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Byko: Freedom, history and soda taxes

Often good ideas work, while bad ideas don’t

Sometimes you can be too smart by half – which is an antique phrase expressing the idea you can outthink yourself.

VisitPhiladelphia – the nonprofit tourism marketing and public relations agency for the five-country area – Wednesday announced a push for the area around Independence Hall that would use the non-glitzy, but durable and accurate handle of Historic Philadelphia.

CEO and President Meryl Levitz acknowledged too often too many visitors see the Liberty Bell, Independence Hall and the Independence Visitor's Center and vanish, missing a lot.

Historic Philadelphia runs from Vine to Lombard, 7th to the Delaware – which is the prime reason Philadelphia is where it is.

Thank you, big river. You're looking cleaner in recent years and there are attractions blooming on your shores.

In their rush, tourists miss everything from the National Constitution Center to the myriad restaurants, museums, bars, art and boutique shops that pepper the area. Historic Philadelphia aims at curing that.

The key event was the re-opening of the Second Bank of the United States Building in the 400 block of Chestnut, which was, well, you know the second (federally authorized) bank of the United States. Another example of not outthinking yourself.

I'm not sure Mayor Kenney didn't fall into that trap.

Since he began running for mayor, and since then, when talking about his background, he always says he was born and raised and has always lived in Philadelphia and expects to die here.

Wednesday he said he would "probably" die here. I haven't heard him qualify that before. No point asking his press secretary – Lauren Hitt doesn't talk to me. No, really. I'll have more to say about her failure to do her job in the future.

In talking about America's history, Kenney said as a lad he frequently visited the Liberty Bell in Independence Hall, where it was kept – out in the open, on a table, with no security – before moving into its pavilion for the 1976 Bicentennial.

He said he loved running his fingers over the bell and sometimes squatted down and stuck his head into the bell (which might explain some things about his behavior).

The bell was moved to its new home on New Year's Eve 1975. It was a dark and stormy night. I know, because I was there. (The bell can no longer be touched because its finish was being worn down by the slight moisture and acid on millions of visitors' hands.)

In talking about the Declaration of Independence, Kenney said the line about "all men are created equal" fell short because it did not offer equality to black people, nor full citizenship – by voting – to women.

Anyway, he was right about that and it's a part of our history that bears repeating because it is true, and also because it has been fixed. Most of America's problems get fixed, usually without violence.

That was the best part of Kenney's day.

Despite a heart-rending pro-tax editorial in the Daily News, and a "story" in the New York Times saying high soda taxes should be imposed by the federal government, City Council President Darrell Clarke said a three-cent-per-ounce tax was DOA.

Which probably made Kenney wish he could stick his head in the Liberty Bell again.