A trial by fireworks for managing director

Posted: July 09, 2007

It's been a rough two weeks for new Managing Director Loree Jones.

Last week, she irritated thousands of Fourth of July revelers by telling them to leave the Benjamin Franklin Parkway when an electrical storm threatened - then proceeding with the much-awaited fireworks show a half hour later. By that time, however, almost every one of the thousands who had braved a downpour that drenched the festivities on the Parkway had left.

The week before, Jones spooked kids serving food to the homeless in JFK Plaza, telling organizers that their nearly two-year-old tradition had to stop. The police showed up not long after Jones to disperse the students, prompting one 13-year-old to ask: "Are we going to jail for feeding the homeless?"

So what should Jones do?

Just brush it off and hang in there, former managing directors Pedro Ramos and Phil Goldsmith said.

"You wouldn't be managing director unless you took shots," Goldsmith said Friday. "People are always going to second-guess you. It's like being a baseball manager."

Ramos used a similar analogy.

"Don't dwell on whether the last pitch was a ball or strike, because there's always another pitch whirling your way," Ramos said in an e-mail.

A onetime former deputy managing director, Jones has long been familiar with the tough calls the city's chief operating officer must make. But there's a big difference between advising and deciding, Goldsmith said.

"It certainly took me awhile to get my sea legs. She's doing fine," Goldsmith said.

Goldsmith agrees with Jones that serving the homeless in JFK Plaza is bad public policy, and said deciding whether to cancel events like the fireworks show are some of the toughest calls the managing director makes.

Jones, who took the position last month, won't have much time to get used to her new office. The next mayor is certain to name a new managing director in January.

- Patrick Kerkstra

Same old song

Choosing what music to play when the curtain goes up at a big event is a serious decision in a presidential campaign: It has to be upbeat, it must resonate with the audience, and the lyrics should be on message.

Illustrating the perils of the process, New York Sen. Hillary Clinton once used Billy Joel's "Captain Jack" at a New York rally, and journalists mocked the campaign for apparently not recognizing the song's references to masturbation. The song has not come back.

Given all that goes into the call, what are the odds that three candidates would enter and leave the stage at last week's National Education Association convention to the same song? Former Sen. John Edwards, Democrat of North Carolina; former Gov. Mike Huckabee of Arkansas, a Republican; and Ohio Democrat Rep. Dennis Kucinich all were accompanied by the theme from Rocky.

Although that is the most overused campaign song in these parts, the convention was national and maybe the three wanted to pay some sort of homage to the host city. Or maybe not.

"Rocky was the default theme song," said NEA spokeswoman Staci Maiers. "We put that on if the staffs didn't request anything else."

Edwards usually uses John Mellencamp's "Your Life Is Now," cued to the 48-second mark, but there was a snafu and he got "Rocky." Huckabee and Kucinich's staffs didn't express a preference.

Clinton, who spoke last Monday, entered to "You and I" by Celine Dion and left to "Right Here, Right Now," the 1999 hit by Fatboy Slim that was used extensively in 2005 by the British Labour Party.

Sen. Chris Dodd, a Democrat from Connecticut, entered and left to "I Won't Back Down" by Tom Petty.

New Mexico Gov. Bill Richardson, another Democrat, went with "Lean on Me" by Bill Withers and a Latin mix of the 1976 Peter Frampton hit "Baby, I Love Your Way."

Illinois Sen. Barack Obama entered to "Think" by Aretha Franklin, cued to the 34-second mark. He exited to Jackie Wilson's "Higher and Higher," cued at 35 seconds into the single.

And Delaware Democratic Sen. Joe Biden, practically a hometown favorite, used "Centerfield" by John Fogarty.

- Thomas Fitzgerald

Judges appointed

Alice Beck Dubow, a candidate for Philadelphia Common Pleas Court, will get to don a black robe months before voters cast ballots in the November general election.

That's because the state Senate last week voted to confirm Dubow to fill a court vacancy for a term that lasts through the year.

She was nominated by Gov. Rendell after winning the May primary as the second-highest vote-getter among Democratic and Republican voters.

Of course, to keep the job for a fresh 10-year term, she needs to win in November - a victory politicos see as certain since her campaign has raked in a hefty $331,000 since January.

Also confirmed by the Senate to sit on the Common Pleas court was Dan Anders. But Anders will have a small respite from campaigning since the term he is filling won't expire until the end of 2009.

Then it's back to the ballot for him, too, should he choose to run for a new term. "I'm already a declared candidate," Anders said.

- Marcia Gelbart

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