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Jethro Heiko responds to Councilman DiCicco
Below is my response to the following letter from Councilman DiCicco's attorney.
Yesterday, through his attorney, Councilman DiCicco sent me a letter claiming that I defamed him by posting on YPP that the Councilman has engaged in “corruption” to the detriment of our waterfront and city planning. The letter demands an immediate retraction and apology. Rather than respond to his attorney I will post my response here. I will not retract my post nor will I apologize.
I am, however, happy to explain in greater detail what I meant when I referred (and will continue to refer) to the Councilman as a politician who engages in corruption. But let’s get real about the term – it means lacking in integrity, virtue and moral principle; it means a deviation from what is right; it means failing to represent the public interest. It does not mean that the official took a bribe and I have never used it that way. I should be able to use the term when I think the shoe fits. Whether you agree with me or not, I hope you support my right to voice my opinion.
In my post, I said that our Delaware waterfront is in a sorry state due to “his and his mentor’s corruption.” I think this is a obvious and unremarkable assertion. Our waterfront is an embarrassing joke. The control over its development is largely a function of local zoning and land use laws; and the Councilman has been in charge of zoning in the First District for some time now. The gated towers of Waterfront Square, the wholly inappropriate solid walls of the garage at the Hyatt Hotel, the overloading of the southern end and the resulting traffic, I could go on and on and on. We all could.
Our Delaware River Waterfront is one of the City’s greatest assets and its development history and current status is horrendous. Some would even say, rhetorically, that it’s a sin and a crime. Why hasn’t the Councilman changed the zoning on the waterfront in the many years that he has been the district councilperson? Why? And, finally, when we have a fantastic planning effort led by thousands of citizens, guided by Penn Praxis in an open and transparent manner – that gave us the Civic Vision – the Councilman drafts, sponsors and passes a new Zoning Overlay that fails to adopt all the recommendations of the Civic Vision and worse yet, drafts zoning for casinos that exempts them and their satellite parking from that zoning overlay. Sure, he passed some of the recommendations but not the key one about the width of the waterfront setback. Why can’t the Councilman just do what the people want? Why is it so hard? All of that is evidence (on top of what we can see – or not see – when we walk on Delaware Avenue) that his conduct was and is lacking in integrity, virtue and moral principle, that it deviated from what is right and that it is not in the public interest. It gets worse when he claims that he will protect one constituency and neighborhood at the expense of others and attempts, with some success, to divide and conquer. In my view, that is corruption.
And when crafting the zoning legislation which allows Sugarhouse satellite parking, exempting surface parking lots from the new zoning overlay for the Waterfront he opens the door for more corruption at the newly named Delaware River Waterfront Corporation, formerly the Penn’s Landing Corporation. Rather than advancing the civic vision in a transparent way we have an agency, City Council, and Mayor whose vision for the riverfront mirrors that of Neil Bluhm, developer of the proposed Sugarhouse casino, rather than that of the thousands of citizens who spent tens of thousands of hours developing the civic vision.
I think it was wrong for the Councilman to accuse me of defamation. YPP is a place for people to have discussion and debate in a public forum. Yes, when I wrote my post I was mad (and I still am). If the Councilman wants to rebut my statements, if he wants to claim that his stewardship over the development of the waterfront was based on integrity, virtue and moral principle, then he should post a response online. He is a public person and he stands up and takes praise wherever he can get it. But Councilmanic prerogative has to work both ways – it means that the Councilmember is responsible and should be held accountable for the zoning laws in his or her district, especially when there has been as much tinkering in the First District; and especially when he has presided over so many failures and lost opportunities at our waterfront.