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An Annotated Guide to the May Primary

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By Tom Ferrick Jr.

 Democratic voters entering the booth on Tuesday will be confronted by about 100 names of people seeking seats for 11 offices, many of them judgeships of one kind or another. How to sort out this confusing mass of candidates? Metropolis is here to help with an annotated guide to the key races.  We will concentrate on the Democratic side in Philadelphia, with a short detour to some key Republican primary races. The lever numbers of candidates are in boldface next to their names. We list the offices in the order in which they will appear on the ballot.

At the top of the ballot, are candidates for statewide appeals courts:

Judge of Superior Court (1 vacancy)

Dem:

David Wecht. (Lever 101)

Judge of Commonwealth Court (1 vacancy)

Dems:

Kathryn Boockvar (102)

Barbara Behrend-Ernsberger (103)

Why are we even voting for these appellate judges?  No one outside of litigation circles even knows what they do (Commonwealth Court tends to handle civil cases, Superior Court criminal and tort cases). This is a good example of how Pennsylvania should follow the lead of the federal government and have the governor nominate appellate judges, subject to confirmation by the state Senate.

David Wecht is unopposed, so that choice is easy.

Of the two Dems running for Commonwealth Court, Broockvar, a Bucks County lawyer with a long history of handling civil cases, has gotten a stamp of approval from the Pennsylvania Bar Association. The other candidate is a Democratic party activist from Pittsburgh who refused to submit to a bar association evaluation. Thanks a lot.  We don't know who is running and she won't give any information to the one organization that properly can evaluate her. Enough said.  Go for Kathryn Boockvar.

 

Judge of the Common Pleas Court (10 vacancies)

Democrats:

Don't try to figure this maze out.  There are 35 Democrats running for 10 seats.

Remember, though, you are under no obligation to vote for 10.  You can vote for two or three candidates.  In fact, you will help those more if you "bullet ballot" and not feed votes to other, less-worthy candidates.

1gavel.jpgIf you have studied the Committee of Seventy and the newspaper endorsement editorials use them as a guide.

Another way to handle it is to vote for the sitting judges who are running for a full term or veteran attorneys who have served with distinction in the justice system. The sitting judges are folks who were appointed by Gov. Rendell to fill temporary vacancies. One of thos judges is:

Kenneth Powell, Jr. (132)

Roger Gordon (125) is a former jury commissioner.

Charles Ehrlich (128) is a former prosecutor in the District Attorney's office.

Avoid the bad habit of looking for familiar sounding names and giving them a vote.  Names like Angelo Foglietta and Lopez Thompson.

 

Judge of the Municipal Court (1 vacancy)

Democrats:

This one is a dog's breakfast.

There are seven candidates running for this one seat. Marvin L. Williams is endorsed by the Democratic party, has top ballot position, and was recommended by the bar.

But, Williams is also a tax deadbeat who owes $6,211.73 on his home in Germantown for real estate taxes that date back to 2008.  The city has put liens on the property for the 2008 and 2009 taxes owed.

Williams has also had trouble paying his gas bill.  PGW has gone to court three times in the last five years to collect gas money due.  The latest was in 2011, when it filed legal papers to collect $1,402. In each case, Williams paid the gas bill after the collection action was filed.

I don't want to set the bar too high here, but I think that one thing that we should demand of candidates for public office is that they...well...PAY THEIR TAXES.

Four the other candidates were listed as "Not Recommended" by the Philadelphia Bar Association. So why should we vote for a candidate who can't pass muster with his or her professional colleagues?

That leaves two candidates who were recommended by the bar:

Derrick Coker (143)

Vincent Johnson (147)

Go into the booth, flip a coin, and pick one.

 

Judge of Traffic Court (1 vacancy)

There is a very high bozo factor among the 12 (!) candidates running for this seat.

The law does not require Traffic Court judges to be lawyers.  On the other hand, that doesn't mean we have to elect candidates with criminal records (John S. Adams), guys who are traffic scofflaws (Omar Sabir), the daughters of ward leaders (Marnie Aument Loughery) or folks who just could never get around to paying local taxes (Jose Figueroa).

Also, beware of talk from some candidates about how, if elected, they are going to get the Parking Authority off the backs of Philly drivers.

While that may be an admirable goal, Traffic Court has no -- repeat no -- control over the PPA.  They are separate and distinct agencies.

Among the remaining candidates, I can only find one who has previous experience in Traffic Court and has taken the time to get training for the job:

Frederick C. Mari Jr. (156)

 

Mayor -- Republican

John Featherman (15)

Karen Brown (16)

Featherman is a Libertarian who has the support of the new Republicans (i.e. the folks trying to oust current party boss Michael Meehan).

Brown is a freshly-minted Republican, backed by the old Republicans.  The only thing I can say about Brown is that that she probably would make a better mayor than city Finance Director.  (See accompanying story.)

 

Mayor - Democratic

T. Milton Street (163)

Michael Nutter (164)

Voting for Milton Street because you are angry at Michael Nutter is like setting yourself on fire because you are angry at your wife.

CIty Hall.jpg 

City Commissioner - Democratic (2 vacancies)

This is the three-member board that oversees elections in Philadelphia. One position goes to the minority party (Republican).  The other two are Democrats.  The incumbents are Anthony Clark, a nonentity, and Marge "Everlasting" Tartaglione, who has held the job since 1875. (Strike that. It was a Freudian slip.)  Since 1975. Both are running for re-election.

For starters, avoid Warren Bloom.  He has top ballot position and he has a nice, familiar-sounding name. On the other hand, there is his morals conviction and the wad of taxes he owes.

The most qualified challenger is Stephanie Singer (169), Democratic leader of the 8th Ward, who has a Ph.D. in mathematics from NYU and a bachelor's degree in math from Yale.

Singer has proposed the shocking and outrageous idea of modernizing the office so that people can go on something called the World Wide Web and get access to voter data and election results. This upset the commissioners who said it was far, far too difficult a task to use this web thingie to give people access to public records.  In response, Singer went ahead and posted them on the web herself. 

In her mailings, Singer has been making merry with the fact that Marge is one of the DROPaholics who is going to collect her wad of cash, slip through the loophole, and then returns to office instead of retiring. 

This is an example of where you should bullet ballot -- vote for one candidate and forget the rest.

 

Register of Wills -- Democratic

The incumbent Ron Donatucci of the Donatucci's of South Philadelphia.  He is unopposed. He has held the office since 1979. He apparently plans to outlast Marge.

 

Sheriff -- Democratic

Three Democrats are vying to replace the laughably incompetent John Green, who retired before his term ended.  For years, I had dreamed that Mayor Street's son, Sharif, would run for the job -- so we could have a Sheriff Sharif Street. But it was not meant to be.

Instead, we have state Rep. Jewell Williams, former sheriff's deputy Jacque Whaumbush and former city housing director John Kromer (173) running.

This is a no-brainer.  Kromer is a good and decent man who has vowed, if elected, to abolish the sheriff's office.

This is another office that is a vestigial remainder from the days before consolidation of the city and county.  The sheriff actually used to enforce the law in the city and its surrounding townships.  But, folks, that role ended in 1854.

Today, the sheriff's office transports inmates to and from the prisons and courts and handles mortgage foreclosure sales.  There is no reason these jobs cannot be done -- more efficiently and competently -- by the court system and the city. 

 

Council-At-Large  -- Republican (2 vacancies)

There are nine candidates running for two positions. One is incumbent Frank Rizzo. The other will fill the vacancy left by Jack Kelly. The big question is: Will the fact that Rizzo took DROP and then ran again outweigh his name? Will any of the city's 132,000 remaining Republicans show up to vote?

 

City Council Chambers Philadelphia.jpgCouncil-At-Large - Democratic (5 vacancies)

There are 13 candidates going for these jobs.  The question is: Are any of the five incumbents (Bill Greenlee, Blondell Reynolds-Brown, Bill Green, Jim Kenney and Wilson Goode Jr.) weak enough to be defeated by any of the challengers?  Of the five, Greenlee was considered the weakest, but then he got top ballot position. This is yet another example where you should bullet ballot your favorite candidate, especially if he or she is a challenger.

 

District Council --  Democratic (10 vacancies)

The retirement of Frank DiCicco (1st District); Anna Verna (2nd) Joan Krajewski (6th) and Donna Reed-Miller (8th) has drawn crowded fields of candidates for these open seats. By now, you have probable been inundated with mailers, some of them the size of Rand-McNally maps, urging you to vote for the various candidates. This is your call.

Please vote.

 

Ballot Question

The one ballot question asks voters is they want to create a 17-member commission -- with apppointees split between the Mayor and City Council -- to study ways "how City government and other public, quasi-public and non-profit agencies can best work together to create and preserve private sector jobs for Philadelphians, and issue a written report containing its findings."

Really, do we need another commission to study how to create jobs in Philly?

I have a shelf filled with the work of previous commissions, all of whom produced voluminous reports that said the way to create private sector jobs in the city is to (a) lower business taxes, which currently are the highest in the nation; (b) stop walloping start-ups with onerous taxes, such as the requirement you pay your business taxes not only for the current year, but also a year in advance; (c) reduce the complexity of the approval process for permits, licenses, etc. by the city's regulatory agencies, (d) produce an educated workforce that can meet the demands of today's economy. Getting them out of high school with a diploma and the ability to read and write would be a good start.

Vote No.

 

If you are not sure of the location of your polling place, the Committee of Seventy offers this online tool.  Type in your address and it will guide you to the right place.

 

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