Ronnie Polaneczky: The Street where you live

Posted: September 02, 2009

WHEN VINCE FUMO was told that he'd serve his eye-blink of a sentence in a federal lockup in Ashland, Ky., his legal flacks whined that its 525-mile distance from Philly would create a travel hardship for his friends and family.

They also complained that Ashland lacked drug-and-alcohol-treatment programs, services that Fumo requires because - who knew? - our lying, greedy, justice-obstructing ex-senator is also a pill-popping booze hound.

Me, I'm wondering if Fumo's front men omitted an even more compelling reason he wouldn't want to bed down at Ashland:

Milton Street is there.

Yeah, that Milton Street.

At Ashland, Philadelphia's most entertaining political sibling is inmate #61079-066. Convicted almost a year ago, the 70-year-old big brother of former mayor John Street is serving a 30-month sentence for failing to pay federal income tax on more than $2 million.

Before landing at Ashland, Street held many titles: food vendor, community rabble-rouser, state senator, airport-services king, warbling mayoral candidate (remember his lounge-lizard act outside City Hall?).

And, notably, Fumo refusenik. The two had their famous falling out back in 1981, when Street, a Democrat just elected to the state Senate, switched allegiance to the Republicans, angry that Fumo wouldn't support causes he held dear.

"Milton was the only Philadelphia senator confident enough to tell Vince to go scratch himself," says Jimmy Tayoun, convicted pol, South Philly icon and straight-talking publisher of the Philadelphia Public Record. "He always had an independent mind. Vince hates that."

Street and Fumo have felt repugnance for each other ever since, says a former City Hall bureaucrat who knows both men well enough that he'd rather stay anonymous in this column.

"For Milton and Vince," he says, "I imagine being in prison together would feel like the equivalent of being locked up with the man who raped your mother, your daughter and your sister."

Uh-oh.

What if Fumo's plan to earn time off for good behavior gets thwarted by a throw-down with Street in the exercise yard?

On the other hand, a little bonding behind barbed wire might allow Team Street and Team Fumo to realize some efficiencies.

Their Philly visitors could carpool to Kentucky and split hotel costs at the Ashland Best Western (where the $94 room rates include HBO).

The guys could bulk-order Tastykakes. Share a Daily News subscription. Duet on "Fly Eagles Fly."

Cheer the Temple Owls.

Even if their mutual loathing is too cemented to morph into new friendship, at least their forced togetherness is temporary. According to the Bureau of Prisons Web site, Street is scheduled for release in late 2010.

Surely they can grin and bear each other until then?

As for the rest of us, there's little to grin about. It's depressing as hell that Philadelphia greed is so well-represented in Kentucky, a state in which Fumo's co-defendant, Ruth Arnao, is also serving time, in nearby Lexington.

At least Fumo's not in the feds' Lewisburg, Pa., lockup. The town is spittin' distance from his Harrisburg stomping grounds, which would have made it a snap to have lackeys stop by to do his bidding.

The Kentucky locale will provide logistical business challenges, but, sadly, not impossible ones (see my colleague Kitty Caparella's story on left for how Team Fumo plans to endure). With time off for good behavior and drug treatment, Fumo needs only to muddle through a mere three-plus years, a nanosecond in politics.

Maybe Street will give him tips on getting by until then - if these two can keep from food-fighting in the cafeteria.

E-mail polaner@phillynews.com or call 215-854-2217. For recent columns:

http://go.philly.com/polaneczky. Read Ronnie's blog at http://go.philly.com/ ronnieblog.

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