This is the sixth of 10 questions about issues and priorities that NewsWorks asked the seven Democratic candidates running for the Eighth District City Council seat. The questions were drafted by voters who attended NewsWorks forums earlier this spring. Their answers will appear on NewsWorks.org during the week, two questions per day.
We will be running the candidates’ answers to questions 7 and 8 on Thursday.
Corruption and complacency on Council were huge concerns at voter forums. A two for the price of one question. First, do you favor term limits for Council members? Explain your thinking. Second, if elected, one of your first acts as a Councilperson will be to vote on a new Council president. Will you pledge tonight NOT to support for Council president any member who has taken a DROP payment or plans to take one?
I do favor term limits for City Council because legislative bodies tend to get frozen in place. Philadelphia’s City Council members serve, on average, longer than those of any major city, and that is a major reason for the current culture of inaction and entitlement. The five retirements this year in City Council have brought new energy and new ideas. Philadelphia shouldn’t have to wait 16 years or more for that new energy to come out. I was the first candidate to say I will not vote for a candidate for City Council president who has taken a six-figure DROP payout and refused to retire as promised. New City Council members are banned from enrolling in DROP, but sitting members are grandfathered in. I will not vote for anyone who won’t promise not to take DROP.
Yes, I am in favor of limiting council members to two four-year terms in City Council. I see this as both a way to ensure that council representatives – no matter how effective and compassionate their work may be – do not become entrenched in the ways of City Hall, and also as a way to engage more residents in the political process. I was the first candidate in this race who pledged publicly not to support a DROP-enrolled official for Council President (I also challenged my fellow candidates to make the same pledge). I have also pledged to only vote for a Council President that has said he or she would never enroll in DROP. I stand by both of those promises.
I do not support term limits for Council members. Voters elect people they want to represent them in office and when they are no longer effective, they should be voted out. If a Councilperson has a long term agenda and the voters feel as if the benchmarks are being met, they should be allowed to stay in order to continue serving their constituents. “Different” doesn’t always translate into “better”. Personally, I have no intentions of making this the job I retire from. Voters should know that I plan to be in Council for a few terms at maximum.
I am opposed to the use of the DROP program. It was intended to provide an incentive for longtime highly paid government employees to retire. Even with the incentive payments, the program was expected to save the city real dollars. I believe that there should be a prohibition on using the DROP program to receive the incentive pay and then turning around to take another city job. I recommend that this prohibition apply to all politicians.
I’m not in favor of term limits. I believe that the constituents in my district should believe in term limits for all elected officials. If that elected official has not produced for the district then his/her time in office should be 4 years. I want the resident to whole me accountable at all times. NO. I will not be supporting the next City Council President if he, or she is in the DROP program. This decision is base on the fact that I believe that morally and ethically the elected officials were wrong.
Yes, I’m in favor of term limits for Council members. I believe that after a period of time that the majority of council members lose a sense of enthusiasm and energy they had when they initially took office. Setting limits opens up the council to new ideas and concepts. I pledge not to support any member of council who has taken a DROP payment or plans to take one for a Council president. I believe that council never should have been allowed to participate in the program as they are elected officials. My question for them is if they really believe that it’s okay, then why did they eliminate it for future council members? The reason is they know it’s wrong but they just couldn’t pass up a payday.
I favor campaign finance reform to address the issue of corruption and complacency. DROP is for rank and file city employees and not for elected officials and I will not support anyone who attempts to take advantage of the tax payers of the city by using the DROP program as an elected official.
I not only favor term limits, but I pledge that whether or not Council votes to establish such limits or not, I will not run for more than two terms. If the president of the United States and the governor of Pennsylvania are limited to two four-year terms, Councilpersons should also be limited to two four-year terms. A mandatory changing of the political guard every eight years is our only hedge against corrupt power structure entrenchment at the local level. Besides, our system needs to encourage fresh ideas and fresh recruits into government service. If elected, I will not vote for anyone as president of City Council who has taken or plans to take a DROP payment.
Tomorrow we’ll hear from the candidates on whether they favor changing the city’s tax structure and if they have the experience to handle the racial and economic diversity within the District.