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Suddenly, city has exciting GOP City Council campaign

Intriguing candidates with variety of backgrounds present Republican voters choices in City Council at-large races.

Asked about the differences in city voters along party lines, Sam Katz, who nearly became the Republican mayor of an overwhelmingly Democratic city, said GOPers “tend to be a little angrier toward city government.” In the context of incumbent at-large Council candidate Frank Rizzo’s re-election, that means, “Every day that goes by, the tentacles that make his name valuable become less grippy. Drop in DROP, and it’s a bad quotient.”

Whether the controversial pension program could cost the son of a larger-than-life mayor a fifth term on Council remains to be seen, but it’s the talk of a talent-laden pool of candidates in a normally attention-deprived GOP race.

Rizzo knows he’s trying to fend off a former state speaker of the House, a candidate who would be the first openly gay Council member, a former mayoral candidate and an Andy Reid impersonator for one of two minority at large seats on the 17-member body. In current polling, Rizzo’s name recognition still outweighs DROP concerns, despite no party endorsement.

At a Thursday night event at the Simeone Automotive Museum, he acknowledged DROP enrollment presents a problem, but was confident he could stand on his constituents-service record.

“It’s like John Street said [at a candidates forum] earlier tonight: ‘Councilman Rizzo should not be judged on one at-bat but his overall batting average,” he said. “They should know that doing the best thing for our city is in my blood.”

GOP on DROP

Eight non-incumbent candidates for two Republican at-large council seats tell you their opinion of DROP:

Malcolm Lazin: “I’ve called on Rizzo to resign and on DA Seth Williams to investigate whether his application included false and fraudulent statements. We have a political class that believes it can puts its hand in our cookie jar at will.”

Joe McColgan: “In its current form, it’s unsustainable. It wasn’t meant for elected officials or municipal employees, but it’s an excellent tool for police and fire. The career politicians ruined it for everybody else.”

Elmer Money: “I don’t think elected officials should be eligible for DROP. I would hope [Rizzo] is vulnerable, but there had been so much talk about how unethical it is that I think people are starting to tune it out.”

Dennis O’Brien: “I’m the only one running who actually did something about DROP; I drafted and voted for legislation to eliminate the program. Whether it’s right – and it is to retain all the expertise in police and fire departments – we can’t afford it.”

Steve Odabashian: “It’s so far gone that it should be abolished except in a very limited scope. Rizzo should absolutely retire like he said he would. It’s the epitome of everything that’s wrong with the city.”

David Oh: “I’m against DROP for elected officials. The pension fund cannot continue to support DROP as it is. The concept of DROP is still a good one, but abuse of it is the problem.”

Al Taubenberger: “Rizzo is very vulnerable. It’s unconscionable to take DROP, retire for a day and come back. It was a program started with the best intentions, but so vilified thanks to Rizzo. I’m in favor of dropping DROP and building another program around it that would be much more affordable for the city.”

Michael Untermeyer: “Everybody feels the same way: That it wasn’t intended for public officials. I gave Rizzo a suggestion, to put the DROP money into a trust account with the city as the beneficiary, to get the interest, but he wasn’t interested.”

Questions for the eight Republican at-large council challengers for two seats include their big issue, DROP and how they’d be a Council “first.”

Malcolm Lazin (http://www.lazin2011.com):

1. “Fiscal responsibility. We’re heading toward bankruptcy. We have to turn the Titanic around or else we’re going to hit the iceberg. Right now, we’re taking on water.

2. “I’ve called on Rizzo to resign and on DA Seth Williams to investigate whether his application included false and fraudulent statements. To turn the budget around requires shared sacrifice. We have a political class that believes it can puts its hand in our cookie jar at will.”

3. First openly gay member of City Council.

Joe McColgan (http://votemccolgan.com):

1. “We have probably 33 percent of the population below the poverty line and nobody’s talking about it. Where are we going to be in 5, 10, 15 years? I’m not just talking about 13,000 McDonald’s jobs. I’m talking quality jobs that you can support a family on.”

2. “In its current form, it’s unsustainable. It wasn’t meant for elected officials or municipal employees, but it’s an excellent tool for police and fire. The career politicians ruined it for everybody else.”

3. First with a self-imposed two-term maximum.

Elmer Money (http://www.elmermoney.com):

1. Hospitals closing, moving and eliminating delivery services is “the issue nobody’s talking about, but it’s important to protecting Philadelphia families.” The city should focus more on attracting and keeping hospitals than escalating “patient visits to city health clinics.”

2. “I don’t think elected officials should be eligible for DROP. I would hope [Rizzo] is vulnerable [because of his enrollment], but there had been so much talk about how unethical it is that I think people are starting to tune it out. We’ll see what happens.”

3. First person “with an extensive healthcare-career background.”

Dennis O’Brien (http://dennyobrien.org):

1. “Council is undergoing a sea change, and I want to be part of that exciting new conversation, and bring my knowledge of what makes Philly work to it [through healthcare, education and criminal-justice legislative experience]. We have to start changing lives. These conversations shouldn’t be ‘above’ the Council level. This is a unique opportunity.”

2. “I’m the only one running who actually did something about DROP; I drafted and voted for legislation to eliminate the program. Whether it’s right – and it is to retain all the expertise in police and fire departments – we can’t afford it. Councilpeople were never supposed to be in it.”

3. O’Brien didn’t know whether he’d be the first former state Speaker of the House to be a Philadelphia councilperson, but he was the second person in national history to be elected to that role as a member of the minority party.

Steve Odabashian (http://www.steveodabashian2011.com):

1. “Fiscal responsibility. If I ran a household the way the city runs its finances, I’d be living in the streets. Over a billion dollars in uncollected bail? There’s no sense of urgency, it’s just ‘find new taxes.’ Mediocrity is the goal.”

2. “DROP may have started out with good intentions but much like anything good, some started taking advantage of it. It’s so far gone that it should be abolished except in a very limited scope. Rizzo should absolutely retire like he said he would. It’s the epitome of everything that’s wrong with the city. It makes him vulnerable, but not as much as I initially thought it would.”

3. First Armenian-American Councilman

David Oh (http://www.davidoh.org):

1. “We’re not a 9-to-5 city anymore. We can’t trim services and raise taxes because the debts so huge. We need tax reform now.”

2. “I’m against DROP for elected officials. The pension fund cannot continue to support DROP as it is. The concept of DROP is still a good one, but abuse of it is the problem.”

3. First Asian-American Councilman (Should Andy Toy also win, Oh would be the first of two)

Al Taubenberger (http://www.taubenbergerforphiladelphia.com):

1. Jobs, “but it’s more complex than that. … When I was on the campaign trail, a man asked me, ‘Mr. Taubenberger, why is it so easy for my son to sell drugs but so hard for him to find a job?’ I’m president of the Northeast Chamber of Commerce, so I deal with this day-in and day-out. We need businesses to come into the city, but they’re not even looking at Philadelphia. We need a better tax code, better education, transportation. It’s why I get up in the morning.”

2. “Rizzo is very vulnerable. It’s unconscionable to take DROP, retire for a day and come back. It was a program started with the best intentions, but so vilified thanks to Rizzo. The entire program has to be revamped. I’m in favor of dropping DROP and building another program around it that would be much more affordable for the city. There was a study when each [DROP employee] costs the city $100,000. That’s a lot too much. Elected officials should never, ever, ever, ever been able to participate.”

3. Taubenberger didn’t answer that he’d be the first general-election mayoral runner-up to serve on Council. “As I see it, I’m the first candidate who campaigned with the sole issue of creating jobs. If more people worked, Philadelphia would be a much better city. It elevates the human spirit. I’m talking about jobs in every zip code of Philadelphia.

Michael Untermeyer (http://www.untermeyerforcitycouncil2011.com): TK

1. “I am coming to City Council with the perspective that the city should be run more like a business as less as a non-profit municipal organization, with the hope that we can maintain the services we expect today without raising taxes. I want to incorporate simple, fundamental principles. No no-bid contracts. A consierge to make moving a business to the city simpler. Bail reform. I want to be a fiscal watchdog.”

2. “Everybody feels the same way: That it wasn’t intended for public officials. I gave Rizzo a suggestion, to put the DROP money into a trust account with the city as the beneficiary, to get the interest, but he wasn’t interested.”

3. He’d presumably be the first City Council person who had willing worn an electronic monitoring bracelet and put his around-the-clock location on a website, which he did during an unsuccessful campaign for District Attorney.

 
 
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