An Urban GOP Office Thrives On Constituent Service

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JIMMY DINTINO studies street lists in his modest 26th Ward HQ. An effective urban Republican force must stay in close touch with neighbors on the streets, he says.

BY TONY WEST/

This evening, the problem that walks in the door is a vacant lot.

                A worried neighbor has come into the office to share her concern with Irene DiLolle, the Republican 26th Ward leader. It is filled with trash. She doesn’t know who owns it. Can something be done?

                “We’ll look into it,” says DiLolle. One of her volunteers scours a database online. After a while, she picks up a phone and makes a report to a City official. The case is opened.

                Although this part of South Philadelphia does not elect a Republican government official, it is one of the bastions of the GOP in the city. The 26th Ward was the only ward that voted for John McCain in 2008. It boasts a strong Republican ward committee – and an office, thanks to its organizational dynamo Jimmy Dintino, who is DiLolle’s brother.

                Although Dintino is the executive director of the City Republican Party, he is often found in the nondescript little office on Wolf Street. “I would rather be working in the neighborhood,” he says.

              The office is staffed entirely by volunteers, some afternoons and most evenings. It functions as a clubhouse for Republicans from across South Philadelphia; 39th and 48th Ward activists drop in all the time. Dintino uses it to organize effective files and records, to plan campaign work, to rally his workers and to pass out pizza after a long day on the streets.

                To a large extent, though, the office simply provides constituent service to all comers. Dintino says it’s important for Republicans to be practical problem-solvers for ordinary citizens.

                “If people need help with their social security, with their tax bills, with utilities, we’ll look into it,” he says. “Our volunteers are savvy and they know how to work the bureaucracies.”

                Furthermore, Dintino notes, “We never ask if someone is a Republican or a Democrat. To us, they’re just a neighbor who needs some help. We’re all neighbors here, all looking after each other.”

                The range of everyday problems the 26th Ward volunteers deal with is enormous. DiLolle says a lot of complaints stem from vacant lots. Drug activity is another widespread concern.

                It’s not enough just to make a phone call for a neighbor, DiLolle notes. Many problems require follow-through. Monitoring a suspected drug house, for instance, takes patient, repeated contacts with police and other City agencies as well as with the neighbors.

                For Dintino, grass-roots political activism is about service first. “I would like to see more Republican offices like this in other neighborhoods around the city,” he says.

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