Philly Republicans’ Town Hall Debate At Pub and Kitchen

newgopIs now really the time a new Republican Party emerges from Philadelphia’s conservative netherworlds with a plan of action? A year ago (and decades before that) the answer would have probably been “haha, no, why would you ask that?” or, if speaking on the Interwebs: “LOL!!!1!” But eight city government candidates at least made a strong case last night at the Thirtieth Ward Republicans’ open town hall-style meeting at Pub and Kitchen in Rittenhouse.

The festivities took place in a standing room only upstairs private bar. Participating candidates included At-Large candidates Elmer Money, David Oh, Malcolm Lazin, Joe McColgan and Michael Untermeyer; City Commissioner candidate Al Schmidt; Second District Candidate Ivan Cohen; and Mayoral hopeful John Featherman. After introducing themselves, candidates formed a tight line and took questions, Featherman at the front, Money at the tail end. Here’s what we found from the candidates:

Mayor

John Featherman: We already knew this, but the civil libertarian knows his stuff. And while things could get pretty wonky throughout the night, Featherman seemed more interested in summoning his inner Ho Chi Minh, explicitly saying the greater good (of the Philadelphia Republican Party) is more important than his or any single election of any single candidate standing there. At one point, he went down the line of candidates, explaining why each was qualified to retain his respective desired position and said he was there to “lift them up.”

When asked of Nutter’s retaining of Police Commissioner Ramsey, he said, “I would have thanked him and let him go. I’m sorry that he stayed.” Essentially he was upset Ramsey attempted a cat-and-mouse game. All candidates reiterated this position as well as a couple others: They’re all against Stop and Frisk, all against DROP.

On what he’d trim from the budget if elected: Based on his Republican opponent’s wrist slap from the Department of Ethics, Featherman said he’d kill the entire program. In addition, he’d cut Licenses and Inspections by 25 percent. He said estimates put the tearing down of a vacant city property at $27,000, which is done by L&I. He’d essentially seek to auction those 40,000 properties off instead, which could then be developed and sold or rented as affordable housing.

Council At-Large

Malcolm Lazin: Lazin spent a good portion of the evening patting his very-padded resume, including his work on the Marina Center, his run for District Attorney and others. Though, the only one who mentioned Lazin’s work with Equality Forum was Featherman, who complimented Lazin’s position there as Executive Director.

Lazin won the PN award (not a real thing) for the best analogies of the night: one of Libya, the other of the Titanic. He compared the Philly GOP to the Freedom Fighters in Libya (and the Democrats, hehe, are Gaddafi). Unfortunately, he said, the Philly GOP doesn’t have a NATO-like presence to come in and even out the score, or even help make sure elections are fair. He argued the Pennsylvania Attorney General should make a Philadelphia a priority for Republicans, to make things – and all agreed – less unfair on Election Day.

The other analogy: “We are the Titanic and we are on a collision course with an iceberg called bankruptcy,” he said, which has been one of his campaign themes. “And there’s no one to save us – no Uncle Sam, no Rendell, no Vince Fumo, no Harrisburg.” He related much of our budget problems back to Council, specifically the DROP program. He said Philadelphia City Council needs to lead and with its high salaries and DROP payouts, they’re not setting an example for the greater city.

One of the highlights of the night came as Lazin began talking about City Councilman Frank Rizzo, Jr. He became visibly angry, even a little red-faced, after announcing he was the first to call on Rizzo to resign and also delivered a letter to the Councilman’s office asking for his DROP application. “What he has done is unconscionable,” he yelled, speaking specifically about Rizzo’s dedication to resign this year, and not doing so. “And none of you should even begin to think about voting for Frank Rizzo, Jr.”

David Oh: If there was one candidate who came out knowing each issue piece-by-piece, inside and out, it was Oh. The Center City lawyer focused his talks on tax reform, cuts and making Philly more of a “big fish” city. In that, he believes Philadelphia should be using technological advances already out there to attract the big fish – multinational corporations, etc., which would then make Philadelphia more of a competitor for business with New York City. It makes no sense, he said, that Philadelphia doesn’t have a 24-hour district. “Where’s the Soho art district [of Philly]?” he rhetorically asked.

Regarding the school system, he’s in favor of across the board vouchers – not just for the most underserved youth. While he says he was in favor of the School Reform Commission in 2007, it should have been temporary.

He said he’d cut programs the same way he’d hand out vouchers – across the board. City pensions are too easy to get now, he said. Instead of working for a certain amount of time and then getting an automatic pension in retirement, he’d require city workers other than police and firefighters to collect a pension directly related to how long s/he worked. “For instance,” he said, “if you worked 40 years, you’re going to collect a bigger retirement pension than someone who only worked ten years,” and so on.

Joe McColgan: The RCC-endorsed Northeast Philly native and former Naval officer held a pen in his tight fist as he told the audience the problem with Philadelphia is that it’s been run by Democrats for more than 60 years. Therefore, “you can’t blame one thing on a Republican,” he said. We, of course, found this a little strange considering establishment city Republicans seem to have knowingly gone along with the Democrat takeover and city killjob. But, whatever.

The main issues McColgan said he wanted to address was the more than 30 percent of city residents below the poverty level, as well as lowering taxes while bringing in more money. “If you do a better job at creating jobs, you’re going to have more taxpayers in the city” and can lower taxes, he said.

Even so, he called on the city to un-employ a good portion of its workforce, citing the fact that we’ve gone down in population since the 1950s and have gained city employees. Less people, he said, means there should be less government workers. He thinks the City Council can sustain a 25 percent cut in members, itself, and won’t give himself more than two terms in Council.

Elmer Money: E. Money had the misfortune of being the last in line. Therefore, by the time the question got to him, it’d not only been about 15 minutes, but everything you could possibly say about any given issue, had been said. The Northeast hospital rep agreed with Featherman’s assessment on what to do with Philadelphia’s 40,000 vacant properties as well as shortening Council’s summer vacation. He said the Philadelphia pension system needs to be overhauled being that almost half the city payroll goes to retirees.

Mark Untermeyer: The Philly attorney kept it simple. He wants to give businesses that hire, tax incentives. Untermeyer, who claims he’s gone under the wing of former Mayoral candidate Sam Katz for the campaign, said he’d get rid of the sheriff’s office and no-bid contracts. “These are simple ideas, and yet we can’t get them done,” he said. Asked what he’d replace the sheriff’s office with, he wasn’t completely sure, though agreed some sort of doling out of responsibility to the police force and the courts could work.

He also told a story from the door-to-door campaign trail, which involved his labradoodle, apparently named “Fiscal” (though it was unclear if that part of the story was actually true or just a really bad joke). Apparently while Untermeyer campaigns, he tells those who open the door that City Council needs a “Fiscal watchdog.”

Yeah, awful…but surprisingly memorable.

District 2

Ivan Cohen: Unfortunately, Cohen stood alongside Money and said even less. The South Philly boxing manager, who hasn’t been allowed to participate in every debate – and wasn’t endorsed by the 30th Ward – said he wants to help the city and everyone in it, no matter who they are and will do his “damndest” to make it happen. He also claimed David Oh had his election stolen from him in 2007, which Oh neither affirmed nor denied.

City Commissioner

Al Schmidt: Before he said a word, Al Schmidt had one thing going for him: Everyone in the room really, really likes him. A lot. Featherman even said Schmidt’s election is more important than his own. And while there are three Republicans on the ballot for City Commissioner, said Featherman, everyone in the room was ordered to vote only for Schmidt because the other Republican candidates were propped up by the RCC to dilute Schmidt’s run. (Schmidt’s last run for City government was 2009, when he ran for City Controller. He became notorious for shit talking the RCC.) Other candidates said Schmidt was required voting because he’s the one guy they can trust to make sure vote totals will be fair and “make sure every vote counts.”

Schmidt made the case most have been making about the way Marge Tartaglione conducts business: There needs to be more transparency in the office, less lawsuits to force such transparency and, well, computers. He claimed last time the Commissioner’s office tried to update their system with a website dedicated to reporting vote totals, they spent thousands of dollars on creating such a thing when “you could have given some high school kid $100 to do it.”

Image: PhillyGOP (and not affiliated with all the candidates here)

13 Responses to “ Philly Republicans’ Town Hall Debate At Pub and Kitchen ”

  1. Many thanks in providing coverage on this event. I couldn’t make it but it’s great that there are folks out there that recognize ideas from both sides of the aisle, despite a 6:1 disadvantage. It’s a shame that John Featherman isn’t taken as seriously as he should be; as are many Philly republicans who are dismissed due to lack of political clout. The truth is, the only hope for our city’s succes is a totally clean slate…which means a departure from the party that has been in control for 60 years.

    The one thing I differ on opnion of is the rhetoric about the Sheriff’s Office. It’s easier for a candidate to want to abolish the office than take on fixing 24 years of corruption, but in reality – it should be expanded to do what Sheriffs do in almost every other American city; which is to conduct citywide seizure operations and collect delinquent taxes and fees owed to the city. While its simple to say that the Police can take over court security and prisoner transport, what about the core mission of the office that has been ignored by Sheriff Green to gain political capital in a segment of the voting populous that is vulnerable to property leins & seizure?

    Where’s the republican candidate for Sheriff in the new Philly GOP?

  2. I’ll be one of the first to say that the Democratic one-party rule in Philadelphia, like one party rule anywhere, has had damaging effects on the city.

    The problem is that the Republicans are not a credible alternative. We have all seen what happens when you elect them to any position of authority: they do NOTHING to create jobs, and instead spend all their time trying to bust unions, drive down wages, deny women health care, destroy necessary infrastructure projects, and turn a blind eye to corporate polluters (while cutting their taxes or, in the case of corbett, not taxing them at all).

    Philly’s in bad shape because of decades of unchallenged democratic rule, but it’s no secret that the GOP acquiesced to this in return for patronage crumbs, which is something the Weekly reported on a year or so ago. The fact is you cannot trust the republicans to be fair or even competent for that matter: this is a party that believes government IS the problem, how could you expect them to govern effectively?

  3. Elmer Money says:

    As a Republican At-Large candidate, I would like to fill the void on council as an advocate who can promote social change and improve health services especially for those who are most vulnerable and struggle to pay medical bills because of unemployment or lack of insurance; I would be able to ensure compliance with hospital charity care and community benefit standards.

    There are only six maternity departments in Philadelphia. Fourteen obstetric units or hospitals have closed over the past twelve years, yet City Council has been silent. When Northeastern Hospital closed leaving neighborhoods of Port Richmond, Bridesburg and Fishtown with limited access to valuable health services, again silence. This problem is of great significance for preserving the health of Philadelphia.

    Also, considering Aria and Albert Einstein Hospitals are building new facilities in New Hope and East Norriton will these hospitals continue the patten of eliminating services or worse leave the city altogether due to unfriendly business practices?

    If families are the backbone of our communities then how can any administration expect to fulfill its commitment to the residents of this city when inpatient, emergency and maternity services continue to be eliminated?

    What has Councilperson Tasco done as Chairperson of the Committee of Health and Human Services to protect our city’s aging, poor, sick and expectant parents?

  4. David Oh says:

    BrendanCalling,

    The Republicans are evil? Is that the best you can offer? Is that because you care about the people? If you really cared, you would have studied these problems and would be able to offer something constructive. Do you have more?

    I read your comment criticizing vouchers. Do you think vouchers which provide relief to working parents, harms the public schools? These parents often work two jobs to send their children to a modestly priced private or Catholic school. That’s because the public school in their neighborhood has a high dropout rate, violence, bullying and very little learning. If they are not able to continue to afford private school, they are likely to move out of our city. That results in less money for the students who attend public school. That’s because these working parents pay School Tax but do not benefit from it. Their money benefits the students who attend public school. Do you belive in smaller class size? I do. If private and Catholic schools continue to shut down, where do these students go? Public school, right? At least, those who are not able to leave the city.

    I am for accross the board vouchers for parents. I am not for providing nearly the full tuition of only the poor at the expense of working families. How will that model be sustained? I am not for more Charter Schools than we already have. I am for fixing our public schools. Now, without some type of voucher program, tell me how you will reform education? Do you understand the magnitude of the problems facing our school children? They have far greater problems than you appear to understand or have ever experienced (not “fitting in” is among the least of them).

    So tell me about you solutions. I suspect it goes along the lines of tax the rich. But the people that you target as rich are not very rich at all. They are struggling to make ends meet and they do it without government assistance. They are the taxpayers. If they falter, they made need assistance themselves and that means less funds for the poor. Is that your goal? Are you for replacing the public shcools with only charter schools?

    You don’t have solutions, do you. What you offer is another political party. That’s fine but tell the readers what you offer besides higher taxes, more government run programs, less choice and increased burdens upon working families.

    -David Oh
    Republican Candidate for City Council At-Large

  5. Robert Sperduto says:

    Why would Ivan Cohen have to debate when he is not opposed. Ivan is a real person who knows the people and the problems first hand. Everyone crying about vouchers and whether they be the solution. How about the children? The children need a safe place to learn free of any type of harm or harassment. They need to be taught to respect people not bully or fight to survive. Most people do not understand children develop by what they observe and witness not reading in a book. When the adults don’t act respectful to each other neither will the children. Children sell drugs for money and to buy expensive items. These children are taught right to buy and not steal but all they see around them is poverty and low paying jobs. Ivan will work to bring better paying jobs back to Southwest Philly. Too many of the good jobs left leaving minimum wage jobs. Educate the children and good paying jobs will return. By returning good paying jobs to the community the community will prosper and the community will revitalize itself. Education is the start, jobs are second, clean safe community is the by-product.

  6. tb says:

    i like to see how al schmit is going to make the elections better with the budget that they get every year and it keeps getting cut and the three current commissioners do a damm good job of doing what has to be done with what they can get. to al and the other candadites running for commissioner there is more then meets the eye for the job so get your facts straight

  7. david oh,

    Sorry about your thin skin when it comes to criticism, but as Republican Tom Davis said “the Republican brand is in the trash can…if we were dog food, they would take us off the shelf.” You have no one but yourselves to blame.

    your party has been taken over by tea party lunatics thanks to party leadership. I have seen what your party does when given power: you attack programs that help women and children, you go after abortion rights, you go after unions and collective bargaining, and you run up enormous deficits that you then blame on democrats. Then you try to balance budgets on the backs of working people, the poor, and the middle class.

    It’s quite illustrative that you openly mock the idea of taxing the rich: I’ll remind you that Eisenhower’s tax rates, when america was prosperous and the middle class was growing, were well above what Mr. Obama has imposed.

    Please: it’s the same old phoney concern for the deficit. david, if government is the problem as you suggest, why do you want to be a part of it to begin with? Why would you want to govern when your party prides itself on the fact that it doesn’t believe in government?

    PS: my solution for schools? How about properly funding them, which your republican governor doesn’t seem to believe in AT ALL.

  8. and by the way, david, you’re the one who used the word “evil”, not me. Please don’t put words in my mouth, it’s highly dishonest.

    I think what got you so upset is that i pointed to concrete, current examples of what the GOP does with power, and that scares the living crap out of you since the voters have soured on the fringe candidates they elected just a few months ago.

    Your party ran on jobs, David, but all they have done is push their far-right social issues that have nothing at all to do with employment (and in many cases, like in NJ and Florida’s rejection of high speed rail, have cost jobs). That’s an indisputable FACT. Knowing this, why would a sane voter believe any of your party’s promises?

    By the way, taxes are our dues for living in a civilized society, and everyone should pay their fair share. That includes the wealthiest Americans who, under your party’s leadership, have gotten some of the biggest breaks of all, turning a surplus into a massive deficit.

  9. steveeboy says:

    funny too that Mr. Oh says parents have to both work to pay tuition when we all know the main reason that both parents work these days is that wages have been stagnant or declining for 30 years or so…

    And we can date the decline in wages necessitating that both parents work to the rise of the conservative policies vis a vis trade, taxes, unions, etc.

    vouchers are a right-wing scam to defund public schools and destroy them because- according to their GOP ideology– public schools are “socialist.”

    Sorry Mr. Oh, Brendan is right, your party is run by tea party lunatics, immature Randians, religious fanatics, and other assorted corporatists who nearly destroyed the US–and world–economies due to their penchant for deregulation, their wars, their profligacy, and their foolish tax cuts.

    You show bad judgment by having anything to do with such people. And a party ruled from bastions of social progress like Mississippi, Kentucky, South Carolina, etc. is not a good fit for one of the great cities of the Northeast.

    Tax the rich? Yes, that’s a good idea. A return to the Clinton tax rates would be a start.

    But before that, how about we do something simple like TAX THE FRACKERS that your Governor is in bed with right now? Maybe we could actually put a tax on the millions of ft^3 of natural gas currently being extracted?

    Maybe, Mr. Oh, you could propose an excise tax on FRACKERS which would go towards repairing our schools?

    Or do you believe that out of state drillers should rape our countryside, pollute our water, destroy rural areas, ruin our roads, and do it all without paying into our treasury as compensation for the billions of dollars they are pulling out?

    Sorry Mr Oh, your on the wrong team for Philly, for Pennsylvania, and for the US. We have our problems, but your party has shown no ability to mitigate them, you just make them worse, hurt the poor, hurt the elderly, and create even more trouble while the uber wealthy garner more tax breaks and an ever larger share of the national wealth.

  10. David Oh bragging on Corbett’s appearance at a campaign rally. You’ll note it highlights Corbett’s appearance.

    Why is david oh campaigning with the guy who decimated our school budget, and who refuses to tax the fracking companies?

  11. Susie Madrak says:

    Not to mention Bob Asher, convicted felon, who was fondly embraced by the state GOP even after he served a year in federal prison and serves as the PA delegate to the RNC. He’s considered to be the most powerful man in state Republican politics.

  12. 2012 Ballot says:

    Hey, Your blog looks great, I can tell how much time you have put into it. I am going to save it and will make sure to visit weekly.

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