This city isn't taking its latest political corruption scandal very well.
There is a feeling of shock, disappointment and bitterness stemming from allegations that five of Philadelphia's top elected Democratic officials were involved in a bribery-influence peddling scheme operated undercover by the FBI.
It is, many say, the wrong scandal in the wrong place at the wrong time.
It comes only one month after the end of the eight-year rule of Mayor Frank L. Rizzo, whose scandal-scarred administration was thought to have inured many Philadelphia voters and politicans to allegations of officiall wrongdoing.
It comes when the city's new mayor, William J. Green, has told the electorate that Philadelphia is moving toward the brink of bankruptcy -- that a Rizzo-projected budget deficit of $8 million for the fiscal year actually is a deficit of $28 million.
As a result, Green told citizens this week in a "state of the city" address, he will have to lay off at least 1,219 city employes, an estimated 900 of whom will lose jobs in the police and fire departments.
Green also said the citizenry may have to shoulder a substantially increased municipal tax burden to help erase the deficit and pay for escalating operating costs.
Today, as scores of citizens crowded into the city council chamber to demand raucously that city officials implicated in the bribery scheme step down, hundreds more police and firefighters blocked traffic outside city hall in a protest over Green's proposed work force cuts.
Several demonstrators carried signs alluding to the scandal. One green, white and red poster read: "Cut costs without payoffs."
The police and firefighters are now talking about the possibility of a strike because of proposed cuts in their staffs. Many say they are upset by the scandal and by what they see as a double standard. Only in December, they point out, the majority of the 17-member City Council voted themselves a $10,000 annual raise, boosting yearly salaries to $35,000.
It is in this context that allegations stemming from the current scandal have taken on the appearance of fact in the minds of many here, even though none of the Philadelphians implicated in the scheme has been arrested or formally charged.
All five of the officials are accused of taking cash bribes ranging from $5,000 to $50,000 from FBI undercover agents posing as Arab shieks seeking to buy political influence. Three of the five allegedly were videotaped by the FBI taking money; the other two are said to have received payoffs through middlemen.
"We have had many political corruption cases here," said a Republican city official, who pulled out a list of 35 persons -- most of them former Philadelphia Democratic officials -- who have been indicted or convicted on charges of official wrongdoing the last three years.
"But now, it looks as though people have had it. I've never seen them so angry."
Democratic City Committee Chairman David Glancey agreed that the electorate is unusually upset.
"For a long time now, many of our officials have behaved with a certain lack of paranoia," Glancey said. "This has been hurting our party. But the current case isn't being looked at by us, or by the people, as business as usual. This one won't blow over very easily."
Accordingly -- all the while insisting they are not attempting to prejudge guilt of innocence -- Glancey and Green, also a Democrat, have been putting distance between themselves and the Democratic officials from Philadelphia cited in the FBI investigation.
Those include U.S. Reps. Michael J. (Ozzie) Myers and Raymond G. Lederer; City Council President George X. Schwartz; council Majority Leader Harry P. Jannotti, and Councilman Louis C. Johanson, chairman of the council's Oversight Committee.
Myers is a protege of former-mayor Rizzo and former state senator Harry J. Cianfrani, who is in Allenwood federal penitentiary on a conviction of official wrongdoing.
Myers is a two-term congressman from South Philadelphia. He was first elected in 1976 to succeed late-representative William Barrettt, who had been in Congress 17 years. Political sources here say that Myers, a one-time longshoreman, is coming under tremendous pressure from the city Democratic leadership not to seek reelection. So far, Myers has made no decision to bypass a third term, his Washington spokesmen say.
Lederer is a hybrid political product of Rizzo and Green. He was elected to Green's North Philadelphia congressional seat in 1976, largely with Green's and Rizzo's support. Lederer is a career politician. He was a city committeeman at age 21, later a ward leader and in 1974 he was elected to the state legislature. Until last month he reportedly was under consideration to take over the Democratic City Committee, with Green's backing.
Now Lederer is described by Green aides as "a Rizzo product." Democratic chairman Glancey has declared both Myers and Lederer "unelectable" in light of the scandal.
Schwartz has been the most powerful force in the city legislature for the last 12 of his 20 years on the council. He reputedly has written or influenced most of the city and state zoning laws -- a reputation that has added to his clout.
Schwartz and fellow councilmen Jannotti and Johason today survived (on a 10-to-4 vote) a spirited attempt to force them to step down from their leadership positions. But few ranking Democratic leaders here believe the trio will last, politically, much longer.