'Pro-choice' stand put Council in a hard place

Posted: June 18, 2007

Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown didn't make any new friends among her colleagues when she forced them to take a stand on abortion rights two weeks ago as she offered a purely symbolic resolution declaring Philadelphia a "pro-choice city."

It was a classic lose-lose situation for Council members such as Frank DiCicco and James Kenney, who count on the support both of political progressives and the city's large Catholic population.

DiCicco seemed particularly split. He paused for several seconds when his name was called for a vote on the resolution before finally saying "aye." He was just as uncertain a week later, when Councilman Frank Rizzo called on Council members to rescind the resolution.

"He's got 11 votes," DiCicco said to an aide as Rizzo's bill was about to come up for a vote. "I may sign it."

DiCicco ultimately did switch sides (as did Kenney and three other Council members), and the repeal of the pro-choice proclamation won easily.

"Thanks, Frank," Rizzo said to DiCicco. "You going to switch to Republican?"

DiCicco didn't laugh.

- Patrick Kerkstra

Verna has what it takes

When City Council returns from its summer recess in September, full-time jockeying is likely to begin for the post of Council president. Sitting President Anna Verna has already quietly served notice that she is not to be trifled with: according to the most recent campaign-finance reports, the 32-year incumbent has a staggering $388,000 in her war chest.

That kind of money can earn a presidential nominee a lot of friends when it comes time for Council to select its president, which it will do in January. Verna can easily afford to reward allies with donations.

Most of the money was raised in years past, but Verna spent almost nothing in the final weeks of the May primary election campaign. Nonetheless, she trounced her energetic young challenger (Damon Roberts), winning more than 78 percent of the vote.

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell is seen as Verna's most prominent challenger for the presidency, but mayoral candidate Tom Knox's defeat dealt her candidacy a serious blow. Blackwell had allied herself with Knox in exchange for his support of her candidacy for Council president.

Blackwell certainly cannot match Verna's campaign fund. She has less than $9,000 in her personal account, and a separate political PAC she controls - the West Philadelphia Democratic Club - had just $12,000 on hand.

- Patrick Kerkstra

Audience was the show

Political pageantry was in bloom Wednesday as the Rules Committee pondered the future of casinos.

The curtain rose at 10:05 a.m. to room-shaking stomps. "Casinos equal jobs!" chanted the carpenters. "Casinos take jobs" sang the longshoremen.

"Frank! Frank! Frank!" clamored fans as Frank DiCicco, who had a bill to drive casinos to the city's industrial depths, entered chambers.

"Loser! Loser! Loser" they hissed as Councilman Juan Ramos, their nemesis, came in. A Ramos bill would allow SugarHouse Casino to build.

With an Eagles game about to break out, Rules Committee chair Anna Verna lay down a rule of her own.

"OK, we've had enough entertainment for the morning - that's it!" she scolded. "We won't have any interruptions here. They wouldn't allow that in Washington, they wouldn't allow it in Harrisburg, and I don't see any reason why we would have it here."

Shouts stopped (mostly). Hisses halted (sort of). Testimony resumed.

- Jeff Shields

Aide resumes old job

Former City Council candidate Derek Green returned to his old job as aide to Councilwoman Marian Tasco last week.

Green, who placed 10th out of 19 Democratic at-large Council candidates, considered going into private law practice and thought about seeking a job in the next mayor's administration. Green has worked in the city Law Department and the District Attorney's Office.

But Green, 36, clearly plans to run for elected office again, and he said he would be best positioned to do that by returning to Tasco's staff, where he would be in direct contact with voters.

"Any time someone runs citywide, it broadens your horizons," Green said.

- Patrick Kerkstra

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