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May 03, 2018

GOP guv candidate to meet with Milton Street about 'electronic bingo' school-funding idea

The perpetual candidate will sit down with Scott Wagner next week to suss out his unusual proposal

Politics Education
Milton Meets Trump Courtesy of Renee Toppin/for PhillyVoice

T. Milton Street Sr. and his daughter Renee Toppin met then-Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump on Dec. 2, 2015. Street is currently running for the state house as a Republican.

Part of the oath I swore upon becoming a journalist in the mid-1990s was the solemn guarantee that I would let no Milton Street news go uncovered.

The man is a staple of the Philadelphia narrative and it pained me to be unable to attend Street’s community meeting of Monday, April 30, in the Year of our Lord 2018.

The setting was World of Christ Ministries, a stand-alone rowhome house of worship and home of traveling evangelist preacher Mark Thompson, who ventures beyond the corner of North 16th and Flora streets near the Francisville/Yorktown line “preaching the Good News of the gospel of Christ.”

As we reported two months ago, Street – the former state politician, perennial candidate and widely known provocateur – declared his intentions to return to the state house representing North Philadelphia’s 181st Legislative District as a Republican. (Even as he admitted that victory in the race to fill retiring Rep. Curtis Thomas’ seat was unlikely.)

While the partisan shift away from his Democratic roots surprised some, it shouldn’t have.

Shortly after Street was elected state senator in 1980 as a Democrat, he flipped to Republican. That move gave the GOP control of the legislative body and Street was rewarded with a fancy office that once belonged to Vince Fumo.

Also, he sidled up to then-presidential candidate Donald Trump in 2016 in an attempt to nationalize a martial arts-trained “414 Community Patrol” which unfortunately never came to be. (Street later rescinded his support.)

Luckily, Monday’s meeting did not go entirely covered. Thanks to Ptah Gabrie, we know that Street wants to legalize “electronic bingo” to fund Philadelphia’s schools.

Google Street View/for PhillyVoice

The North Philadelphia church where Milton Street held a community meeting on April 30, 2018.

Per Gabrie’s report, Street is already talking to Bally’s to score some machinery and crunching numbers to determine how much loot they’ll rake in for the children.

“The church holds about six people, but we had it packed. Nobody can say we didn’t get a crowd this time,” Street said Wednesday. “If I get this done, man, there might be no taxes in the commonwealth.”

That is a bold statement (and probably not all that true.) Still, Street rued the “700 million dollar ‘money’ deficit for are (sic) schools by 2022” and said this is a way to avoid even more property taxes while doing away with the “beverage tax.”

In speaking with him afterwards, Street shared an interesting wrinkle: His idea has caught the eye of Scott Wagner, the state senator from York County who is running in the Republican gubernatorial primary. (Polling has him as the frontrunner to face incumbent Gov. Tom Wolf).

“If I get this done, man, there might be no taxes in the commonwealth.” – Milton Street

“I had a very successful meeting with him. He’s supporting video bingo. It’ll be in airports, hotels, barber and beauty shops,” Street maintained. “May 11 is the meeting where I’ll get a final decision.”

Well, not exactly. But, it could go that way.

The initial meeting was arranged by Tracey L. Fisher, a re-entry activist who led Wagner on a recent tour of 52nd and Market streets and beyond. He said he’s the candidate’s “right-hand man down here.”

“I brought him out into the community to see what’s going on in the community. You can’t ask the governor to help you with something they don’t know exists,” Fisher said Thursday morning. “Wagner and I have become great friends. We’ve cultivated a great relationship. We share views on poverty and economics.”

John Oliver addresses climate change Sunday on an episode of HBO's “Last Week Tonight.”

To that end, Fisher invited Street to meet up with them. That Street’s proposal would help fund education played into Wagner’s platform. 

After a conversation about it, they scheduled the May 11 meeting at the local office of the candidate who once drew the ire of HBO's John Oliver. To make the idea a reality, it would take a vote by the legislature and the governor's signature.

Like Street – and Kanye West – Fisher pushed back against the notion that people should be locked in to one political party for all their voting purposes.

“I’ll work with whoever is going to work with the community,” he said.

And in this case, that’s Wagner, who gave PhillyVoice a call on Thursday afternoon to discuss Street’s proposal.

Though Street deemed the meeting successful, Wagner said he just had "a conversation for a few minutes."

"I've not seen any proposal yet," he said. "Our education system has substantial funding issues. I'm in the Senate, but I don't have access to 100 percent of the information. I get stonewalled a lot. I'd have to be governor to be able to say, 'now, show me the financials. Let's understand everything.'

"I'd be completely shooting in the dark if I said I had all the answers, because I don't. It's important that I see all the details. I don't need a lot of time to be able to hone in on financial statements."

And that's why he'll meet with Milton Street next week.

"It's a chance to sit down in an office, with no interruptions and really understand what he's proposing," Wagner said.

As always, we will keep you apprised of the situation.