Who's In Charge Here? A Very Tough Question For Evans

Posted: March 01, 1999

Dwight Evans is going to have to do more than apologize for the fake and racially inflammatory Web site his deputy campaign manager apparently had a role in creating.

For Evans, who has mounted a mostly issue-driven and promising campaign until now, the challenge is no longer convincing voters that he should be the next Mayor of Philadelphia. His challenge is convincing Philadelphians he should stay in the race.

The dirty trick played on rival candidate John White was a cowardly and craven act. The fake Web site looked for all intents and purposes like the cyberspace home for White's mayoral campaign.

The site features White's picture, his biography and a "message from John." It also featured, prominently, this supposed quote from White: "The black and the brown, if we unite, we're going to control this city."

The race-baiting quote is a bad English translation of an interview with White published in Spanish in the weekly newspaper Al Dia. What White actually told the newspaper was the standard minorities-are-disenfranchised-and-should-vote message.

Last week Evans said deputy campaign manager David Sirota knew Robert Richman, who apparently registered and paid for the fake Web site. Sirota and Richman were college dormmates and, Evans said, had talked about the Web site.

Evans has fired Sirota. Campaign manager John Fugett has taken some responsibility for this cyber slur and has resigned.

Sirota and Richman, a Cambridge, Mass., man who denies having a role in this fiasco despite compelling evidence, have soiled themselves, and soiled a mayoral campaign. This type of sleazy character assassination has no place in a political campaign.

For the other candidates, who still have weeks of campaigning left to go before the primary in May, let this episode stand as a warning. The wink and nudge tolerance for political pranks in Philadelphia has grown thin. This city, still struggling for economic recovery, can't afford it.

For Evans, unfortunately, it may be too late to walk away with just a warning. He is left with this hard question: If he can't govern his own campaign, why should voters believe he can govern this city?

Leading off with 'Spotlight on Crime'

Compact to help voters

Voting is a powerful and basic right that symbolizes freedom and defines the quality of democracy.

But we abuse this right. We don't vote - in droves.

In the 1995 mayor's race, only 36 percent of us bothered to cast ballots.

The Philadelphia Compact wants to change that. This civic experiment aims to get you involved in the May primary election by providing reliable information on the issues facing the city, and to help you chose a mayor based on facts - rather than the seductive rhetoric of political ads and campaign pitches.

Leading off its agenda is a forum, "Spotlight on Crime," on Sunday, from 1 to 3:30 P.M. at the University of Pennsylvania Annenberg Center, (one of the Compact's partners, along with Pew Charitable Trust and others) 36th & Walnut.

A nonpartisan panel of experts will discuss crime in Philadelphia and what the next mayor should to do about it. Sponsored by the Daily News and moderated by staffer Linda Wright Moore, the forum is free and open to all.

Arming yourself with information is the best way to prepare for that serious and essential democratic act - voting - on May 18.

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