Home News Redistricting plan could change Holme Circle state representatives

Redistricting plan could change Holme Circle state representatives

City Controller Alan Butkovitz had just told a St. Jerome’s School library packed with Holme Circle residents about the fiscal and operational failings of the Philadelphia sheriff’s office, public school system, Fire Department and 311 system.

John Sabatina Jr. had just introduced himself as Holme Circle’s new state representative — in light of the recent re-drawing of Pennsylvania’s House districts — and offered to help residents get new “Welcome” signs and a flagpole that they hope to erect along Holme Avenue.

But then Dave Kralle, a legislative aide to City Councilman at-large Dennis O’Brien, trumped both elected officials with his own surprising announcement during the monthly Holme Circle Civic Association meeting last Wednesday night. Kralle reported that the Pennsylvania Supreme Court had just struck down the redistricting plan, meaning that Sabatina Jr. isn’t the Holme Circle rep just yet.

Further, Kralle said, he’s hoping to run for O’Brien’s old 169th district seat, which was to end up in York County under the new map. But for the moment, at least, it will remain in the Northeast as the Supreme Court has instructed the Legislative Reapportionment Commission to draft a new district map, a process that could take months or longer.

Kralle, who resigned his City Council job on Saturday so he could enter the House race, was attending a class at the University of Pennsylvania earlier Wednesday when O’Brien called to tell him about the Supreme Court ruling. O’Brien then encouraged Kralle to throw his own hat in the ring, Kralle said.

However, no announcement has been made when or how the 169th district vacancy will be filled. O’Brien resigned from the House last month before his installation as an at-large Council member. His House term was to conclude next Nov. 30.

Regularly scheduled elections for all 203 House seats are to be held this year, while the Feb. 14 deadline for filing nominating petitions is rapidly approaching. The regular primary election will be on April 24 and the general election on Nov. 6.

In a stump-style speech, Kralle touted his boss’ many accomplishments in Harrisburg and said that, were he to run, he would support the same causes, such as better public safety and education; programs for special needs children, particularly those with autism; and enhanced child sexual abuse reporting requirements.

During Butkovitz’s earlier presentation, he explained many of the revealing and disturbing outcomes of his office’s forensic audit of former Sheriff John Green’s department. An article appearing in Jan. 18 editions of the Northeast Times reported many of the controller’s findings as he described them during the Jan. 11 meeting of the Fox Chase Homeowners Association.

Nonetheless, Butkovitz also spoke choice words about the Fire Department’s litany of controversial policies including the mass transfers of its paramedic corps and its failure to increase paramedic coverage, despite increasing workloads and poor response times.

The maximum paramedic response time to any emergency call should be nine minutes, according to national standards. Yet in 2007, the controller found that city paramedics did not better the nine-minute threshold 40 percent of the time.

In response, the Fire Department added five medic units to its ranks, but took them out of service months later, Butkovitz said. Nowadays, paramedics miss the nine-minute mark about one-third of the time.

Firefighters union boss Bill Gault, president of Local 22 of the International Association of Fire Fighters, attended the meeting, as did a paramedics’ union rep and several rank-and-file Local 22 members.

On the public schools front, Butkovitz reported that his office has serious doubts that the school district will be able to make it to the end of the current school year as a “going concern.” That is, the district will be bankrupt by then, he fears.

The district is now staring at a possible $61 million deficit by year’s end, compared to earlier projections that placed the shortfall at about $20 million, he said.

One reason is the district’s failed retirement-incentive program for teachers, which he claims ended up costing the schools more than it saved them in salaries because they ended up paying many retired teachers to return to work on a per-diem basis when the schools found themselves without enough experienced educators. ••

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