If there was an Olympics of torpor, this city would win the gold.
All over the Arab world, people are fighting for the right to vote, to have their voices heard, while here in the birthplace of democracy, few Philadelphians bothered to exercise the privilege.
In a few months' time, when people complain about leadership, and they will - if there's one thing at which Philadelphians excel, it's complaining - they should think long and hard about what they didn't do Tuesday, which is think long and hard about the city and then walk a few blocks in some rain and take a few minutes to vote.
Candidates enrolled in the detested Deferred Retirement Option Plan who faced challengers had trouble. Republican Councilman-at-large Frank Rizzo was defeated, while the seemingly indestructible, autocratic election czarina Marge Tartaglione, who has been in office since the Battle of Bull Run - OK, 1975 - was in serious trouble in a race that Tuesday night was too close to call.
DROP turns out to be a handsome payday but a potential election kiss of death.
Five seats are open in Council - where the average tenure rivals that of the Soviet Politburo - the most vacancies in two decades. All of the district incumbents secured their spots on the November ballot, as did the five Democratic at-large candidates. All of the winning candidates for open seats were, unsurprisingly, loaded with the most establishment endorsements, cash, or both.
Yet, for all the apathy, some records were set.
In the Sixth District, Bobby Henon, political director of International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98, raised an unprecedented amount for a Council race, $624,925, since January, and spent about $580,000 to best banker Marty Bednarek, roughly $71 per vote. See, in the Sixth, your vote counts for something!
The anti-Marge, Stephanie Singer - a Yale graduate and former math professor - will be on the ballot for city commissioner.
Freshman Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez survived a bloody fight from challenger Danny Savage for the Seventh District seat.
Quiñones-Sánchez is the only Hispanic in Council (and, at 42, its youngest member) in a city where Latinos are the fastest-growing segment of the population: In the last decade, they grew from 8.5 percent to 12.3 percent of the city's overall population. Her district is also considered the most gerrymandered electoral district in the country, that is, cut up in such a way that political bosses help reelect incumbents, according to a Philadelphia firm that studied boundaries in 50 U.S. cities.
"I have worked hard for every single elected official's support. I thought they would support incumbents," she said Tuesday after voting in Norris Park, only the 42d of 501 Democrats in her division to cast ballots by early afternoon. But many Latino leaders didn't support her. "I got angry. I drove from the south to the north of my district making a list of everything I'd worked on."
Four years ago when she ran, "there must have been 100 forums to debate the issues. This time, there were only a dozen." When turnout is low, "then the special interests really have an advantage," says Committee of Seventy president and CEO Zack Stalberg. "You don't necessarily have real citizens getting out there voting, just designated friends getting the vote out for a particular candidate or a campaign."
Nobody took T. Milton Street Sr.'s candidacy particularly seriously, not even, I suspect, T-Milt. He's a tax deadbeat in a city of tax deadbeats who still owes the city almost $400,000. And it's still not clear that he even lives here. I always suspected his mayoral challenge was an ego-driven yet circuitously crafty way of getting the city to pay him to pay the city back. Now, he has to go out and get a real job.
Contact columnist Karen Heller at firstname.lastname@example.org or 215-854-2586. Read her blog posts on Blinq and her work at www.philly.com/KarenHeller. Follow her at Twitter @kheller.