Ed Neilson Is Probably Your Newest City Council Member

Questions about whether the process is transparent, democratic enough.

It won’t become official until A) ward leaders nominate him and B) a May 20 special election puts the final touches on it, but it appears that Rep. Ed Neilson of Northeast Philadelphia will be the newest member of City Council, replacing the departed Bill Green.

It’s a process that satisfies insiders, but maybe nobody else. Here’s WHYY’s Dave Davies:

Neilson’s legislative seat is disappearing due to redistricting. (Actually, the 169th is moving to York County, and Neilson isn’t following.) If Neilson wants to stay in the Legislature, he’ll have to run against another well-connected Democratic state legislator, John Sabatina Jr.

City Democratic Party chairman, Congressman Bob Brady says he’d like to avoid that fight. Brady put the word out, so other potential candidates have stepped aside and the ward leaders are uniting around Neilson.

This happens all the time in special elections, both here and elsewhere, but it’s a little weird that a City Council seat gets decided in a vote among 69 ward leaders.

 Chris Brennan writes that the process is producing pushback:

City Commissioner Stephanie Singer, part of a three-member panel that oversees elections in Philadelphia, has a problem with the way her political party will select a candidate tomorrow for a vacant City Council at-large seat.

Singer, in an email Sunday to about 4,000 people on her campaign list, questioned the “accountability” and “transparency” of the process. Singer said in other Pennsylvania counties a nominee for a special election would be voted on by Democratic committee members, who are elected by voters.  Not so in Philadelphia, where the 69 Democratic ward leaders will make the pick in a noon-time private meeting at the party’s headquarters.

“The ward leaders are not even directly elected by the voters,” wrote Singer, who previously served as leader of Center City’s 8th Ward. “A ward leader is elected by the committeepeople once every four years.”

There is a Republican candidate for the seat, attorney Matthew Wolfe,  but as Davies points out, “with a six-to-one registration edge, it’s hard to see the Democrats losing short of anything but a major scandal.”