IT HAS BEEN more than six months since the mad aerial bombing in Philadelphia that took 11 lives, destroyed 61 homes and damaged another 81, and left more than 250 people homeless. What has the city done or learned since? Is the city government's policy any more understandable today than it was then? After five weeks of hearings by a special investigative commission and the resignation this month of the police commissioner, the situation remains disconcerting. What is clear from the testimony is what was suspected at the time: that Mayor W. Wilson Goode and top members of his administration bungled the entire affair from start to finish.
Some 90 witnesses talked about the disaster on Osage Avenue -- from the start of troubles with MOVE to the fiery finale. Among these witnesses were city officials who testified that Mayor Goode was involved in every critical decision that led to the disaster. The mayor acknowledged that he may have delegated too much authority to subordinates.
Still other testimony showed that Mayor Goode failed to act strongly in the beginning, when MOVE clearly was terrorizing a neighborhood by creating health hazards, stockpiling firearms and explosives and threatening the general public. He said he ignored these violations because he wanted to avoid a confrontation. But authorities could have enforced building and health codes, school attendance requirements and other protections to which MOVE's neighbors were entitled. The confrontation came -- and Police Commissioner Gregore Sambor directed a hasty, ill-considered operation.
Mr. Sambor's police force, meanwhile, has been the subject of an unrelated but major corruption scandal; he has just resigned. Twenty-six officers, many of high rank, have been convicted so far. Mayor Goode has announced steps to combat police corruption, including new hires and a police prosecution unit within the district attorney's office for a department the mayor acknowledged "is now in crisis."
There are other troubles for the Goode administration. Racial tensions remain high in some neighborhoods. Permanent housing for victims of the bombing remains to be completed. All this has damaged public confidence in Mayor Goode -- and served as a model for other mayors of how not to respond. The mayor should be acting fast -- faster than he has until now -- to clean up the police department, to make bombing victims as whole as possible and to mediate racial tensions. If this lesson hasn't been learned from the May inferno, Philadelphia is in deep trouble.