Clout: Union League seeks patriotic members

Union League's Joan Carter
Union League's Joan Carter
Posted: February 04, 2011

THE UNION LEAGUE

of Philadelphia this year will celebrate the 25th anniversary of the admission of its first five female members. One of those women, Joan Carter, will preside over that event as the Union League's first female president.

Given her history of breaking through barriers at the South Broad Street institution, we found the "President's Letter" that Carter penned this month for the league's newsletter more exclusionary than egalitarian.

First, Carter laments that the league rents its facilities to nonmembers to pay the bills and suggests that "most members would be thrilled" if only they were allowed to hold weddings and other events there.

The league has 2,250 members, but Carter wants to bump that up to 3,000 - as long the right kind of people can be recruited.

Who are they?

"Obviously, not everyone is a good candidate for membership," Carter writes. "Our admission process is intended to make sure that we admit only individuals of honor and integrity, individuals who believe in the principles on which our nation was founded - individual liberty, free markets and limited government - and individuals who support the free-enterprise system."

Carter told us she was trying to capture the spirit of the league's motto - "Love of country leads" - in her membership pitch.

She said the league wouldn't question prospective members about their stance on free-market issues like the Affordable Health Care Act or proposals to allow taxpayers to invest Social Security taxes in private accounts.

"It means somebody who considers themselves a patriot, that it's important in their life," Carter said of the criteria she set for prospective members.

The league charges a $3,600 initiation fee and annual dues of $4,000, so its coffers could fill with $2.7 million right away and an extra $3 million per year if Carter hits her recruitment goal.

Carter said the league, which opened in 1862, needs major renovations, including a complete kitchen overhaul.

The Union League will hold its annual open house on Feb. 12 from 10 a.m. to 1:30 p.m.

Stop by and see if you're patriotic enough to become a member.

The $63-per-ballot bargain

Freedom isn't free, the old idiom goes. And democracy is damn expensive, a special election this week demonstrated.

The state House 185th District election meant that 54 divisions in Philadelphia and 10 precincts in Delaware County had to be opened Tuesday for voters.

The Philadelphia City Commission was required to spend $46,081 to open the polls and another $94,700 to advertise the election in local newspapers.

The result: 1,791 votes at local polling places, along with 422 other votes through absentee, alternative and provisional ballots.

The cost: $63.62 per vote.

If that sounds expensive, it's a bargain compared with that in Delaware County, where the bills are still being tallied, but estimates put the cost at $18,000 to $20,000. The election there drew 189 votes and three absentee ballots, putting the potential cost per ballot at from $93.75 to $104.17.

The state, which sets dates for special elections, reimburses municipalities, so taxpayers across the state will help pick up the bill.

Nutter's Boy Scout conundrum

Mayor Nutter appears to have serious political trouble in the LGBT community as he seeks re-election this year.

And imagine our surprise to find former Mayor John Street fanning those flames.

Street this week urged the Liberty City Democratic Club to send Nutter a message about its opposition to a proposed compromise in the legal battle with the Boy Scouts of America's Cradle of Liberty Council.

"You would be less than true to your own community if you endorsed him for mayor," Street told the LGBT (lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender) group. "It's an embarrassment to this community throughout the United States of America."

The compromise, pending as legislation in City Council, would allow the Boy Scouts to buy for $500,000 the city-owned Logan Square land on which it built its local headquarters in 1928. It would also allow the city to escape responsibility for $960,000 in legal fees for the Scouts.

The Scouts last year won a federal lawsuit filed in 2007 after the city said the group had to vacate the property or pay rent of $200,000 per year because it discriminates through a ban on gay Scouts and troop leaders.

Nutter's campaign didn't put him on the phone with us yesterday, but issued a statement saying he is "constrained to follow the decisions of our federal courts."

Street said he could not understand how the city lost the lawsuit, which the Scouts filed during his second term. "When I went out of office, it was a winner," Street said. "I mean, we never even dreamed of losing it."

Street, who has almost unlimited animosity toward his successor, again brought up his claim that Nutter is not viewed in the African-American community as a black mayor. He accused Nutter of alienating both the black and gay communities in the city.

Nutter's campaign pointed out that he had Councilman Bill Greenlee introduce legislation yesterday to update the Philadelphia Fair Practices law.

The legislation boosts the penalty for discrimination from $300 to $2,000. It also "provides greater protection for members of the LGBT community who lack protection under federal and state law," his campaign

noted.

The law is enforced by the Philadelphia Commission on Human Relations. Nutter appointed Rue Landau, a former Liberty City co-chairwoman, executive director for the commission in 2008.

Liberty City didn't endorse any of the five candidates in the 2007 Democratic primary election for mayor, but endorsed Nutter in the general election, which he won with ease. Nutter, in a questionnaire submitted to the group before the primary, said the city should evict any organization that discriminates or require them to pay fair-market rent.

Quotable:

"I'm not getting into the weather stuff. Have a good day. See ya."

-Gov. Rendell, hanging up on our question about whether President Obama is a "wussie" for postponing a visit to Penn State from Tuesday to yesterday due to inclement weather. Rendell told anyone who would listen that the Eagles' Dec. 26 decision to postpone a game due to an impending snowstorm was proof of the wussification of America.

Have tips or suggestions? Call Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or e-mail

brennac@phillynews.com.

Check out the Clout blog at:

www.phillyclout.com.


Have a news tip? Gossip? Suggestion? Call Chris Brennan at 215-854-5973 or Catherine Lucey at 215-854-4712. Or e-mail phillyclout@phillynews.com.

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