Philadelphia’s Corruption Constipation

Can DROP awaken a sleepy electorate?

The DROP Squad is under attack! And I’m here to come to their defense. In fact, I encourage them to run for re-election. Stu Bykofsky of the Daily News and the editorial board of the Inquirer have both promised to be relentless in their attacks on the four remaining Philadelphia City Council members who enrolled in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan four years ago and have yet to announce if they plan on seeking re-election. Marian Tasco, Frank DiCicco, Frank Rizzo and Anna Verna all signed an agreement that included an “irrevocable” commitment to retire. (According to the Inky, there might be an announcement from Verna on this today.)

But there is a loophole in the plan that allows elected officials and other highly compensated office holders to retire for a day, collect a substantial sum from the pension fund, and then get “re-hired” and keep working. Elected officials like to plan ahead and “retire” right after an election and then “un-retire” when they are sworn into office. At a time when the city of Philadelphia is on the brink of bankruptcy because of a severely underfunded pension program, those who take advantage of this loophole are especially despicable.

[SIGNUP]Since the DROP boondoggle has been exposed, John Kelly and Donna Reed Miller both announced that they would not seek re-election. Even though they dipped into the pension fund early, they go out with honor as they are keeping their “irrevocable” promise and actually retiring. Frank DiCicco is attempting to straddle the fence by declaring that he will retire if he is not re-elected. Um, that would be called getting fired. DiCicco went on to say that he would give the DROP money back if he does get re-elected, which is like saying you’ll give the money you robbed from the bank back if you get caught.

But I say let DiCicco run. In fact, let the entire DROP Squad seek re-election. I am not joining the chorus of critics and columnists clamoring for the four to drop out of the race for re-election. In fact, I encourage them to run. Bring it on! I want to see them get roundly defeated. Maybe their unmitigated arrogance and disregard for the future of the city’s pension fund will finally get the city electorate outraged at the shenanigans that go on inside City Hall on a daily basis. Maybe finally we will rise up and say enough is enough with a ballot box recall of those who use fine print to pad their own pockets with money meant to pad the nest egg of the city workers.

The Joker, played brilliantly by Jack Nicholson, famously said in the first Batman movie, “This city needs an enema.” Philadelphia needs one to relieve the constipation of corruption. The voter malaise that affords city politicians a confidence that they can get away with anything has to end. My hope is that DROP awakens a sleepy electorate to hold those politicians accountable.

I also hope that the best and the brightest of the city see this election as an opportunity for real change in City Hall. That candidates from all walks of life come forward and challenge the status quo. I have been somewhat disappointed by the slate of candidates I have seen so far, machine politicians waiting their turn to replace another machine politician. Meet the new boss, same as the old boss.

I hope a business leader, a fresh young mind, a social activist or, especially, a fiscal conservative reads this post and decides to get in the race. Please do. We need your voice and leadership.

And to the DROP Squad: Please stay in the race! We need you to get this city angry and engaged. And if you somehow win re-election, then we get the city we deserve.

***On another point: Thanks to the hundreds of people who responded to my call for a “Drop DROP Rally” at City Hall. It’s still in the planning stages. I will start reaching out to all of you as plans firm up and when it gets warmer. Thanks again. If you want to take part, send an email to [email protected]