 years, I’ve got enough seniority. People want to throw me out because I buy a Cadillac, well, I guess it’s their job.
Do you feel people are waiting for you to trip up?
Oh, yeah, yeah. That goes with the territory … they are always there. That’s what distinguishes the men from the boys, I guess in that sense. You can’t go into this thinking you are never going to get hit.
It’s a tough game in Philadelphia. It’s a hardball game … it’s not tiddlywinks. In Philadelphia, the problem is, not only do you have to fight Republicans, you have to fight Democrats.