Scattered across Pennsylvania are countless factory and mill towns that were once bustling with all the signs of a thriving economy and the joys of everyday American life. But, through the years, as jobs left these pockets of life across Pennsylvania, so did many of the people and any real sense of opportunity. Over time, those who stayed felt forgotten by our country and our leaders.
One such place, the Borough of Braddock, is just 11 miles outside Pittsburgh. With only 1,800 people, near the lowest population in its history, the borough is a hollowed shell of its former glory. During the Second World War, it was an 18,000-person community; but it is now underpopulated and wrangling with ongoing concerns of unemployment, crime, drug abuse, and hopelessness.
The median income in Braddock is $14,000 a year. More than one-third of Braddock households live below the poverty line. Braddock has one of the highest crime rates in the commonwealth – a fact that has been true for some time now.
It’s hard to believe that a community like Braddock, with such real struggles and the need for true leadership, attracted the attention of someone as unremarkable as John Fetterman who, shortly after moving there in 2005, managed to get elected mayor. But his move would turn out to be much more about using the town to create opportunities for himself than bringing opportunities to the families of Braddock.
Reports indicate that Mayor Fetterman skipped at least one-third of the borough’s monthly meetings – at least 53 meetings to be exact – and he cast only one vote during his tenure. During those 12 years, it is said that Fetterman never got around to developing relationships with town residents or even the town council.
So, what did the no-show mayor actually do for this struggling town of few jobs and high crime? By many accounts, Fetterman pursued an agenda focused on art installations, a fine-dining restaurant, and climate change.
Instead of basic things like more jobs or safer streets, John Fetterman said, “Let them have sculptures and carbon caps!” Because Fetterman apparently thinks that’s the way you invite manufacturing jobs back to the southwestern part of the state – give them good esthetics and expensive, unreliable energy.
Even Fetterman’s successor, Mayor Chardaé Jones, pointed out the lunacy of coming into the town and telling people what they need instead of listening to the residents and working with community leaders.
But Fetterman didn’t care. He used his failures as mayor to find greater fame among people who’ve never actually seen Braddock, never been to Allegheny County, and never known the issues faced by our communities. That’s why Fetterman went on a national tour, including a TED talk and the Aspen Ideas Festival, to brag about how he was “saving” Braddock. And during that time, Braddock continued to suffer.
During Fetterman’s tenure, the population continued to fall and one-third of the population lived in poverty. Violent crime spiked dramatically between 2013 and 2018, peaking in 2017 as the number of reports to local police quadrupled compared to 2006. Similarly, robberies surged in 2017 along with property crimes, burglaries, larceny-theft, and motorcycle vehicle theft.
Despite his demonstrated failure to show up as mayor, Fetterman has continued to push his radical policy ideas that make no sense for real communities. In November 2021, when asked if Fetterman had a magic wand to change one thing in Pennsylvania, he said he would end life without parole sentences for convicted murderers.
These stories encapsulate the true failure John Fetterman has been for the people of Braddock and Pennsylvania. But that has not stopped him from failing upward, again and again, thanks to the financial backing of his family.
For a large part of his life, John Fetterman’s main source of income came from his parents. They gave him and his family $54,000 in 2015 alone. That funding helped support Fetterman throughout his life, including his group “Braddock Redux” – which he used to operate with limited accountability and go around the Braddock Borough Council.
But, even with the cushy support from his parents, Fetterman still struggled to do basic things like paying his taxes. Over the years, Fetterman and his “nonprofit” were hit with tax liens totaling $25,000, and the nonprofit was sued 67 times. From 2006 to 2012, Fetterman’s residential properties were subject to more than $11,000 in liens for unpaid property taxes and garbage fees.
With this horrible track record, it’s no wonder Fetterman doesn’t want to debate Dr. Oz in the race for U.S. Senate. It’s no wonder he’s been hiding from voters – whether to cover up his record or lie about his current health status.
How can we expect a guy who couldn’t show up to lead a town, earn a real paycheck, pay his taxes, run a non-profit, or understand the basic needs of our communities to be our next U.S. senator? We can’t. But we can expect John Fetterman to find a way to fail upward again, one way or another.