Katz leaves financial oversight board – to run for mayor?

    Sam Katz, the former Philadelphia school board member and three-time mayoral candidate has resigned from the state board overseeing Philadelphia’s finances.

    Katz was appointed by Governor Tom Corbett to the five-member panel, where he served three years as chairman. Corbett will name his replacement.

    Katz wants to spend more time on the 10-part video history of the city he’s producing, and he notes that now is a good time for a transition. The Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority (god, I hate that name), or PICA has a new executive director, Harvey Rice, and it makes sense for a new chairman to take the reins before the city presents a new five-year fiscal plan this spring.

    But there’s one other wrinkle to Katz’s resignation, which is effective immediately. The state statute creating PICA says board members “shall not seek election as public officials” for a year after serving with the authority. Which means that Katz is clearing out in time to become a candidate for mayor of Philadelphia next year if he wants to.

    Would Katz run for mayor again?

    Katz told me he’s not making any political plans, and I believe him. He lost twice as the Republican nominee for mayor, and the political climate will be far less accomodating for a GOP candidate next year than it was for Katz’s 1999 and 2003 campaigns.

    There’s no road to victory for him as an independent, and it’s hard to see many Democrats embracing Katz, who’s been a Republican for more than 20 years.

    But I think Katz knows himself, and the fact is that he’s run in three of the last six mayoral elections. He would be tempted to at least flirt with the idea.

    The one possible opening for Katz might be a very crowded Democratic primary field next year. Not that I foresee a combination of candidates that particularly favors Katz. It’s just that in a crowded field, anything can happen.

    Remember, Michael Nutter became mayor by getting the votes of fewer than 14 percent of registered Democrats in the 2007 primary.

    Mostly I think Katz wants to get back to his video history project, which has been well done and well-received. He ended our discussion of the mayoral thing by saying, “I don’t feel compelled to put anything on the table or take anything off the table, nor am I making any plans.”

    Reflections on PICA

    I was around in 1992 when PICA was created, and I asked Katz if he had any thoughts on the authority and his experience there.

    Two things: First, he noted that PICA is set to expire in 2023 when its debt is retired, and he thinks it should remain in place. I’m inclined to agree. The PICA statute requires the city to annually produce a five-year financial plan and disclose more specific information than the city charter requires about its finances.

    I was around in the 1980’s when the city did nothing but one-year budgets. There lies the way of short-term fixes and budgetary lies. Better to keep the discipline of the current arrangemment.

    Second, Katz said a weakness of the PICA statute is that if the board thinks the city is on the wrong course, its only way of forcing change is by denying all state aid.

    “The power to withhold those funds is nuclear,” Katz said, “and a more conventional type of punitive action is essential in my opinion for PICA to become more effective.”

    I agree with that also. But changing that proivision means letting the state legislature open up the law and start tinkering, which is kinda scary.



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