Philadelphia names street for controversial former mayor
PHILADELPHIA (AP) — Former Philadelphia Mayor W. Wilson Goode Sr., who led the city in 1985 when police dropped a bomb on a rowhouse and caused an inferno that killed 11 people and destroyed more than 60 homes, defended his legacy against shouting protesters Friday as the city named a street in his honor.
Speaking at a dedication ceremony in a west Philadelphia neighborhood, Goode said he would not be defined by one day of his life. But more than a dozen protesters disagreed, shouting from behind a metal riot barrier that the city was naming a street after a murderer.
Goode, the city’s first black mayor, led Philadelphia when the city clashed with members of MOVE, a radical, black back-to-nature group. It culminated in the bombing of MOVE headquarters, which engulfed a city block in flames. Five children were among the 11 people who died.
Testifying at a trial more than a decade after the bombing, Goode said he ordered the fire to be put out, but the fire commissioner later testified that he never received the order.
“I accept responsibility. I was mayor that day,” Goode said Friday as protesters shouted over a sound system a short distance away. “You will not define me by one day of my life. I am more than that.”
The city added a red strip across the signs for the 2400 block of 59th Street bearing Goode’s name Thursday night ahead of the dedication. The street and mailing addresses for that block will remain 59th Street.
The city council voted in June to co-name the street. Residents and community activists said no one ever notified or contacted them about the plan.
Maisha Sullivan-Ongoza lives nearby and canvassed the five surrounding blocks, speaking to dozens of neighbors. She said she found only one person who supported the designation.
“There are still people suffering from post-traumatic stress from that day. Where’s our sensitivity to those survivors who are still traumatized?” she said. “I was there that day. It felt like a war zone ... and I resent that we give him the chance to walk this back.”
Councilman Curtis Jones defended Goode at the dedication and called the former mayor a mentor. He said the decisions the day of the MOVE bombing were something that Goode has lived with.
“It’s not all peaches and cream and sunshine and roses,” Jones said. “But it’s a historical fact that he has made a contribution” to the city.
Current Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney also spoke briefly, pointing out that Goode should get credit for changing the skyline and for building the convention center. He also noted the national organization Goode formed when he left office to support children of incarcerated parents.
But protesters answered by talking about the five children of MOVE members who died in the 1985 bombing, shouting, “No Goode way” and “Take it down.”
It’s not the only controversial decision to honor former politicians that the city has bumped up against. The city this year quietly named the 1300 block of South Broad Street after Jimmy Tayoun, a former city councilman and state representative who pleaded guilty to racketeering and fraud charges.
The planned relocation of a statue of the late Philadelphia Mayor Frank Rizzo, a polarizing figure in the city’s history, has been put on hold for at least two more years.
Those who want the towering bronze sculpture depicting a waving Rizzo descending the plaza steps of a government building to stay remember him as devoted public servant. His detractors say he led a police force that brutalized minorities, recalling his approach to policing and governing as corrupt and racist.