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Dwight Evans' 'friends & cronies' are really... just us

ON MY WAY home from church on a recent Sunday, I stopped by the Fresh Grocer supermarket in Germantown to pick up a few things.

ON MY WAY home from church on a recent Sunday, I stopped by the Fresh Grocer supermarket in Germantown to pick up a few things.

As I shopped this fully stocked, clean, well-patronized store, I thought about all the excuses given by Dwight Evans' Philadelphia colleagues who voted against his retaining his role as ranking member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee - and who in doing so, voted against Philadelphia. Their excuse: "Funds flowed to projects of his allies." One commented that there was "a feeling in the caucus of a growing cronyism."

How shortsighted and unfortunate that these "Philadelphians" were so blind. Characterizing Evans' efforts to help all of Philadelphia as "cronyism" is a hollow excuse for old-fashioned political strong-arming.

Cronies and friends! Knowing Evans for 30 years, I can't fathom how they came to that conclusion. My take on Evans is that he got into politics to help his neighborhood and the whole city.

Does anyone need to be reminded that the Pennsylvania Convention Center has been Philadelphia's strongest economic driver? What about the Pennsylvania students who'll benefit from $44 million appropriated annually for scholarship organizations, the $22 million for innovative educational improvement programs in public schools and the $8 million for a separate prekindergarten scholarship program?

And, the Pennsylvania Department of Education's $1.7 million for the parents-involvement program of the Philadelphia School District?

The loudly touted Ogontz Avenue Revitalization Corp. has for more than 30 years been transforming a community that was blighted when Evans became their state representative.

Ask Evans' "friends and cronies" in West Oak Lane, East Oak Lane and Mount Airy if the funds for this renowned economic revitalization effort were a waste of their tax dollars. Ask the residents of Haines Street if it was a waste to rehab more than a dozen dilapidated homes that weren't even in Evans' district.

Talk to the folks in North Philadelphia about the investment in Smith Playground. Call the Pennsylvania Ballet, the Philadelphia Orchestra, the Avenue of the Arts, the Asian Arts Initiative, the Fairmount Park Commission, the Oak Lane Tree Tenders, the Philadelphia Recreation Dept., MANNA, etc., and let them tell you why they're proud to be "friends and cronies" of Evans.

Let's add to the list the Public Utility Commission appropriation of $1.2 million for the employment of workers with disabilities. And don't forget the thousands here who ride public transit. He introduced $1.3 billion in funding to ensure that workers can get to their places of employment.

And - back to my marketing - the Supermarket Initiative that provided for the construction of much-needed supermarkets in North Philadelphia, at 52nd and Jefferson in West Philadelphia, and at 24th and Oregon in South Philadelphia, as well as other locations across the state.

It seems like Evans has thousands of friends and cronies in Philadelphia and across the state, all of whom have benefited from his leadership as appropriation chairman, including the three Philadelphians who admittedly voted against Philadelphia. Rep. Angel Cruz received $1 million for the Maria Santos Medical Office. Rep. William Keller got $2.5 million for the Stage Hands Training Center and Rep. Michael O'Brien received $1.4 million for the William Way House. It looks like they're also "friends and cronies" of Evans.

PHILADELPHIA has been hurt by Philadelphians who voted against Evans' leadership when they bought into a petty, damaging political agenda.

Evans' friends and cronies should challenge those Philadelphians who voted against Philadelphia to share their friends and cronies list. Time will tell if their betrayal will benefit Philadelphia. Will their friends-and-cronies list be as wide-ranging as that of the guy they voted out of leadership? Not a chance!

Marian Tasco is a Democratic member of City Council.