ON ED PAWLOWSKI, MY FRIEND

I’ve always thought of myself as a cutting edge, hipster kind of guy. I’m a fan of the counterculture of the 60s, participated in many efforts to collectively change the world, listened to rock and roll and tried to dress with style but not flash.

The work I do is, almost by its nature, the work of the change agent, trying to make the system work better for more people.

The funny thing is the longer I’ve done this, the older I get, the more old-fashioned I feel. I still think we should have civil discourse, people should be rewarded properly for their hard work and that government has a role in making our world better. I still think people should push back when the forces of power push them around rather than shut up and get in line or, worse, give up and drop out.

And, I still believe that loyalty to a friend is a good thing.

I understand that many people have ordered a supply of tar and feathers from Amazon. They want Ed Pawlowski to pay for his sins. Some of the comments I’ve read on the blogs and the media’s websites have shocked me by the degree of contempt and call for vengeance in their comments.

I know Ed Pawlowski. I know his strengths and I know his weaknesses. And I want you to know that the former far outweigh the latter and that the balance sheet is well in the black. His tenure as mayor brought vast improvements: he found a creative way to address the city’s looming pension crisis, played an important role in getting PA Senator Pat Browne’s Neighborhood Improvement Zone off to a good start, and so much more. And he didn’t raise property taxes in his nearly 12 years as mayor. He’s tough, he’s often Machiavellian but he also is sincerely sensitive to the needs of the many vulnerable people among us. He is a devout person of faith and never wanted any more than to serve; his desire to serve in higher office was motivated by a desire to reach more people.

But Ed can be surly. He didn’t give us enough funding and he didn’t provide enough support for the systematic inspection of the city’s housing stock. He takes no prisoners and he allowed his ambition to serve to be perceived as something he wanted at any cost. And he let a modern-day Svengali play too aggressive a role as handler.

I don’t condone the crime he was charged with committing. But he didn’t profit by his actions.

Unfortunately, a jury of his peers listened to the testimony, looked at the evidence, and found him guilty. And now the judge, alone, holds his fate in his hands. I’m scared to death on behalf of my friend.

Ed and I have similar commitments to protecting the vulnerable. Consequently, we worked together on many things over the years. A few years ago, I had some health challenges, which came to Ed’s attention. This mayor of the third most populous city in the Commonwealth canceled his entire day of appointments and spent many hours with me. His pastoral counseling instincts and training kicked in. Every day for more than a week he contacted me to check in. For weeks after that, again every day, he texted inspirational messages to me. He was an important part of the reason I was able to deal with those challenges.

That’s the Ed Pawlowski I know.

So, on Wednesday, I have an opportunity to stand with my friend the way my friend stood with me. I feel like the judge needs to hear these stories. He will not be wasting the life of a common criminal but a talented, empathetic fighter for justice. Ed has already paid dearly for his mistakes.

I have no doubt that the vicious internet trolls who have nothing better to do than anonymously assassinate character will have a ball eviscerating me. I may be old-fashioned, but I think there is something to be said for loyalty to a friend.

Your honor, have mercy on Ed Pawlowski.

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