POLS ON THE STREET: Deeley to Head City Commission

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GOV. TOM WOLF came to Philadelphia’s City Hall to dramatize his act of vetoing SB 3, which Republican majorities in the General Assembly had passed. SB3 would ban abortions after 20 weeks, without exceptions for rape, incest, health of the mother, or birth defects in the child.
“This legislation is an attempt to criminalize the decisions that women make about their own health care, and this legislation destroys health-care options for victims of the horrors of rape and incest. For these reasons, I am vetoing this bill today,” Wolf said.
Since 18 senators had voted against the bill – more than one-third of that chamber – the governor’s veto is unlikely to be overridden. Photo by Wendell Douglas

There’s a new chair at Philadelphia City Commission.

Democrat Lisa Deeley, who was elected to that body in 2015, was nominated as chairwoman by Republican Al Schmidt at City Commission’s monthly board meeting on Dec. 13. Schmidt had always previously supported Democrat Anthony Clark for that post.

Chairman Clark had earlier announced his plan to retire when his term expires in 2019. Insiders report that Deeley and Schmidt have been conferring on this transition of power at least since September. Since it was inevitable, the only question was the timing.

The city may wind up with a City Commission that enjoys a new lease on life.

For 20 years or more, this office, which administers elections, has been accused – usually with little evidence – of corruption and incompetence. In fact, its mission – to carry out elections fairly, accurately and honestly with limited resources – has been well honored for at least a generation. This is Boies Penrose’s Philly no more.

Yet major-media critics have often obsessed over the fact the three city commissioners are elected, not appointed. Voters should not have any say over who organizes their voting, say the critics.

With the accession of Deeley to the chair, look for these cries to die down for lack of fuel. Both Deeley and Schmidt have a reputation for competence and honesty. Both are young (by Philadelphia standards) and energetic.

THE PHILADELPHIA/Southern New Jersey Region of American Jewish Committee presented its 2017 Civic Achievement Award to Henry Nicholas, president, Philadelphia Hospital & Health Care Employees District 1199C, at the Warwick Hotel. A lifelong activist, Mr. Nicholas stood alongside Martin Luther King, Jr., and other stalwarts of the civil-rights movement in the 1960s. His workers’-rights career began when he led the campaign to organize his co-workers at his first health-care job. L-R were AJC Philadelphia President Morris Gocial; Co-Chair W. Wilson Goode, Sr.; Nicholas; Gov. Tom Wolf, Velma Goode; Mayor Jim Kenney; and AJC Regional Director Marcia Bronstein.

Deeley grew up in a political family (her mother Barbara Deeley is a former sheriff) and is gifted at community outreach – an important task for a public officer whose job is to facilitate and encourage people to vote.

Schmidt holds a PhD. An affable numbers nerd, he has ramped up City Commission’s website and reporting. His professional analysis of noncitizen voting has won nationwide attention.

The voters may have picked a winning team in 2015. Two years later, it is taking over.

Jockeying for position will now take off among the Ward Leaders of Color caucus, which all observers expect will exert great influence on the choice of the successful second Democratic nominee in 2019. On your mark, get set, go!

Young Dems Will Party on the Boulevard

Lisa Deeley’s first public venture in her new office is a guest appearance at Philadelphia Young Democrats’ Holiday Party. This will take place at Chickie’s & Pete’s on Roosevelt Boulevard tomorrow, Dec. 22, 6-8 p.m. It’s free.

Expect to find a stream of ambitious, up-and-coming donkeys at this event. The timing is right and the price is right.

‘Mayor’s Voice’ Hitt Moves on

Lauren Hitt, who has won wide respect for her service to Mayor Jim Kenney, both on his campaign and in office, is en route to a new assignment elsewhere.

Sources have told City&State PA that Hitt, a spokesperson and longtime aide to Kenney, will exit the administration in January.

34TH WARD LEADER (aka “Congressman”) Bob Brady threw his annual holiday party at Anthony’s Ristorante, an Overbrook Park offshoot in Drexel Hill. Loretta Lewis received a congressional citation. L-R were State Rep. Morgan Cephas, City Commission Chair Lisa Deeley, Lewis and Brady. Photo by Wendell Douglas

Multiple City Hall sources, both inside and outside the Mayor’s Office, acknowledged that Hitt has made plans to leave. Several sources said she is bound for Democrat Randy Bryce’s high-profile campaign against U.S. Speaker of the House Paul Ryan, in Wisconsin’s 1st Congressional District.

Few in City Hall are closer to the mayor than his director of communications. A University of Pennsylvania alumna, Hitt returned to Philadelphia to serve on lawyer Ken Trujillo’s short-lived mayoral bid in the 2015 race. After he abruptly dropped out, Hitt and other staffers quickly migrated to then-Councilman Kenney’s nascent campaign.

Tax Bill May Open Dem Doors

The passage of the Republican tax bill in Washington, D.C. may create opportunities for Democratic congressional candidates next year, if it remains as unpopular among the public as it is at this time.

Congressman Bob Brady (D-Phila.) is in no danger of losing his seat in the general election. But he laid out the case for his fellows to follow, saying, “Protestors had it right as they shouted ‘shame, shame, shame,’ as House Republicans passed this $1.5-trillion tax bill. It is a lie that this is a middle-class tax cut. The truth is that the bill will raise taxes on 86 million middle class households, it will raise income taxes on the working poor, it robs Medicare and Medicaid and gives a major tax cut to the rich and corporations.

Dan Muroff, Democratic candidate in the 7th Congressional District, took immediate aim at his target, saying, “With his vote supporting the GOP tax bill, today Pat Meehan proves his loyalty to party over principle. This vote proves Pat Meehan has forgotten his roots. He is a firm follower of Donald Trump and Paul Ryan and has chosen their vision for the nation over the wishes of his constituents.”

City Republicans Issue Manifesto

In an unprecedented move, Republican City Committee Chairman Michael Meehan released a GOP position paper outlining a critique of the Philadelphia Democratic Party’s deeds during 2017. It is an effort to frame a coherent urban Republican message for the year to come.

TACONY Arts Lab held a holiday workshop for children. Surprise visitors were Santa Claus (aka Councilman Bobby Henon) and Mayor Jim Kenney! L-R were Maria Moeller, Kenney, Henon, Judy Rodriguez and Chase Rodriguez. Photo by Bill Myers

“Over the past year, the Democratic leadership of Philadelphia has become focused on ‘virtue signaling’ their adherence to a progressive agenda, rather than implementing the necessary changes to increase quality of life for the average Philadelphia resident. While we saw, at their hands, a call for harmless statues to ‘drop,’ we also saw harmful violence ‘rise.’ While we heard the mayor address his ideological grievances with the enforcement of law and order by the Trump administration, we heard next to nothing about the unemployment and poverty issues that have continually plagued our city for at least the past decade. We can hope – although based in precedent probably in vain – that in 2018, our Democratic leaders will engage in more purposeful action to increase quality of life for all residents, and less impotent rhetoric to placate the most radical faction of their party,” stated Meehan.

Meehan ticked off DA Seth Williams’ disgrace, Councilwoman Helen Gym’s crusade against the Frank Rizzo statue, Mayor Jim Kenney’s sparring with the Trump administration over sanctuary-city status and incoming DA Larry Krasner’s adversarial record with police. He cited a 13% increase in homicides, high rates of poverty and unemployment, and shaky performance of the Sweetened Drinks Tax in funding the programs it was designed to foster.

2 State Rep Hopefuls Step Forward

There is new action and competition in Democratic primary for state representative races.

Malcolm Kenyatta, candidate in North Central’s 181st Legislative District, took aim at racist fliers found this week on the campus of Temple University.

SHERIFF Jewell Williams and State Sen. Anthony Williams teamed up to hand out free gunlocks in Southwest Philadelphia. L-R were Police Officer Eric Mitchell; senatorial aide Desaree Jones; Sen. Williams; Capt. Desean Beaufort; and Sheriff’s Deputies Richard Lewis, Sandra Taylor and Karen Smith. Photo by Wendell Douglas

“Hatred, demonization and racism have no place in our communities or on our college campuses,” he said.

Kenyatta is running for is currently occupied by long-serving State Rep. W. Curtis Thomas, Jr. Rumors persist that Thomas may step down this year, but he has not confirmed this. In recent elections he has drawn persistent primary challenges.

Kenyatta is a 2012 graduate of Temple University who majored in public communications and minored in political science.

Longtime State Rep. James Roebuck, Jr. (D-W. Phila.) will face a primary challenger in his own backyard next year.

The incumbent, now in his 16th term in office, will square off against former deputy city solicitor and progressive political newcomer Jeff Curry. In a statement announcing his candidacy, the Temple Law grad outlined his support for school funding, affordable health care and higher wages – while taking a thinly veiled shot at Roebuck’s long tenure in the 188th District.

“We must demand that our elected representatives fight for everyone in the 188th District. We have not had a fighter for a long time,” read a campaign press release announcing Curry’s candidacy. “There is no one who will work harder, listen to more voices, and look after everyone in this District than Jeff.”

The 72-year-old Roebuck has faced several tough primaries in recent years. But he has generally earned high marks from liberal groups for his votes in support of school funding, environmental protection and medical marijuana.

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