Sent: Thursday, March 17, 2011 9:31 PM
..from the desk of Donna Gentile O’Donnell….
To my great friends and generous supporters in this political adventure….
With a heavy heart, I write to tell you that I will be withdrawing as a candidate in the 8th Council District. I made the decision based on the field of candidates that have gotten to “the starting line” of the race after the petition submission. The “can win” scenario that I originally envisioned is simply not in the cards.
At the beginning of this campaign, I had always known that this was a possibility. And as many of you know, I passed on the prospect of an at-large candidacy because the chance for success, given the lack of open seats, and the demands of a City-wide race, made the prospects for winning remote. Given what I now know about the field of candidates, I am forced to draw a similar unfortunate conclusion.
Even though we assembled a formidable petition drive across the district; filed more than 3000 unchallenged signatures; hired competent staff and advisors, who assembled issues papers and positions; managed complex research and early stage campaign technology; raised more than $100K in 2months with another $150K in reliable commitments; and met with key stakeholders who counseled us wisely and offered mission critical assistance, at the end of the day, it would not have been enough.
The campaign, though, has been an education, in and of itself. The preparation I’ve done to be a candidate worthy of your support has given me substantial insights on some of the most pressing issues of our City. They include:
· How to engage thoughtful and meaningful education reform, which, more than any other single factor, is the key to the eradication of entrenched poverty, upward mobility, employment, and workforce development
· The need to address hunger in our City, perhaps, in part, by recreating farmlands in blighted areas of North Philadelphia outlined in the 800 page blight document authored by the City Planning Commission, similar to an initiative being pursued by the City of Detroit, http://www.gazette.com/articles/detroit-95333-plan-blight.html
· Approaching neighborhood renewal with an eye toward the possible, and providing necessary support for constituents effectively, competently, and in a timely manner
· Re-creating E.F. Schumacher’s vision in the classic economics book, Small is Beautiful as a mechanism for building micro economies in underdeveloped communities
· Repealing the bill on the use of Marcellus Shale natural gas in City government, seeking support from the Commonwealth to power our City and our neighborhoods less expensively, and replace the LIHEAP program so it can serve more families and seniors at less cost
· Serious Council oversight of the 55% of the real estate taxes applied to the School District, such that it would rationalize bureaucratic salaries; and drop more dollars to the bottom line for creating choices for our City’s kids who are trapped in failing and unsafe schools
· Coping honestly with the City’s unfunded pension liability
· Developing and deploying a more rational real estate tax structure that does not further damage an already undermined Philadelphia real estate market, but fairly distributes tax obligations/ assessments, and uses the experiences of states like Florida, that have gone to full value assessment, to avoid the damage that will necessarily occur with this approach
· Understanding and acting on the fact that new company incubators are only useful if there is a business friendly City in which to keep them once they grow
· Term limits to institutionalize the revitalization of this legislative body
· The need to be responsive to, and supportive of, the large employers in our City, for- profit and non-profit alike, recognizing the critical role they play in so many aspects of the life of the City, as employers, thought leaders, and civic enterprise
I am more conscious than ever of the need to be frugal with taxpayer’s funds, which should include a scale back of the perks of City Council; the end of the DROP program as we know it; and a demand that all in leadership lead by example when it comes to spending. And as the races for Council unfold, I am more, not less, optimistic that because of the sheer numbers of new faces, there is the prospect for real change. I hope the new Council will be mindful of the need to do the real work—the very heavy lifting—that must be done if Philadelphia is to make sustainable progress toward a truly revitalized City, especially in these difficult times.
In the weeks ahead, I will try and think through how best to apply these insights and substantive commitments in the near future. But for now, I wanted to write to tell each and all of you how much your support has meant to me…the financial contributions; the petition support effort; the good guidance on so many political, legal, and substantive matters. All of you are the best reasons to believe that there is hope for the City we love.