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November 09, 2015

Fifteen facts (fun or otherwise!) about T. Milton Street Sr.

His porno presser might get postponed again on Tuesday, but let's get to know more about the rabble-rouser anyway

Politics Milton Street
110515_MILTON_Carroll.jpg Thom Carroll/PhillyVoice

Milton Street speaks to reporters outside District Attorney Seth Williams' office, Thursday, Nov. 5, 2015.

T. Milton Street Sr. is again scheduled to emcee a pornographic press conference on Tuesday.

With the prospect of rain in the forecast, it is impossible to say with any certainty whether, in fact, the event will take place outside the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office.

If it does, we’ll be there. But, just in case it doesn’t, we felt obligated to offer some sort of Miltonesque content in its place.

To that end, we’ve perused the Milton Street files and handpicked 15 noteworthy moments about the former state senator and oft-declared candidate for a mayoral position once held by his brother John.

1. The Coffin Press Conference

When Street sought office in 2007, he hosted a press conference outside City Hall’s northwestern corner. First, he apologized for the fact that the 5,000 people he expected to attend didn’t do so. Then, he leaned over the coffin that he had on stage with him as a prop to rally against gun violence in the streets and sang a gospel tune for the roughly 100 people who happened to stumble onto one of the most surreal moments in Philadelphia political history.

2. No Stage Too Small

After Street served his federal sentence in a tax case conviction, he decided to not only re-enter society but the political world as well. He announced his 2011 mayoral candidacy – exclusively to me – in a remarkably understated fashion. 

Milton Street
Milton Street announces a mayoral run inside a McDonald's restaurant on Market Street.

Translation: He laid out his platform during a two-hour conversation at the McDonald’s at 10th and Market streets. “I’m writing the last chapter of my life. God gives us all a purpose. Mine is to represent poor people, forgotten people. I was sent to prison to regroup, refocus, and come out to do this,” he said.

3. Potato/PotAHto

The location of Street’s residence has perennially been an issue throughout his political career. Namely, the fact that foes (and the media) believe that he lives in Moorestown, Burlington County, while Street says he lives in Philly and, as such, is eligible to run for office in the city. That house in Jersey? Belongs to his “lady-friend.”

4. Fox Guarding Henhouse

Street was once the assistant budget director of Philadelphia Traffic Court. He got fired for a 1990 courtroom outburst related to having unpaid parking tickets to the tune of nearly $2,600.

5. Lessons Unlearned

Parking tickets again re-entered the Street narrative in 2007, when he got arrested just days after he announced his candidacy. And how’d Johnny Law catch up with him? A la Ol Dirty Bastard at the Grays Ferry McDonald's, a cop recognized him while buying a newspaper at a 7-Eleven.

6. Racial Attacks

Street isn’t bashful when it comes to speaking his mind. For instance, he publicly called then-U.S. Rep. Bill Grey a “house n-----" when challenging him in 1982, and referred to Mayor Michael Nutter as “watermelon man” in 2007.

7. Titles, Schmitles

Street was elected to the Pennsylvania State Senate in 1980. Shortly afterward, he switched parties, a move which gave Republicans control of the legislative body and landed Street a committee chairmanship and a better office (one that used to belong to Vince Fumo, no less!)

8. The Numbers Game

When Street ran for City Council at-large in 2007, he turned in 894 nominating-petition signatures. He needed 1,000 yet remained on the ballot thanks to some Philly magic!

9. President Clinton Requests Your Services

In his role as a food vendor, Street went to a 1996 rally for Bill Clinton at Penn, where he sold hot dogs for $2. Explained events coordinator Mark Attison, "Rendell was kind enough to choose us to run the food and the president's advance staff asked for Milton, at the mayor's request."

10. His Brother’s Maker

John Street came to political prominence in part because he was mixed up in Milton’s raucous protests about city housing policies and street-vendor treatment in the late 1970s. “It was Milton, who pushed John into running for the 5th District Council seat,” reads a Daily News article written by none other than Mayor Michael Nutter’s current spokesman, Mark McDonald.

11. The Battle of the Ducks

The federal suit “RIDE THE DUCKS OF PHILADELPHIA, LLC v. DUCK BOAT TOURS, INC.” (2004) includes the line, “Super Ducks representative T. Milton Street wrote a letter to the Director of Penn’s Landing Corporation stating that Super Ducks intended to begin using Ride The Ducks’s ramp on June 26, 2004, with or without the consent of Ride The Ducks or Penn’s Landing Corporation.” Translation: A battle between Duck Boat companies broke out because Milton decided he wanted his company to have free rein over a competitor’s property.

12. What’s in a Name?

Thomas is his first name. He’s gone by Milton for a couple decades because he didn’t want any of his siblings’ children to call him “Uncle Tom.” Also, the no-employee company through which he landed an airport contract was called Notlim Enterprises. Notlim spelled backward is, you got it, Milton.

13. Fashion Sense

One day while on trial in 2008, Street showed up at the federal courthouse wearing “a funkadelic multicolored Phillies lid, overcoat, blue sweater, casual green pants and Reeboks.”

14. The Defense

At that trial, he maintained the government should not be permitted to collect taxes. Specifically: “I could not find in the IRS code the statute that authorizes the Internal Revenue [Service] to levy and collect a direct tax on the American people's wages.”

15. Scheduling

When the press conference that could take place on Tuesday was postponed last Thursday, Street giggled when asked how much time he's spent reviewing the content: "Many. Many. It's easy to look at if you're in the quietness of your own home."