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New park panel named

Judges picked 10 Fairmount commission members. Critics advocate a more open selection process.

A new slate of Fairmount Park commissioners has been elected by the Board of Judges of Common Pleas Court.

In a secret process that in recent years has been widely decried as opaque, the judges elected 10 of the 16 commission members. The other six represent various city departments, City Council, and the Mayor's Office.

Lauren Bornfriend, executive director of the Philadelphia Parks Alliance, the largest park friends group, said her organization endorsed no particular candidates.

"We really think that regardless of who is appointed now, the process is the problem," Bornfriend said.

"We need a [City] Charter change," she added, to open the selection process and make the mayor accountable for the condition of the parks.

City Council has considered various charter-change proposals over the last two years but has not acted.

The Board of Judges reelected five members of the commission to five-year terms: Robert N.C. Nix 3d, John K. Binswanger, Philip Price Jr., E. Harris Baum, and Doris A. Smith.

New to the commission will be Alex Bonavitacola, a longtime Common Pleas Court judge, now retired; environmental lawyer Joseph M. Manko Sr., a former member of the Lower Merion Township Commission who is moving to Center City; Farah M. Jimenez, executive director of Mount Airy USA, a community-development corporation; Dorothy June Hairston-Brown, a charter school founder; and the architect and oarsman Gardner A. Cadwalader.

A special meeting of the commission has been called for 7 p.m. Thursday at Lloyd Hall on Kelly Drive to consider terms of a lease to the Barnes Foundation. The foundation is planning to move into the site occupied by the Youth Study Center on the Parkway.

Mayor Street requested Thursday's session so that the Barnes lease could be presented to City Council before its summer recess, officials said.