The Rittenhouse Review

A Philadelphia Journal of Politics, Finance, Ethics, and Culture

Tuesday, June 29, 2004  

Items in the News
June 29, 2004

Louisville and Phoenix are Really Jumping
I noticed this brief item from the Associated Press in the morning paper:

The ACLU is objecting to a ban on sports jerseys, sleeveless shirts, and backward baseball caps in Louisville’s new nightclub district, saying the dress code is biased against blacks and poor people.

The city has given the developer of the month-old Fourth Street Live the power to enforce its dress code three nights a week during special events along the block-long stretch of restaurants, bars and shops. During those nights, the city street is blocked off, and bouncers decide who meets the dress code.

Now, aside from the dubious intent and premises of Fourth Street Live’s “dress code,” the item struck me for a less obvious reason: Louisville’s “new nightclub district” is a “block long”? One block? Oh, how I wish the neighborhood known here as South Street were confined to a single block. Ditto the nightclub-heavy section of Old City.

But when one lives in a large city, a real city, one takes the good with the bad, which is while I’ll take Philadelphia, the fifth-largest city in America, over Phoenix, the nation’s sixth-largest though gaining ground fast.

Arguing the relative merits of Philadelphia and Phoenix has become something of a pastime here of late, a debate into which Philadelphia Daily News columnist Carla Anderson stepped today with “On Charm Meter, Phoenix Lags a Lot.”


Among Anderson’s observations:

At almost 500 square miles, Phoenix is about four times the geographic size of Philadelphia. Yet roughly the same number of people live there, sprawled out over all that asphalt distance. No wonder the city seems to be built out of shopping malls. The crosswalks on Philly’s Vine Street expressway have more charm than just about any sidewalk in Phoenix. […]

Phoenix plain doesn’t rate as an actual city -- no matter what the bean counters say. I say it’s more like a place where lots of people happen to live.


Before you fire off an e-mail either to me or to the Daily News, read Anderson’s article from start to finish. It’s more than fair, as the author ladles several compliments upon Phoenix, and Philadelphia takes it on the chin more than once.

(For local coverage of the Fourth Street controversy, see the Louisville Courier-Journal: “ACLU Joins Protest on Dress Code for Fourth Street Live Patrons,” by Jennifer C. Smith, June 29; “Activists Call 4th Street Live Dress Code Discriminatory,” by Joseph Gerth, June 26; and “Dressing Down?” by Jessie Halladay and Sheldon S. Shafer, June 24.)

Getting Around Rome
Authorities in Rome are reversing a longstanding practice of allowing teenagers as young as 14 to drive motor scooters and mini cars without a permit or any kind of test. (“Teens With Need for Speed Now Will Need a License,” by Tom Rachman, the Associated Press, in the Philadelphia Inquirer). But this being Italy, “the change is causing havoc,” the A.P. reports. “Although Thursday’s deadline was announced a year ago, bad planning means hundreds of thousands of youths will suffer a sudden driving ban -- a grim prospect for young Italians who are raised to love motors and tend to disdain the extended use of their feet.”

Teenagers complain the government’s promised free driving classes failed to materialize in other than a spotty fashion and that examinations were booked long in advance. The transportation ministry cites procrastination and estimates less than a third of those wanting the required license now have one. The new rules take effect Thursday.

Also from Rome, or from within Rome, there’s word the Vatican is getting something right: the mail. That puts the church in competition with the state, though “competition” is a relative term considering the rival is the Italian postal service. “The legends tell of how in a postal strike some years ago, overstuffed post offices put their parcels on trains that simply wandered, full, up and down Italy,” the New York Times reports. “Instances of mail arriving a quarter-century late abound.” (“Hail Marys Not Needed: Vatican Mail Will Deliver,” by Al Baker, June 27):

The 109-acre Vatican, walled in against an Italy of labor strife, strikes, long lines, late trains and a maddeningly unreliable postal system, has developed a mail service that is the envy of Italians. It is both fast and safe, [Dimitri] Auerilio said, describing it as a beacon of bureaucratic success in a landscape of ineffective infrastructures. […]

Tourists are in on this secret, as well as the Romans, because they flock to this orderly, sovereign religious state enclosed in roiling Rome to send their postcards with papal stamps from the seat of Catholicism.

As a result, more mail is sent each year, per inhabitant, from the Vatican’s 00120 postcode than from anywhere else in the world -- 7,200, compared with about 660 in the United States or 109 in Italy -- said Juliana Nel, a spokeswoman for the Universal Postal Union. . . . She called the Vatican’s service “probably one of the best postal systems in the world.”

But the sorry state of the Italian postal system is legendary, so much so that some Italians can still be seen crossing themselves before tossing their mail into an Italian box.

It’s different in the United States.

Here it’s the postal workers who cross themselves . . . on their way to work.

[Note: Additional items may be posted to “PP&T” after initial publication but only on the day of publication, excluding post-publication addenda. Such items, when posted, are designated by an asterisk.]

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