Mayfair: Indicted Politician’s Name on a Community Center Sparks Debate

Bob Dillon is shown leaving the John M. Perzel Community Center after finishing his weekly workout. The 68-year-old will pitch for the A's in the Philadelphia Senior Softball League this April.]

Bob Dillon is shown leaving the John M. Perzel Community Center after finishing his weekly workout. 

Bob Dillon may look rusty, but the 68-year-old pitcher said he still has a lot of fight left.

He and his teammates work out at the John M. Perzel Community Center every Friday in the winter to warm up for the Philadelphia Senior Softball League season.

“We’ve been coming here for a couple of years now,” Dillon said.

Other residents said they shouldn’t have a community center named after a politician indicted under corruption charges. The community center on the corner of St. Vincent and Battersby streets was named after former Rep. John Perzel when it was built in 2006. But Perzel is now out on bail facing corruption charges. The former House speaker was indicted in November 2009 for misusing taxpayer funds.

Michael Dool, a Mayfair resident, said no public building should be named after a politician. He said the practice exists in all areas throughout the country and it needs to stop.

“It kind of promotes an environment where politicians are fostering pork-barrel spending just for self-promotion,” Dool said. “A title like Northeast Community Center would be fine.”

Rachel Conrad, a local mother of two children, also said the facility’s name was  an issue even if the building benefits people in the area.
“I think [the organizers] should change it,” Conrad said.

Recreational District Manager of lower Northeast Philadelphia Art Comas would not comment on the building’s name.

Cathy Balsley said organizers should not change anything about the John M. Perzel Community Center, including the name, as it still serves as an effective focal point for public gatherings since it was built.

“It’s something for the kids to do,” Balsley said. “They have a place for their sporting events and after school programs.”

The building at the corner of St. Vincent and Battersby streets is home to many after-school programs. 

She said the building was also convenient for senior citizens because it’s a short drive for them to meet each other.

“It’s their safe haven to talk to other people,” Balsley said.

None of the members of the A’s softball team commented on the John M. Perzel Community Center’s name.

Dillon said his workouts at the center are great for his back. The pitcher had a spinal disk replaced last August.

“Part of my therapy is getting ready for the season,” Dillon said.

He said he is confident his arm will be ready for his team’s first season game this April as he routinely walks and stretches around the center’s basketball gym.
The A’s will play at the baseball fields by Linden and Torresdale avenues.

Bob Dillon, Jack Narkin and George Mazza play on the A’s, a senior softball team in the region. 

Perzel will likely go to court this summer as his jury selection was pushed back to August. Dauphin County Judge Richard A. Lewis approved a motion to give Perzel’s legal team more time to review evidence against him.

Perzel lost a re-election bid last November against Kevin Boyle, who now represents the Mayfair neighborhood. The former politician held the 172nd district House seat for more than 30 years.

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