CommunityPam's House Blend

Below Market Lease For BSA's Philadelphia Headquarters In Jeopardy

In my hometown of San Diego there has a long running court case with the Boy Scouts of America regarding discrimination against LGBT and atheist people over its lease of a camp in the city’s Balboa Park.

Apparently, the City of Philadelphia has similar concerns about the Boy Scouts of America Cradle of Liberty headquarters.  The Boy Scouts there are getting a below market lease for the property it’s regional headquarters — located on City Property — in violation of Philadelphia’s anti-discrimination laws.  That may change really, really, soon.  Per the Philadelphia Enquirer, Philadelphia last week in a surprise move voted to end it’s below market lease with the Boy Scouts:

The long-simmering dispute over whether the Boy Scouts of America’s Cradle of Liberty Council must publicly affirm it will not discriminate against openly gay people – or pay fair-market rent for the city-owned Logan Square land on which their landmark headquarters is located – boiled over anew yesterday as City Council authorized the city to end the lease.

The resolution was introduced unexpectedly by Councilman Darrell L. Clarke and passed, 16-1, with no debate and with Council Minority Leader Brian J. O’Neill voting no.

Both Clarke, a Center City Democrat whose district includes the building at 22d and Winter Streets, and City Solicitor Romulo L. Diaz Jr. said they hoped the resolution would spur talks to resolve the dispute so Cradle of Liberty Council could continue to use at nominal rent the Beaux Arts building it has been in since 1928.

“My hope is that the resolution will give a little more leverage to the city and that [the parties] can come up with some kind of compromise,” Clarke said. “Honestly, no one wants to see them out of there.”

Diaz said the Council vote was the last step required to end the lease under the 1928 ordinance that leased the land to the scouts “in perpetuity.”

Diaz said the scouts had to have a year’s notice and the administration’s recommendation had to be ratified by the Fairmount Park Commission and City Council.

“The year’s-notice clock is ticking,” Diaz said.

As Bayard Rustin said:

Our job is not to get those people who dislike us to love us. Nor was our aim in the civil rights movement to get prejudiced white people to love us. Our aim was to try to create the kind of America, legislatively, morally, and psychologically, such that even though some whites continued to hate us, they could not openly manifest that hate. That’s our job today: to control the extent to which people can publicly manifest antigay sentiment.

It looks like Philadelphia has taken a pretty significant step to stop the public’s pretty significant subsidy (in the form of a below market lease) of the Boy Scouts of America — an organization that has publicly manifested anti-gay, anti-trans, and anti-atheist sentiments in their membership polices. Per Bayard Rustin, this is what we should hope will happen everywhere by our hard work lobbying our politicians.

As an LGBT citizen and taxpayer, I’m very pleased to see Philadelphia is doing the right thing by its LGBT and atheist citizens in starting the process to end the lease.

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Autumn Sandeen

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