The Frank Rizzo statue is about to be paroled from the statue jail.

Former Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney removed the statue from its prominent spot in front of the Municipal Services Building in June 2020. Kenney said he removed it because it threatened public health, safety, and welfare. The truth is that rioters reacting to the police killing of George Floyd had defaced it and were attempting to burn and topple it.

Local attorney George Bochetto joined me on my radio show on Talk Radio 1210 to discuss the settlement of a lawsuit against the City of Philadelphia. That settlement will allow the Frank L. Rizzo Monument Committee, which paid for the statue, to reclaim it and start the process of finding a new home for it in Philadelphia.

I’ve always thought the Rizzo statue was in a perfect spot in front of the Municipal Services Building. Sure, Rizzo was known as the top cop who preserved law and order in Philadelphia. However, he was more the master of constituent services. Even when he wasn’t in office, he fielded dozens of calls each day from Philadelphia citizens wanting a pothole fixed or a raccoon removed.

Cherelle Parker, Philadelphia’s new mayor, also understands how important city services are in Philadelphians’ lives. I’m happy to say that Bochetto credits Parker as being extremely instrumental in gaining a deal for the statue’s release. She opposes Rizzo’s legacy, but believes Rizzo supporters, especially Italian-Americans, should be able to honor one of the most prominent Philadelphians of the last hundred years.

Bochetto contrasted Parker’s approach to the approach of Mayor Jim Kenney, who fought “tooth and nail” to keep the statue in captivity.

Kenney also had workers place a wooden box around the statue of Christopher Columbus on the grounds of Marconi Park. Bochetto and other upstanding Philadelphia Italian–Americans argue those actions indicated Kenney’s anti-Italian bias.

There are a few bureaucratic hurdles to be cleared before the Rizzo statue is released, but it seems that in a brief period, the search will be underway for the right place to install the statue. People realize that it should be in a prominent spot and in a location that can be secured from vandalism.

There’s also a sentiment that it belongs somewhere in South Philly because Rizzo was born there, and his life story is that of a blue-collar man’s rise to great power and celebrity.

I’d rather not see it placed next to the Christopher Columbus statue behind a fence in Marconi Park in South Philly. That site is too remote to reach enough people to connect with Rizzo’s legacy and love for Philadelphia. I think Rizzo belongs somewhere along Broad Street in South Philly, on Ninth Street in the Italian Market area, or near the Italian-American Museum on East Passyunk Avenue.

I’m also hoping that the restoration of the Rizzo statue will spur the Philadelphia Flyers to release their statue of singer Kate Smith. Smith’s performances at Flyers’ playoff games were a legendary good luck charm. Their treatment of Smith’s memory was shameful. I know the city of Wildwood would love to put her statue on its boardwalk. Her history is not nearly as complicated as Rizzo’s.

This whole process is a good opportunity to remind people that the last few years, which have seen outright attacks on historical statues of Presidents Abraham Lincoln, Teddy Roosevelt and many others, were a big mistake. Let’s restore a respectful debate about our public areas and monuments, without the knee-jerk removal of statues because somebody, somehow might take offense.

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