Getting the DROP on Frank

    A group of insurgent Philadelphia Republicans has made waves in the last couple of years, criticizing the party establishment and recruiting new, self-described reform candidates for offices from committeeperson to City Council.

    One of the insurgents is University City Republican Ward leader Matthew Wolfe, who noted in his regular e-mail to friends that he’s reserved the internet domain name

    “Unfortunately, we do not have the technical knowledge to actually set up a website to get this done,” Wolfe wrote. “Any volunteers?”

    The Rizzo in question is City Councilman at large Frank Rizzo, who’s running for re-election despite having signed up for the widely-reviled Deferred Retirement Option Program.

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    He’s scheduled to get a $194,000 lump sum payment and then, if re-elected, leave his job for a day and return for a four year term. A Franklin & Marshall poll released this week shows that criticisms of the DROP program sunk in among voters.

    70 percent of those surveyed said it should be repealed. Whether voters are angry enough to sink veteran incumbents like Rizzo is one of the most interesting questions of the spring election season.

    Wolfe told me defeating Rizzo would “send a real signal that the Republican party is serious about reform.”

    He called Rizzo’s DROP payment sleazy, but had a raft of other criticisms: Rizzo was always supporting the Democrats on tax hikes and other job-destroying legislation; he was in Aruba when Council voting on property taxes; and he openly considered running for mayor as a Democrat.

    I called Rizzo, who said he knows about the DropRizzo thing and Wolfe’s longstanding complaints.

    “Look in politics, you can’t be a lockstep Republican,” Rizzo said. “There are times when Democrats have good ideas and I have to support them. I’m not afraid to cross the aisle when it benefits my constituents.”

    He said he signed up for the DROP benefit four years ago “when it was supposedly cost-neutral.” He said he supports legislation to allow him and others to withdraw from the program.

    “I’m hoping there’s a way to resolve this,” Rizzo said. “I plan never to take the DROP check if there’s a way I can do that legally and without any significant tax consequences.”

    He said he’s happy to put his record in Council before voters. And while didn’t mention it, the family name will help, too. In case you’re new to town or very young, Rizzo’s father was a two-term mayor in the 70’s and a legendary figure in Philadelphia politics.

    Rizzo said he isn’t losing any sleep over

    “They don’t even have the technical capability to get it online, so I’m not too worried about that,” Rizzo said.

    Wolfe said he registered the site after a brainstorm late one night.

    “I’ve already gotten several people who volunteered to help with it,” he said. 

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