BY JIM TAYOUN/ She was a classy lady, an act hard to follow, an enunciator of the King’s English par excellence, a dedicated 2nd Dist. Councilwoman, Philadelphia City Council’s first woman president, 36th Ward Leader for well more than three decades, an outstanding American proud of her Italian heritage and the engine, along with her late husband Commendatore Severino Verna, behind the 50-plus years of dedication to the Christopher Columbus Day Parade, and foremost a dedicated public servant.
Anna Cibotti Verna brought her public career to a final conclusion this week when she announced to Democratic Party Chairman she was stepping down from a record-breaking tenure as Leader of the 36th Ward in South Philadelphia. It was a career that began when she graduated high school and was urged into service in his office by her father Councilman Bill Cibotti, during the time when council officers had only one staffer. In that role, she sat by her dad in all the meetings with then-Mayor Jim Tate. She was drafted by the district’s ward leaders to succeed her father following his death, serving literally uncontested for many terms.
Her decision followed several years after her decision to retire from Council. She was succeeded in the District by Kenyatta Johnson and in the presidency by Darrell Clarke.
Verna was a leader among a host of leaders and will be sorely missed by many of them including Congressman Bob Brady, Register of Wills Ron Donatucci, and especially by 40B Ward Leader Anne Brown, who was always seen with her, along with the other ward leaders of her 2nd Councilmanic Dist.
Her decision, to severe finally her official relationship with public life and the Democratic Party she loved dearly, is worth noting and it preempts the usual news that normally headlines this column.
Her departure leaves a vacuum. Who will lead? Former State Rep. Harold James, who for years worked side by side with Verna, and helped with her last reorganization of the 36th Ward, is said to be her heir apparent and has her blessings. He will probably get elected by the ward executive committee members at a soon-to-be-scheduled meeting.
There could be a challenge by 2nd Dist. Councilman Kenyatta Johnson, who knows he needs a unified 36th Ward if he is to stave off a serious challenge looming on his horizon. He still remembers he only beat Barbara Capozzi in the last Councilmanic primary by 45 votes. He won’t get involved.
DOC DECLARES WOLF THE GUV WINNER!
Labor and Ward Leader John J. Dougherty, Jr., made it official early Monday evening when he welcomed Democratic gubernatorial candidate Tom Wolf to his union headquarters on Spring Garden Street. Dougherty officially picked sides.
Wolf first found an outside carnival of greetings, big balloon characters, vending trucks dispensing free food to the huge invited crowd of labor and ward leaders and elected officials. When the crowd was invited in, Wolf found himself the recipient of several checks totaling more than $100,000. We couldn’t take pics. Press wasn’t allowed inside.
SEN. MIKE STACK FAULTS CORBETT’S CREDIT CENTS
In the wake of Pennsylvania’s fifth credit downgrade in two years, State Sen. Mike Stack (D-Northeast) suggests Gov. Tom Corbett and his budget advisors seek credit counseling.
Standard & Poor’s has given an AA-minus rating for Pennsylvania bonds, the worst rating in nearly 20 years. This after the agency’s warning in April that Pennsylvania budgeters must soon deal with rising deficits, ballooning pension liabilities and sagging revenues.
NE WARD LEADERS SEE MCALEER FOR SENATE
We seldom comment on rumors. But this one has reliable sources with verification from an insider who heard the scenario which was told to Party Chairman Congressman Bob Brady.
With an almost positive conviction State Sen. Mike Stack will be elected Lieutenant Governor, his replacement has already been picked by the majority of the Northeast Ward Leaders in that senatorial district. To them (and to their GOP peers) falls the responsibility to name candidates. It will be listed as a special election in the primary.
Look for long-time 66B Ward Leader Mike McAleer who survived a long illness, and now bounces around like an aggressive 50-year-old, to be named. He’s chair of that group of Northeast Ward leaders. Most likely he will agree to serving out the term and retiring from it at the completion of this Senate term. Also rumored is his 66B Chair John DelRicci is seeking to replace Brendan Boyle when he vacates his seat to take over as 13th Dist. Congressman. A similar scenario may take place.
MILTON HAS ANOTHER WAY OF GETTING VOTES
He’s looking for 414 members, but in his emails he doesn’t say how to join. Read for yourself:
“This message is for 414 members only.
“To stop the violence in our community it’s going to be easy, it’s going to require a policy change.
“Political power is the ability to achieve purpose. It’s in people.
“It’s going to take a lot of people passionately United to stop the violence.
“To demonstrate my passion to stop this senseless violence, I am going to ride my bike 100 miles on Nov. 22.
“It is important each member of the 414 recruit a minimum of one additional member for every 10 miles I ride.
“This communication is to encourage you to begin recruiting additional members now.
“I am available to come to your community meeting, your block meeting or your church to explain the 414 and answer any questions you may have. I can be reached at MiltonStreet@gmail.com.”
FROM KOREA, OH ANSWERED CALL
We needed some city action for one of our readers and called Councilman at Large David Oh who quickly answered his cell phone. He was in Korea and couldn’t handle the request himself. But he did refer us to his office.
His continuing efforts to expand international commerce for our port and the city are gaining positive traction from abroad. So today the Councilman will introduce Philadelphia Charter Change legislation to establish an International Trade & Investment Authority.
He sees “Philadelphia reemerging as one of America’s great cities. In order to ensure this, our City must expand its global reach to attract trade and investment that will generate new jobs, opportunities and development.”
THERE’S BIG ROOM FOR 2ND PHILLY CASINO
Revenue from table games play at the 12 Pennsylvania casinos was $66.4 million in August 2014, according to a report released by the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board. That represented a 4.6% increase in revenue from table games play during August of this year compared to August 2013.
Coupled with figures on slot-machine revenue released earlier this month, overall gross revenue from both slots and tables was up 2.8% this August compared to August 2013.
Revenue from all casino gaming was $276,446,817 in August compared to $268,905,470 last August.
We called the Gaming Commission and they told us they are still considering their choice for a second casino in Philadelphia. We begin to smell political involvement. Otherwise, how can you explain why so long a delay in naming who won the right to begin another jobmaker in this city?
SEASONED WARD LEADER EYES COMMISSIONER SEAT
City Commission Chair Margaret Tartaglione was the victim of a host of events that made her a target and opened the door for a new type of Commissioner, an open-government type; and in rolled Stephanie Singer.
Despite her efforts to increase voter education and awareness, she created problems with her team of Commissioners who demoted her from chairperson. She soon understood she needed to create a populist movement of people who would in the end come out to get her reelected.
It is obvious she will not get the Democratic City Committee endorsement since she has burned many of its members in her rule changes. It is also obvious Chairman Anthony Clark will get the Party endorsement.
A host of candidates have surfaced. We have just learned several ward leaders are urging 27th Ward Leader Carol Jenkins, a seasoned ward leader with a constituency of liberal committee people.
She has been actively involved in Democratic elections her entire life. She holds a PhD and MPA from Temple University, and a BS from Indiana University in Bloomington, Ind. She teaches political-science classes at Temple University. Before that she managed Temple University Center City campus for five years.
She has a history of being a hard worker. “I was born at Temple University Hospital, I owned a restaurant in Indiana, worked as station manager for US Air in Trenton, N.J., raised four wonderful children, was captain of my high-school field-hockey team (also basketball team and softball team, but I don’t want to brag) and I love chocolate. I also am a dues-paying member of the Friends of Clark Park.”
PARTYING ON YACHT FOR BLONDELL FUND
Leave it to Pete Lyde to pick a beauty spot on the Delaware River for a fundraiser honoring Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown. He’s holding it aboard the small yacht Jasmine located at Pier 12 North, 325 N. Columbus Boulevard. All are invited to join him and the Councilwoman on deck and inside the yacht from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. tomorrow night. Parking is available under Dave & Buster’s. Drive where the flags are flying in the rear of the lot. For info call (267) 303-3203.
KUDOS TO GREENLEE FOR STOPPING BIKE LANES
Councilman at Large Bill Greenlee was opposing a bike lane for 22nd Street and which the Streets Dept. would have striped automatically had the Councilman not intervened.
The bike lane between Spring Garden Street and Fairmount Avenue would be an extension of the existing bike lane to the south, which cuts off at Spring Garden Street. But while the bike lane wouldn’t remove any parking or an official travel lane (“official” being the operative word), Greenlee opposes narrowing travel lanes in any way, and has offered a variety of what appear to be hunch-based reasons for his differences with the city’s transportation planning and engineering professionals.