The people in the 6200 block of Pine Street are still mad at Mayor W. Wilson Goode. Angry, handwritten signs hang in many windows.
They carry a blunt message: "No more excuses. Restore our homes" . . . "A Man Is Only as Goode as His Word" . . . "Shoo Your Turkeys to the Barnyard and Send Us Some Real People to Solve Our Problems" . . . "Where is the City's Goode Will?"
"I still don't like the idea of dropping a bomb on my neighborhood," Richard Smith, a soft-spoken man, said as he sat in his enclosed front porch, slowly shaking his head.
Smith and the other black, middle-class families of Pine, Osage, Addison and surrounding streets in the Cobbs Creek neighborhood of West Philadelphia were victims of one of the worst urban disasters of the last decade. He was in the basement of his bungalow May 13 when a city policeman dropped a bomb from a helicopter on a rowhouse a half-block away occupied by members of the radical group MOVE.
"The whole house shook from the explosion. I ran upstairs to this window and saw a cloud of black smoke," he recalled. Within three hours, thanks to a decision by city officials not to put out the fire, the whole block across the street was engulfed in flames. Six adult MOVE members and five children died.
"It was like a furnace," Smith said. Every home on the opposite side of Pine Street was destroyed. Those on Smith's side of the street were saved, but most had heat and water damage. Flames singed the paint off one side of Smith's car.
After the disaster, Goode, Philadelphia's first black mayor, pledged that the city would rebuild the 61 destroyed houses by Christmas and repair the scores of others that were damaged.
The restoration effort, however, has been plagued by the same kind of mismanagement that led to the disaster. The developer hired to rebuild the homes has been declared in default; repair projects have been enmeshed in disputes over sloppy workmanship and damage assessments.
To date, only seven new houses have been completed and not a single family has been able to move in. The cost has risen to more than $7 million.
"The city has just kept hurting the people who had already been hurt enough," said Clifford Bond, president of the United Survivors of the Cobbs Creek Disaster. "We didn't need that. We had enough problems. We were pawns."
"Dastardly, despicable, underhanded. Those are the words that describe the way the city administration has handled the situation," said Howard Nichols, another leader in the group.
Bond, who lived across the street from the MOVE house on Osage Avenue, and many others in his neighborhood said they felt a quiet sense of vindication last week with the release of a special commission's report, a scathing condemnation of the mayor and his administration.
Goode, once one of the most nation's most promising black officeholders, was suddenly on the ropes, his political survival in doubt. "Goode's Administration Under Siege," "Career Hangs on Sunday Speech" and "Report Reads Like Indictment" blared the headlines in the Philadelphia Daily News.
"Whatever goes around comes around," Bond said.
The commission concluded that Goode and other top officials had been "grossly negligent," that their planning had been "reckless, ill-conceived and hastily approved," that a decision to drop a bomb in the middle of an urban neighborhood and to let the ensuing fire burn out of control was "unconscionable," and that when the going got tough Goode had "abdicated" his responsibility as a leader.
But it wasn't just the words that hurt Goode. It was who said them. Goode had appointed the commission; four of its 11 members had contributed to his campaign.
"I was surprised at the findings," Nichols said. "I didn't really think a group of people who were friends of the mayor would render a full and fair report. This city normally demonstrates an anemic sense of morality."
Downtown, the buzzards have begun nervously circling the wounded mayor. Goode won election by portraying himself as a strong, effective administrator. The continuing controversy over MOVE has changed that public image. "It's been like Chinese water torture. It doesn't end," said one civic leader. "MOVE has become a metaphor for a whole series of other failures."
It wasn't easy to find Goode defenders last week. Even his supporters were apologetic. City Councilman John H. White Jr., a longtime Goode backer, could only say, "He's all we got."
"With defenders like me you don't need any critics," said Councilman Edward Schwartz, another supporter. "Nobody is going to get up and say MOVE was well-handled. It was a botched operation."
Goode, who has insisted "I will never quit," faces a reelection campaign next year. Schwartz and some other Democratic leaders said that gives the mayor enough time to recover. They noted that other Democrats who are talking about running, a group that includes former mayors Frank Rizzo and William Green, have major liabilities of their own.
On Pine Street, Richard Smith has made up his mind. "I think we need some new blood," he said.