The congressman who may be mayor joined other heavy hitters on a trip to distribute millions in grants.
He is still mum on whether he is running to win a mayoral seat or keep his congressional one, but U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah (D., Phila.) left little doubt yesterday that he was gunning for something as he raced around the city handing out $17.5 million in federal grant money.
And he didn't do it alone.
Several political heavyweights joined the six-term congressman at various points during a daylong road trip that included six stops in Philadelphia and one in Glenside.
"Any time there's an issue at the federal level, Chaka has been there for us," Philadelphia schools chief Paul Vallas said as he thanked him for a $3.2 million grant to improve school safety zones, including adding flashing yellow traffic lights at every school corner.
The American Cities Foundation, a nonprofit group led by school reform commissioner Sandra Dungee Glenn, also Fattah's former chief of staff, will help disburse the money.
Other Fattah companions on hand yesterday were Mayor Street; U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D., Pa.); State Sens. Vincent J. Hughes and Anthony Williams, both of Philadelphia; and City Council members Jannie Blackwell, Michael A. Nutter and Blondell Reynolds Brown. "Doing the job you've been elected to is always good politics," Fattah, a member of the House Appropriations Committee, said in an interview between stops.
The money – much of which was secured with the help of other members of the state's congressional delegation – came from a federal transportation bill that had been tied up for 18 months and was signed by President Bush last month.
Earlier in the day, Fattah stood no more than 20 feet from where slaves owned by George Washington lived and labored during the nation's first presidency.
The site – near the entrance to the Liberty Bell Center at Sixth and Market Streets – was well-suited for Fattah to announce that Congress had appropriated $3.6 million to commemorate the nation's first White House and those Africans held there in bondage during the 1790s.
When completed, the commemoration of the house and its occupants – including at least nine enslaved Africans – will constitute what scholars and government officials say will be the first national memorial of slavery. "This check we're going to present was worth waiting for," Fattah said, adding that Congress was seeking "an appropriate, respectful acknowledgment" of Washington's slaves, and by extension, slavery itself.
Among other grants:
$7.2 million to the Philadelphia Zoo to consolidate parking lots and fund shuttle bus service as part of a $35 million plan for to create a transportation center on Girard Avenue. "This is a huge boost toward getting there," said Alexander L. "Pete" Hoskins, the zoo's president and chief executive.
$1.2 million to the Schuylkill River Development Corp. to extend a bike trail to historic Bartram's Garden.
$1.1 million to help the Philadelphia Commercial Development Corp. aid dozens of small businesses suffering because of the Market-Frankford El reconstruction in West Philadelphia.
$1.8 million to Mount Airy USA, a community-development group, to revitalize a business strip on Germantown Avenue.
$1.2 million for repairs to prevent future flooding of Cresheim Valley Drive in Chestnut Hill.
$800,000 to help the Roxborough Development Corp. to improve lighting, plant trees, and make other improvements to the Ivy Ridge shopping center.