Nutter's Council choices say there's no Tasco deal

Posted: April 24, 2011

In the last couple of weeks, Mayor Nutter has made three endorsements (a fourth is expected soon), all in heated races to fill open district City Council seats.

Considering that Council newcomers could cast the deciding votes on the next Council president, some politicos have speculated the mayor is engaged in a little quid pro quo to secure backing for his presumed choice, Councilwoman Marian B. Tasco.

All three endorsed candidates - Mark Squilla in the First District, Marty Bednarek in the Sixth, and Cindy Bass in the Eighth - have said that's simply not so.

Nutter also is expected to endorse Kenyatta Johnson in the Second District. Johnson's campaign spokesman, Mark Nevins, said Johnson wouldn't accept any conditional endorsements. Because Tasco is enrolled in the voter-hated Deferred Retirement Option Plan, support for her has been a clear dividing line in the campaign. Tasco is set to collect a $478,057 retirement payment even if she's reelected and still serving in office.

Candidates have been asked in forums and debates whether they would support Tasco for Council president, and many have said they would not.

Nutter's four candidates, however, have not ruled out backing Tasco. In a meeting with the Inquirer Editorial Board, Bass was the only one of seven candidates who didn't disavow supporting her. "I want to look at the entire range of a person's work," Bass said. "I wouldn't make a decision based on just one issue."

When asked about Tasco, Bednarek, Squilla, and Johnson have made similar statements about being focused on their campaigns, not the Council presidency.

So far, at least two opponents have gone on the attack over Nutter's endorsements. This month, Bass rival Verna Tyner said she had called the mayor "to clear up any rumors about a deal involving Ms. Bass' promise to support Councilwoman Tasco."

"I am still waiting for the mayor to return my call," Tyner said.

Bednarek's rival, Local 98 political director Bobby Henon, accused him last week of selling "his vote - and his credibility - for the mayor's endorsement." Bednarek's campaign countered that he wanted to kill DROP, while Henon supports keeping the plan for unelected workers.

DROP has become such a lightning rod that, in the midst of all this back-and-forth, the Fraternal Order of Police changed its website endorsement of Henon from "Henon supports DROP" to "Henon supports retirement plans for police, fire, and municipal workers."

"We update our website constantly," said FOP president John McNesby. "If this guy's concentrating on our website, he ought to be concentrating on the issues."

- Troy Graham

A "Heard in the Hall" item stated last Sunday that Deputy Police Commissioner Richard Ross had received four tickets to the mayor's box at the Wells Fargo Center to hear rapper Lil Wayne. While Ross received the tickets, he said neither he nor any family members had attended the concert. He declined to identify to whom he had given the tickets, but said they had gone to individuals who could not have afforded to go.

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