JOHN "JOHNNY DOC" Dougherty believes there is a time for subtlety. That time is never.
So when the hard-charging labor leader weighs in on a topic, he weighs in heavily. Think carpet-bombing, not precision strike.
Case in point: Last week in City Council chambers. Topic: Mayor Kenney's soda-tax proposal. Targets: Everyone against the tax.
We hear Dougherty, head of the Local 98 electricians union and the Philadelphia Building and Construction Trades Council, dropped some verbal napalm after last Thursday's session, making a beeline for opponents of Kenney's 3-cents-per-ounce tax and telling them they need to quit stonewalling the mayor and learn the art of compromise - fast.
One eyewitness quoted Dougherty as saying, "If you f--- with my boy, I'll f--- with you," referring to Councilman Bobby Henon. The source said Dougherty also went "toe-to-toe" with Danny Grace, head of Teamsters Local 830, which is trying to kill the tax deal.
People in the room started texting their coworkers. It was a bit of a scene, we're told.
Clout got Doc on the horn this week and asked what's up. He vigorously denied using that language and said he was as cool as a cucumber.
"It's disingenuous to say we had a tussle," Dougherty said, referring to Grace. Regarding Henon, Council's majority leader, Dougherty said, "I didn't say f-- with. I said, 'Look, you guys play with Henon, lose my number.' "
In an interview with Clout, Dougherty finally went on the record about the soda tax, stating unequivocally - is there any other way? - that Council will pass some form of sugary-beverage tax.
"I believe anybody with half a brain knows that we're getting a soda tax," Dougherty said. "The problem is, the fight has come down to Big Soda preventing a tax because they know it will go to other places like New York City and across the country."
It's like the Cold War's "Domino Theory." Except instead of the spread of communism, we're talking about taxes.
"I was there delivering a message to start to think compromise," Dougherty said, noting that $95 million in new tax revenue would not only fund universal pre-kindergarten, but create (surprise!) construction jobs through city-funded renovation projects.
We'll give him this: The man knows how to kill two birds with one stone.
Doc's prediction? The soda tax will pass at somewhere between 1.5 cents and 2 cents per ounce. He said Kenney set his proposal at 3 cents per ounce so he'd have some room to negotiate with Council President Darrell Clarke and other Council members.
Anthony Campisi, spokesman for the Philadelphians Against the Grocery Tax Coalition, said 1,300 small businesses and 25,000 city residents have signed on to oppose the tax - at any level.
"We're talking about real jobs and real lives and real community institutions here," Campisi said. "The other side is relying on outside money coming in to push their agenda."
Clout tried to reach Grace, the Teamsters boss who is fighting the tax, but he didn't get back to us. By email or phone.
We hope he doesn't end up like former carpenters union boss Ed Coryell, who crossed Doc and then was unceremoniously kicked to the curb. Lost his union post and all.
Danny? Are you OK? Please check in. We don't want you to get Coryelled.
Everyone seems a bit on edge when it comes to the soda tax. Some people are just sick over it.
Around noon Thursday, Councilwoman Helen Gym tweeted:
"Hmmmm . . . Soda lobby dropped off beverage basket to our office. Two staff tried drinks and ended up sick rest of day. #conspiracy ??"
The tweet was accompanied by the cocked-eyebrow/chin-rubbing emoji.
Now, we know the freshman councilwoman isn't actually saying Big Soda attempted to poison her. She's just, ya know, sayin'. Right?
"My intern had to go home!" Gym subsequently tweeted.
Oh. Maybe it is a conspiracy.
A source with direct knowledge of the beverage basket confirms our suspicion that the drink was, in fact, blue Kool-Aid.
How many times do we have to say it? Never drink the Kool-Aid! Everyone knows that.
Former Traffic Court Judge Michael Sullivan reported to Fort Dix this week to serve a 10-month prison term on federal tax fraud charges.
Sullivan, a former Democratic ward leader and union operating engineer, will join fellow former Traffic Court Judge Robert Mulgrew, who is doing 2 1/2 years at Fort Dix on fraud and tax-evasion charges.
Then, on Thursday, Municipal Court Judge Joseph O'Neill pleaded guilty to federal charges stemming from a case-fixing scandal. O'Neill won't be sentenced until September.
Hope the Bureau of Prisons doesn't send him to Fort Dix. They're going to have to build a separate wing for Philly judges if this keeps up.
- Staff writers William Bender
and Chris Brennan
contributed to this column.
On Twitter: @wbender99 and @ByChrisBrennan