The Other Side Of The Boy Scout Story

Posted: June 25, 2007

I'M WRITING THIS filled with disappointment due to the actions of the leadership of the city that I love.

While in Atlanta several weeks ago on Boy Scout business, I was pulled aside and told we'd been blindsided, again with regard to the office that the Scouts have occupied and maintained in Philadelphia since 1928.

I get frustrated when I read the side of the story that our city solicitor tells, as it seems to not fall in line with the first point of Scout Law: Being trustworthy.

My goal is to tell the side of the story that seems to be hidden.

In 2004, the city presented a non-discrimination policy to the Cradle of Liberty Council, our local Boy Scout organization, and asked that it be adopted to resolve the city's concerns over the occupation of our city-owned building at 22nd and Winter.

It was adopted, and we considered the matter resolved.

On a Friday evening in July 2006, after hours, the council received a letter from the city solicitor's office threatening eviction if the council didn't begin paying fair-market rent, or adopt a different policy of non-discrimination.

On that Monday, without the matter being on its published agenda, the Fairmount Park Commission passed a resolution in support of the eviction. Other interested parties were informed in advance of this action and attended the meeting. The Scouts weren't contacted in advance.

Since July 2006, the Scouts have attempted to take part in a dialogue with city officials to reach a compromise, even though a solution had seemingly been reached in 2004.

During this time, the city solicitor's office repeatedly contacted the Scouts with what we felt were unreasonable demands for meetings. They canceled the last meeting scheduled with a promise that someone would call and reschedule, but never followed through.

In December 2006, the Scouts asked the city for a figure that represents fair-market rent. The city never answered that request.

In February 2007, Scouting representatives met with Councilman Darrell Clarke. Councilman Clarke indicated he would look into certain matters and get back to the Scouts. He never did.

On May 31, Councilman Clarke introduced a resolution in City Council to evict the Boy Scouts from their headquarters. The resolution was passed 16-1. The Scouts had no knowledge the resolution was to be introduced and feel we were again blindsided.

The Cradle of Liberty Council provides free programs for more than 40,000 children in the city of Philadelphia.

The programs target underserved boys and girls. Via after-school programs, internships, educational opportunities, camping and other activities, the Boy Scouts address many of the social concerns of parents and youth in our region.

The Cradle of Liberty Council is currently exploring its options in response to the passage of the May 2007 resolution.

It has a strong legal position, but the ultimate goal should be a compromise because - and let's be honest here - in a year in which Philadelphia is a national leader in homicide rates, this city should not be focused on evicting an organization that provides highly valuable programming for a portion of the population most in need of the support and exposure to opportunity.

What will it take for the city to make the kids its priority? This should not be a hard question to answer, but it seems to be impossible these days.

Instead of trying to kick us out, the city should be trying to help us in maintaining services for 40,000 kids.

I would not be the person who I am in life, personally or professionally, without the skills I learned as a proud member of the Boy Scouts of America and the Cradle of Liberty Council.

I know that I am not the only one whose life has been touched by Scouting, and I wish that our time could be spent trying to find a way to get more kids off the streets and into the great outdoors to experience the possibilities of what a life spent serving others can truly be. *

Mark Chilutti is a Boy Scout volunteer and an Eagle Scout, Class of 1982.

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