Green backs off effort to eliminate Philadelphia Sheriff's Office

City Councilman Bill Green took heat for supporting the bill.
City Councilman Bill Green took heat for supporting the bill.
Posted: August 16, 2010

City Councilman Bill Green's support for a bill to eliminate the Philadelphia Sheriff's Office has earned him some enemies in the African American political community, with State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams (D., Philadelphia) leading the way.

Green obviously was not quite prepared for the political blowback he reaped in June when he cosponsored Councilman Frank DiCicco's bill to eliminate the Sheriff's Office. The political community was abuzz last month after State Rep. Jewell Williams, the city Democratic leadership's choice to succeed Sheriff John Green, had words with Councilman Green at Councilman Curtis Jones Jr.'s birthday bash.

But now Sen. Williams, a recent candidate for governor and head of the United Ward Leaders of Color, is going out of his way to target Councilman Green. Williams cited a number of reasons, among them what he regarded as Green's undermining of Mayor Nutter, and his singling out the Sheriff's Office among other row offices dominated by white politicians (Register of Wills and the City Commissioners). Oh, and that little thing about Green's backing Dan Onorato in the May gubernatorial primary instead of Williams, who ended up finishing third in a four-way race.

"Why he would support a guy from Pittsburgh, as opposed to a hometown guy, gives me pause about his political wisdom," Williams said.

It's not easy to take out an at-large candidate without a candidate to unite behind (a clear choice has yet to emerge), and Councilman Green will have the power of incumbency and wide name recognition. With five members running at large, there is also potential for collateral damage to the other incumbent at-large Democrats on Council - Blondell Reynolds Brown, W. Wilson Goode Jr., William K. Greenlee, and James F. Kenney.

But Williams sounds motivated, and why not? He and Bill Green are considered strong contenders for mayor in 2015.

Of the commotion, Councilman Green said: "Just like when you do anything, people have views on it, and people are expressing their views. I'll let my record do the talking."

But he has clearly gotten the message about the politics he faces on the Sheriff's Office issue. He said Sunday that he may have acted in a "ready, fire, aim," manner instead of approaching it more deliberately, and he is already placing the bill on life-support before it has a hearing.

"To be frank, based on a survey of my colleagues and others," he said, "I don't think this bill is going anywhere."

- Jeff Shields

DROP a leading election issue

What is one of the most widely recognized names in politics right now?

City Controller Alan Butkovitz says it's not a person but a program - DROP, Philadelphia's controversial retirement perk.

Voters are outraged over the Deferred Retirement Option Plan, which Mayor Nutter asked City Council to abolish two weeks ago after a Boston College report said the program had cost Philadelphia $258 million over 10 years, Butkovitz said.

He expects City Council members running for election will take a lot of heat about it.

"Normally, it's quality-of-life issues - streets, crime," Butkovitz said. "But right now, DROP looks like it's going to be the No. 1 or No. 2 issue. It's got name recognition."

- Miriam Hill


Hounded during the dog days

When the cat's away, the mice will play, except possibly in the mayor's press office.

With Mayor Nutter vacationing in Mexico for two weeks, life in City Hall has slowed a bit.

And that has mayoral spokesman Doug Oliver hankering for Nutter's return.

"It's death by a thousand cuts when the mayor is away," he said. "The quantity and quality of inquiries deteriorate significantly."

How so? "Rather than talking about larger government-wide questions or political issues, you find yourself talking about what time certain city buildings open and parking tickets."

Parking tickets? Yes, random citizens with parking-ticket questions phone the press office in search of help. "When you have your hands full, you may not notice, or it certainly doesn't bubble up to me," Oliver said. And getting those issues resolved can be tedious.

"We want to help and will get those questions answered," he said. But of Nutter's temporary disappearance, he said, "It's like, man, I can't wait till you're back and there's a plan."

That day will be next Monday.

- Marcia Gelbart

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