Stu Bykofsky: Which candidates are likely to DROP-kick Tasco?

Posted: May 10, 2011

ABOUT NOW, the only people who like DROP are the ones in it - and even they hate elected officials who "retire" for a day, collect a pot o' gold, then slink back to their taxpayer-paid jobs.

In that latter category are City Commissioner Marge Tartaglione, Register of Wills Ron Donatucci, at-large Councilman Frank Rizzo and 9th District Councilwoman Marian Tasco, who's ready to grab a $478,057 Instant Cash payout.

Donatucci and Rizzo both have expressed remorse and tried to extricate themselves from the program. Tasco remains arrogantly defiant.

The Deferred Retirement Option Plan's days are numbered. It's a money drain and must go away.

What also must go away are the Pirates of the Schuylkill, elected officials who slither through a loophole to enrich themselves at your expense.

The four I've named are unlikely to be defeated at the polls because Tartaglione, Tasco and Donatucci are Democratic ward leaders. People owe them. Rizzo is a top Republican vote-getter.

But Tasco can be made to pay a price. She wants to be president of Council to cap what was once an illustrious career. She needs nine of 17 Council votes to become president, but what message would her promotion - after breaking her "irrevocable commitment" to retire - send to the peasants? Cheat the system, and your peers will reward you with a bigger salary, a larger office and extra power?

Political sidelight: To gain a friendlier Council, Mayor Nutter has endorsed some candidates who are asked, it is said, to back Tasco, a Nutter ally. Other candidates are backed by Nutter foe John Dougherty, head of the electricians union and a heavy financial hitter.

I called the four-dozen Council candidates to ask if they would vote to make Tasco president. In my view, anyone who can't see that Tasco's hustle disqualifies her from leadership shouldn't be representing you in Council.

The most oft-used phrase I heard: "Absolutely not." Other responses on the menu ranged from talking turkey to waffles to chicken. Not one candidate answered with a simple, declarative "yes." Why? Open support of Tasco is toxic. The results:

1ST DISTRICT

South Philly through Center City to Port Richmond

Democrats Jeff Hornstein, Vern Anastasio and Joe Grace all oppose a Tasco presidency, with Anastasio calling it "an illustration of the culture of entitlement that permeates City Council." Nutter-backed Mark Squilla waffled, saying that he'd want to meet with all the potential candidates. (I want to meet with the King of Thailand.) I see Mark for Tasco.

2ND DISTRICT

South and Southwest Philly to Center City

Republican Ivan Cohen said "absolutely not." That was echoed by Democrats Tracey Gordon and Barbara Capozzi. Democrat Damon K. Roberts withdrew from the race, throwing his support to Nutter-endorsed Kenyatta Johnson, who said that he's "not inclined" to make Tasco president. (Can he be reclined? We'll see.)

3RD DISTRICT

Southwest Philly to Cobbs Creek and University City

Democrat Jannie Blackwell doesn't have an opponent - nor an opinion, apparently. She served chicken by not returning calls. Jannie would like to be president herself and could be a compromise candidate (in an alternate universe).

4TH DISTRICT

Wynnefield to Manayunk, out to Roxborough

Freshman Democrat Curtis Jones was too chicken to return calls. I see him in Tasco's corner.

5TH DISTRICT

Center City to North Philly

Everyone's serving waffles. Incumbent Democratic Councilman Darrell Clarke (himself a candidate for president) will have "an opinion at the appropriate time." Republican Suzanne Carn has "no opinion at this time."

6TH DISTRICT

The Northeast, east of Roosevelt Boulevard

Nutter-endorsed Democratic candidate Martin Bednarek will vote for the "best person." (Translation: Tasco.) Dougherty-backed Democrat Bob Henon said he wouldn't vote for Tasco if she were the only candidate. Republican Sandra Stewart went neutral, saying that she fears making enemies who would punish her district.

7TH DISTRICT

Hunting Park to Juniata Park and Frankford

Democratic challenger Daniel Savage gave an "absolutely not" to Tasco, while Nutter-backed freshman Democrat Maria Quinones-Sanchez cut chicken sandwiches under her desk. Count her for Tasco.

8TH DISTRICT

Germantown, Tioga out to Chestnut Hill

Democrat Greg Paulmier said, "I would not support her for anything." Democrat Howard Treatman called for Tasco to retire, Democrat Verna Tyner would vote "no," and Democrat Andrew Lofton said "no" because "you must lead by example." Nutter-endorsed Cindy Bass called Tasco's actions "a big disappointment," but wouldn't pull the trigger. Democrat Bill Durham stated that Tasco's behavior feeds citizens' belief that politicians say one thing and do another. (Stop the presses!) Democrat Robin Tasco, who is no relation, said "absolutely not, hands down" she would not vote for Marian Tasco.

9TH DISTRICT

Mount Airy, Olney, West Oak Lane

I didn't ask Tasco, who's been ducking reporters for months. The question is moot for challengers Bobby Curry and Lamont Thomas. If they replace Tasco, she can't run for president. (Good luck, guys.)

10TH DISTRICT

Somerton, Bustleton, Torresdale in the Northeast

Democratic challenger Bill Rubin can't commit without knowing who all the candidates will be. (Yawn.) Republican Brian O'Neill must be trapped in the Chick-fil-A on the Boulevard and didn't return calls.

COUNCIL AT LARGE

Representing the entire city

Democratic nobodies Michael Jones and Humberto Perez did not return calls.

Usually combative Democratic incumbent Jim Kenney turned chicken and hid (behind Tasco's skirt)?

Democrat Ralph Blakney would vote "no," calling Tasco's actions "dishonest." Democrat Janis Manson said that Tasco's "lack of integrity" explained why she would vote "against." Another "no" came from Democrat Lawrence Clark, who opposes DROP for any elected official. Democrat Sherrie Cohen asked to think about it overnight, then didn't call back. (She looks cute in feathers, doesn't she?)

Democratic incumbent Wilson Goode Jr. is uncommitted because "it's not just a vote for an individual; it's a restructuring of power," and he wants to keep his "key committee assignments." Dougherty-backed Democratic incumbent Bill Green said that he is "not talking," and fellow Dem incumbent Bill Greenlee will not base his vote "on one issue." (Can I have strawberry syrup on those waffles?)

Democratic challenger Edward Nesmith, strongly anti-DROP, said that it's "very doubtful" he'll vote for her.

Democratic incumbent Blondell Reynolds-Brown doesn't decide whom to support by "a single act," but an "entire tenure." Smells like Tasco spirit.

While Democratic challenger Andy Toy will not "use this as a litmus test," fellow Democrat Isaiah Thomas said that "the best leader leads by example," so he'd vote "no."

GOP challenger Malcolm Lazin issued a terse "no," adding that with the city pension already under water, "this is putting yourself first and Philadelphians second."

Republican challenger Joe McColgan said, "Irrevocable means irrevocable." He'd vote against Tasco, as would Republican Elmer Money.

Republican state Rep. Denny O'Brien said that he wanted "to keep my options open." Joining him on the waffle iron was Republican David Oh, who will consider "candidates on their merits and what will be best for Philadelphia."

Republican Steve Odabashian sees Tasco's move as the "epitome of what's wrong with the city." Republican Michael Untermeyer called Tasco's "resign-and-return" tactic "dishonest," and GOP challenger Al Taubenberger termed it "not moral."

The weirdest call I had to make was to Republican incumbent Rizzo, who shares Tasco's predicament.

Not surprisingly, Rizzo says he "could" vote for Tasco.

That's as close to a "yes" as Tasco got.

Email stubyko@phillynews.com or call 215-854-5977. See Stu on Facebook. For recent columns:

www.philly.com/Byko.

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