Council overrides mayor's veto of resign-to-run

Posted: February 21, 2014

CITY COUNCIL overrode a veto from Mayor Nutter yesterday that clears the way for an elected official to seek another public office without resigning from his existing one.

Councilman David Oh introduced the abolition of the city charter's long-standing "resign-to-run" rule, a measure that passed out of Council last month. But the mayor returned the bill, citing that while the rule poses difficult choices for prospective candidates, "I nevertheless believe it has worked."

As it stands, anyone holding elected office in city government must resign before seeking a different office at the city, state or federal level. Council unanimously reversed the mayor's veto and the decision now goes before the voters on the May 20 ballot.

"As originally conceived by the framers of the charter, the uniform application of resign-to-run to all city officers and employees, elected or not, was intended to protect the public interest by ensuring existing duties could be performed without the very real distractions associated with engaging in a campaign for a new elected office," the mayor wrote in his veto message to Council.

"Resign to run and the freedom to seek elected office can and do coexist."

But Oh called resign-to-run "an illusion that actually makes us less effective."

"For 60 years, it has not worked. Historically, when you look at the declining influence of Philadelphia in Pennsylvania, it is because we have something that, basically, nobody else has, and that is a limitation on the elected officials who advocate and fight for us," Oh said.

In other legislative moves, Councilman Bill Greenlee introduced a bill that would ban the sale of e-cigarettes to minors.

"Right now, there are no regulations. Nothing," he said. "At the minimum, we have to do that. There's still some research we'll have to do, but there are experts who feel that e-cigarettes help you cut down or maybe eliminate tobacco smoking. Other experts say just the opposite."

Greenlee's proposal piggybacks off a similar measure introduced by outgoing Councilman Bill Green that would impose the same treatment to e-cigarette users as exists for tobacco smokers - they would have to go outside. That bill awaits debate in committee.

As an extra layer of protection for those who battle blazes in the city, Councilman Jim Kenney introduced a package of bills that gives firefighters and paramedics a bill of rights. Intended to ensure equality and fairness that goes beyond departmental procedures, the measure would limit arbitration talks that can drag on and on.

Kenney promised to fight hard for the legislation, arguing that for a long period of time, the Fire Department and its members are treated differently when a firefighter loses his or her job.

"My history with this department is personal, it's familial, and I'm not giving it up, even if I have to fight this to the end of this administration," he said.

Councilman Denny O'Brien proved victorious with the passage of his conflict counsel charter change, which gives Council a hand in selecting who gets city contracts in hiring someone to defend those who cannot afford to represent themselves. The alternative would be the city hiring a single law firm to represent the poor and indigent whose appointed public defender cannot do so because of a conflict of interest.

"This will not prohibit the administration from entering into a contract, it will just require a public forum to be able to review the contract and get answers before any contract is signed," said O'Brien.

- Staff writer Sean Collins Walsh contributed to this report.

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