Running from DROP

    Just how worried should an incumbent City Council member be when his opponent pops up in the Washington Post?

    I’m not sure, but Frank DiCicco, who represents South Philadelphia, Center City and some river wards has a battle on his hands this spring.

    DiCicco is one of six incumbents scheduled to get hefty lump sum payments as part of the widely-reviled Deferred Retirement Option Program, or DROP. Three of them have already dropped out of the race, and DiCicco has acknowledged he could be the “poster boy” for the DROP program, which would not be a good thing.

    DiCicco is doing everything he can to mitigate the harm. Thursday he introduced legislation which would allow him and others to back out of the program, so he wouldn’t get his payment.

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    And he’s promised that if he can’t back out and gets elected after accepting the separation bonus, he’ll donate his salary to the city.

    But he’ll face a multi-candidate field in the May 17 Democratic primary, and his opponents are coming after him on the DROP issue.

    The smiling mug of Joe Grace, the lawyer, gun control activist and one-time journalist running against DiCicco appeared in a Washington Post blog yesterday.

    The Post blog by contributing writer Tom Mulkeen discusses the DROP program and mentions the amount of DiCicco’s expected payment – over $420,000 – and gives such a flattering description of Grace that it looks like a planted piece.It first appeared in the PoliticsPa website.

    (UPDATE: Grace returned my call, and said he doesn’t know Mulkeen, didn’t talk to him and had nothing to do with the post.)

    Also planning to run are Vern Anastasio, an attorney and Bella Vista activist who has run against DiCicco twice before; Service Employees International Union official Jeff Hornstein; and Democratic committeewoman Karen Brown.

    Democratic ward leader Mike Boyle has decided not to run.

    It should be an interesting contest.

    District Council elections aren’t always determined by voter preference. Organizational support usually matters a lot, especially the backing of ward leaders.

    But the district probably has more attentive voters than most, which will both help and hurt DiCicco. Many voters know his name and like him, and surely some know and care about the DROP issue.

    DiCicco’s greatest adversary, Local 98 electricians’ union leader John Dougherty isn’t a candidate, but has the money and troops to influence the contest. He was an ardent backer of Anastasio in the past. It’s unclear where he’ll be this time.

    The deadline for filing nominating petitions is March 8th.

    UPDATE: Chris Brennan of the Daily News lists four more potential candidates in his Friday Clout column: Dan Stevenson, brother of a Local 98 business agent, Mark Squilla, a South Philly committeeman and community leader I’d heard about, former State Rep. Harold James, and current State Rep. Kenyatta Johnson.

    Meanwhile, if you want to read a truly uplifting retirement story, check out this New York Times story of a major league pitcher who gave up $12 million he was due under his contract because he didn’t think he deserved it.

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