HARRISBURG — Scott Wagner resigned his Pa. state Senate seat Monday at 11:59 p.m. to focus on his bid for governor, which will apparently include lawn care services.
Namely, mowing the grass at Malcolm X Park in West Philly.
In a video posted to Facebook on Saturday, Wagner — the trash magnate who won the Republican nomination for governor with 44 percent of the vote — asked, “Why isn’t the grass mowed? I’m shocked.” He later called the condition of the park (where he held a campaign event over the weekend, per a spokesperson) “really disgusting.”
Standing alongside Greg Cojulun of the park’s friends group and Tracey L. Fisher, CEO of local nonprofit Gateway to Re-Entry, Wagner said in the video that the men had designed a “scheme” to cut the grass and clean up downed branches. They would do this, he declared, at 2 p.m. Wednesday — if the city hadn’t yet done so.
“Now Mayor Kenney, if you want to beat me to it by Wednesday, you go ahead and do it,” Wagner continued. “But I’m telling ya, I’m coming back here Wednesday afternoon if the sun’s out and it’s not raining.”
Well, you can put away your mower, Mr. Wagner.
The city cut the grass Monday “as part of the regular maintenance schedule,” according to Kenney spokesperson Mike Dunn. Dunn added that the grass was previously cut on May 25 and that it has been particularly rainy in Philadelphia lately.
“The Mayor has long acknowledged the need for greater resources so we can better care for Malcolm X Park and all parks in Philadelphia,” Dunn continued in an email, before plugging Rebuild, an initiative to improve parks, rec centers, and libraries funded by the Philadelphia Beverage Tax.
“The PBT is the Mayor’s plan to solve local problems with a local solution — and without asking Harrisburg for more funding,” Dunn said.
Blame it on the soda tax
Yes, there’s a soda tax twist in this story.
As Dunn pointed out, Wagner scheduled hearings on the tax at the request of opponent Democratic state Sen. Anthony Williams of Philadelphia. The first, held in the city, was canceled 40 minutes in because pro-tax protesters (apparently coordinated by those close to Kenney) were just that loud.
After the second hearing, which actually took place, Wagner told the Daily News the tax “doesn’t make sense to me.”
Currently, House Republicans are considering another bill to kill the city’s soda tax and preempt similar legislation, and Dunn urged the former state senator to ask his colleagues to reject it.
“Offering to cut the lawn is certainly clever,” Dunn said. “Working on behalf of true, long-term solutions requires a modicum of independence and leadership.”
Even though the grass has been mowed, Wagner’s campaign spokesperson, Andrew Romeo, said via email the politician still plans to show up Wednesday, “to make sure they did a satisfactory job.”
“Scott’s happy to learn that, after he brought it to his attention, Mayor Kenney cut the grass at Malcolm X Park,” Romeo said. “Scott finds it interesting that the Soda Tax is what funds park maintenance in Philadelphia and is not solely devoted to school funding like he thought. That’s something he probably would have learned if Mayor Kenney didn’t purposely shut down the bipartisan hearing Scott wanted to hold on the issue last year.”
Wagner’s Philly friends
So what about the two men who appeared alongside Wagner in the video? Gateway to Re-Entry’s Fisher didn’t respond to request for comment about his relationship with Wagner, but the men have known each other for awhile.
They appeared together at the Pa. State Capitol last year to tout Wagner’s recording-sealing criminal justice reform legislation. Wagner also personally purchased two vans wrapped in campaign ads for Fisher’s returning citizens nonprofit, WHYY reported. Per campaign finance reports, Wagner’s campaign paid Gateway to Re-Entry $1,400 in November 2017 for the ads.
While Fisher’s friendly with Wagner, he does not appear to be a fan of Kenney.
“Depending on Mayor Kenney’s like depending on a blind man to walk you through the streets,” he said in the video.
Cojulun could not be reached for comment.