Candidates strive for a user-friendly government

Doug Oliver

Anthony Williams and Doug Oliver spoke last Friday as part of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce Mayoral Breakfast Series.

The candidates appeared at Wesley Enhanced Living Pennypack Park.

Williams, 58, is a state senator and former state representative. He addressed the same group in the same room when he ran for governor in 2010.

In his remarks, he thanked former House Speaker John Perzel — who was in the crowd — for helping him when he arrived in Harrisburg and for doing so much for Philadelphia. He also recognized a supporter, Bill Dolbow, Democratic leader of the Lawncrest-based 35th Ward.

Williams called for a more user-friendly city Department of Licenses and Inspections. He also wants the police department to make better use of technology and to do more community policing. He promised to improve the conditions of some police stations.

One thing he did not promise was an Eagles Super Bowl victory if he’s elected.

“I can promise you that Philadelphia will be super,” he said.

Oliver, 40, born and raised in Germantown, attended five elementary schools before heading to Milton Hershey School. He has a degree in journalism and mass communications from Lock Haven.

Professionally, he is a former spokesman for Mayor Michael Nutter, Philadelphia Gas Works and the state Department of Public Welfare.

Overall, he wants a more user-friendly government. He is calling for lower wage and business taxes.

If elected, he’d work with the state to attract more resources, but understands Philadelphia has to address issues such as its underfunded pension system.

“We have to demonstrate we’re willing to make tough choices,” he said.

The series will continue on Friday, April 24, at Wesley Enhanced Living Pennypack Park, 8401 Roosevelt Blvd.

The six Democratic candidates for mayor have been invited to address the group.

Jim Kenney will speak at 8:30 a.m. Milton Street has been invited to speak at 9:15.

Tickets cost $10.

Nelson Diaz and Lynne Abraham spoke last month.

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Candidates who want to attend the Bakers Bay Civic Association meeting are invited to register by calling Ernie Black at 215–941–8381.

The meeting will take place on Thursday, April 16, at 8 p.m. in the clubhouse of the condominium complex, located at 5100 Convent Lane (at State Road), just south of Grant Avenue.

Ruth Horwitz will be the moderator.

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In other news, Abraham last week announced an ethics-reform plan.

“I created the Philadelphia People’s Pledge because dark, outside money and independent expenditures convolute the political process. It will be a priority in my administration to end the destructive influence of outside money. I was disappointed that none of my opponents felt strongly enough to join me in signing the Pledge,” she said.

Abraham is also calling for merit selection of city judges and the elimination of councilmanic privilege, which allows Council members to control development in their districts.

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Meanwhile, Abraham is criticizing Anthony Williams for accepting campaign donations that exceeded the city’s limits.

The city Board of Ethics also determined that Williams cannot use almost $63,000 from his state Senate campaign account for the mayor’s race.

In a settlement, Williams agreed to pay an $8,000 penalty and reimburse the city $10,000 for an accountant who investigated the matters. He also had to return $17,250 in excess campaign contributions to the city.

“It is outrageous that a candidate for mayor would violate our city campaign finance laws,” Abraham said. “It’s also disappointing that candidates haven’t rejected independent expenditure and dark money through the People’s Pledge that I proposed. The current circumstances only reinforce the necessity to enact common-sense policy. That’s why I’m again calling on all candidates to reject money that violates not only the letter of the law but also the spirit of the law.”

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On Sunday, five current and former elected officials endorsed Jim Kenney in the Democratic primary for mayor.

The group consisted of former City Council President Anna Verna, City Councilman Mark Squilla, state Rep. Mike O’Brien, former Councilman Frank DiCicco and Register of Wills Ron Donatucci.

“I have had the opportunity to work with many different councilmembers, and Jim’s passion and resolve always stuck out,” Verna said. “Philadelphia needs a leader with the character to make unpopular choices when necessary. Jim Kenney is the right man for the job.”

Kenney also has the backing of the 1st, 2nd, 26th and 39th Democratic wards.

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Meanwhile, Laborers Local 57 endorsed Kenney.

“Local 57 supports Jim because he is the only candidate with the experience to move our city forward,” said business manager Walt Higgins. “Twenty years in City Council gives him the experience he needs to represent the entire city. His ability to bring people together is exactly the leadership we need in City Hall.”

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Helen Gym, a Democratic candidate for a City Council at-large seat, is disturbed at projections by the School District of Philadelphia that only 22 percent of students will graduate in 2017 because they must pass the Keystone Exams, a series of standardized tests.

“The Keystone Exams must end,” she said. “The school district’s projection of a 22-percent graduation rate when the state and city have failed to adequately meet schools’ needs is an outrage and threatens the future of hundreds of thousands of students in this city. Parents and teachers have been at the forefront of ending high-stakes testing. Immigrant youth have detailed the insanity of forcing tests in English on youth only recently arrived in the U.S. Families of special-needs students have made clear how unfair the tests are to their children.”

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Sherrie Cohen was endorsed by the Democratic City Committee for an at-large Council seat.

Cohen is the first openly LGBT candidate to be endorsed by the party for Council.

“This is a victory for the entire LGBT community that has fought for years to have direct representation on Council,” she said. “This is also a victory for working families, union members and for every Philadelphian who feels like city government doesn’t work for them. I will be your champion on City Council.”

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Former Mayor John Street endorsed Isaiah Thomas in the Democratic primary for a Council at-large seat.

“Isaiah Thomas understands that actions speak louder than words. Philadelphia is at an important intersection.Tens of thousands of illegal, unconstitutional searches of black and Latino males have made community relations with the police department worse than ever,” Street said. “Our schools are underfunded, and our teachers are under assault. Many of our reliable leaders are preparing for a much-deserved retirement. We need to integrate some young, smart, courageous, youthful persons into the ranks of the city’s political leadership. Philadelphia needs Isaiah Thomas.”

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The Philadelphia Inquirer has endorsed five candidates in the seven-man race in the Republican primary for at-large Council seats.

The newspaper endorsed Matt Wolfe, Terry Tracy, Al Taubenberger, Denny O’Brien and David Oh. The other candidates are James Williams and Dan Tinney.

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The Philadelphia Council AFL-CIO’s executive board last week endorsed 12 Democrats for Common Pleas Court and three candidates for Municipal Court.

The Common Pleas candidates are Michael Fanning, Lyris Younge, Daine Grey Jr., Stephanie Sawyer, Scott DiClaudio, Mia Roberts-Perez, Chris Mallios, Kai Scott, Thomas Martin, Abbe Fletman, Chris McCabe and Ken Powell. The Municipal Court candidates are Sharon Williams-Losier, Joffie C. Pittman and Christine Hope.

The endorsements are nearly identical to those of the Democratic City Committee. Martin and McCabe are not backed by the party. Vincent Melchiorre and Tracy Roman have party backing.

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Jefferson County President Judge John Foradora raised more than $395,000 in five weeks after declaring his candidacy for the Democratic nomination for Pennsylvania Supreme Court.

The campaign has more than $350,000 on hand.

There are six Democrats and six Republicans running in the May 19 primary. The top three finishers in each party move on to the general election.

“I am the strongest candidate to take on the Republicans in November. My campaign’s fundraising numbers show voters across the state and nation believe Pennsylvanians deserve better on the Supreme Court,” he said.

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A Quinnipiac University poll released last week gives Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey a lead over former Democratic congressman Joe Sestak, 48 percent to 35 percent.

Toomey leads among Republicans (84–7), independents (45–31), men (54–31) and women (42–39).

Sestak leads among Democrats, 72 percent to 12 percent. ••

Anthony Williams