Philly Charges BSA for HQ Rent

October 18, 2007 at 11:09 pm 6 comments

So, big news for Philadelphia area boy scouts. Here’s the story in a nutshell: The Cradle of Liberty Council, and before them Philadelphia Council, has always occupied a headquarters in Philly for $1 a year. Recently, The city decided that it wasn’t fair to let a discriminating organization (you can’t be gay or atheist in the boy scouts) have that for free. Accoring to the Inquirer today, At the end of may, City Council voted to terminate the lease, so now COLBSA must pay a $200,000 fair lease or move.

But it’s more complicated than that. Let me say that I’m pretty conflicted here because I spent the better part of a decade (half of my life) involved with the Cradle of Liberty Council, based out of Southeastern Pennsylvania. I’ve been to the “Bruce S. Marks Scout Resource Center” a dozen times to buy things at the scout shop or interview for a job at camp. The building is beautiful. It’s one of the best known examples of Beaux-Arts architecture in the US. Not only that, it was built for the scouts in 1929 with collaboration from the city. The building is full of scouting details in the facade and original Norman Rockwell paintings. It represents a friendship between a city and community service organization, one that may not be there any longer.

Philadelphia, having ironically changed its motto to “the city that loves you back” to avoid sounding gay, is now a huge gay tourist city with a thriving “gayborhood.” In 2003, under the leadership of ridiculous mayor John Street, the city sued COLBSA for rent. The council tried to adopt their own non-discrimination policy, but BSA threatened to take them apart brick by brick. Philly wouldn’t have it. Now, they want the money.

I’m not sure what is appropriate here. On one hand, I’m not sure what the City Council really expecs local boy scouts to do. They already tried standing up against national policy, and it was a disaster. And it’s not like the building can be used for anything else; it’s historic! On the other hand, the scouts should probably pay something more than a dollar because they no longer have the same relationship with the city. The scouts could pay the rent, but that money is better spent fixing the camps and sending kids there. Bill Dwyer, the man in charge of Cradle of Liberty, is paid a ridiculous sum, but that’s neither here nor there.

I see two reasonable solutions. First, the scouts can pay to use the building as a headquarters, but the National organization should pay for it out of respect for the situation. That’s not likely to happen, but if COLBSA decides it can’t pay a good solution might be turning the building into a national museum on the level of the museum in Irving, Texas, or a of a different kind—one dedicated to preserving the history of Treasure Island, the oldest, continuously operated boy scout camp (and one that I worked at for years) and the Order of the Arrow, scouting’s national society started there in 1915.

photo courtesy of flickr user Seth Gaines


Entry filed under: boy scouts, order of the arrow, philly.

The Little Flower That Might Have, Had It Been So Inclined Flamingo Typeface A Through O

6 Comments Add your own

  • 1. Shane  |  October 19, 2007 at 3:44 pm

    You can’t allow the government, which represents all the people support a group that discriminates against some of the people. Gay Philadelphians are subsidizing the rent, but not allowed to use the services. Would we even be having this argument if BSA was blocking black people from joining?

    • 2. CJ  |  June 4, 2009 at 1:19 am

      Why can’t scouts block gays? The military does it!! Please remember, Scouts follow a religous moral code; maybe they see homosexuality as wrong. Don’t they have the right to choose their membership? The military does with the full support of the US Goverment. Why are they attacking the Scouts? Not brave enough to take on the military; kids are easier targets?

      • 3. Bill  |  June 17, 2010 at 12:37 am

        They can. Nobody is saying they can’t. Philadelphia is simply saying that if they choose to do so, they will no longer be subsidized by the city.

  • 4. Josh  |  October 19, 2007 at 9:14 pm

    Good point. Didn’t even think of it that way.

  • 5. More_info  |  December 14, 2007 at 6:10 pm

    Why not return the building to the Boy Scouts.

    The building was built and paid for by the Scouts, and turned over to the city with the understanding that the Scouts would be allowed to remain in it rent-free “in perpetuity.”

    If the City wishes not to ” support a group that discriminates” why not return the property to the “rightful owners”.

    To Shane:

    “Black people” are people who have a particular skin color. It does not make them better or worse than humanity as a whole. Atheists do not believe in God, again neither better nor worse; they would seem to me to have less of a moral framwork to judge right from wrong; my opinion. “Gay Philadelphians” are more properly “people from Philadelphia who express a gay sexual orientation”. Other than sexual orientation there is nothing to qualify them as a minority. The lifestyle they express is know to reduce lifespan, ignoring the AIDS aspect. By logical conclusion ‘gay’ would be is a self-defeating genetic trait because it would prevent gay offspring.

  • 6. CJ  |  June 4, 2009 at 1:29 am

    This has nothing to due with gays or the scouts. This gave a city in financial woes the reason to become a predator against, what it thought to be, easy prey. The group in question, BSA, has done nothing except help boys become good supportive members of society. Maybe if Mayor Street was a Scout he would understand the great injustice he has done to the boys of Philadelphia, or at least he would care.


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Shit Just Got Real

Josh Kramer is a blogger, cartoonist, journalist, etc. I'm the Editor of The Cartoon Picayune. I live in Washington, DC and I just graduated from the Center for Cartoon Studies. See work by me and my classmates.

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