mayor

Posted by Ellen

A South Phily mural features Francis Lazarro Rizzo Sr., Philadelphia's longtime police commissioner and two-term (1972-1980) mayor.

For those among us who've never heard of this Rizzo person, or who have tried hard to forget him after all these years: he was a bad guy. He emerged on the national scene when his police officers raided a Black Panther house in the middle of the night, dragged the occupants outside onto the sidewalk, and proceeded to strip search them in front of the TV cameras.

When protesters raised the issue of police brutality, he threatened them with police brutality. "When I'm finished with them," he told the press, "I'll make Attila the Hun look like a faggot."

His hatred roiled Philadelphia, and his corruption pretty nearly robbed the city blind. He stripped city utility companies of valuable assets and ran them into the ground for patronage and personal gain. He perfected a notorious means of double-dipping, still with us today, enabling favored city employees to "retire" and start collecting their pensions, even though they actually remained in their old jobs, at full pay.

In the end, he tried to change the city charter so he could remain the mayor forever and ever. But he'd made a fool of himself once too often; the last time involved a corruption probe in which he loudly proclaimed his innocence, called his accuser a liar, and demanded a lie-detector test. Rizzo failed the test, and his accuser passed. He died within a few months of leaving office.

Rizzo's mural visage looms over the Italian Market on 9th Street, in the neighborhood he grew up in, which is now represented on the city council by his son.