With the Presidential election decided and the term of the General Assembly expiring on November 30, Philadelphia has entered the Hot Stove League of Politics.
As in baseball, Hot Stove is when folklore is revived, what-ifs are debated, and predictions are made. Politically, it is when candidates surface, wannabees come out of hiding, funds are furtively raised before the campaign season, commitments are solicited and deals are made.
The Political Hot Stove League ends in mid-January, when petitions are circulated and endorsements are made. In a few weeks, the campaigns for District Attorney, City Controller and lots of judgeships will begin.
Now is the time for Philadelphia Republicans to act.
Philadelphia has not elected a Republican to City office since 1989. Local campaign finance limits and ethics rules---created by you know who---have made it impossible for any minority party to run an effective campaign. Nevertheless, local Republicans have an important role to play.
Historically, minor parties have advocated issues before they were ripe. Abolition of slavery, labor laws, the social safety net were all raised by minor parties before being adopted by the major parties.
Republicans should use the 2013 race for City Controller to educate voters on new ideas.
In college, I was taught that municipal issues are largely non-ideological. Professors and text books emphasized that there is no Democratic way and no Republican way to pave a street. Years of experience in one-party Philadelphia have proved the academics wrong.
We need a Republican approach to solving Philadelphia's needs. The Democrats in City Hall think they are miniature Federal bureaucrats. They stand for regulations which are properly State and Federal matters, such as mandatory sick leave, domestic abuse leave, nutrition information on menus, resident and minority hiring set-asides. While such goals are admirable, these rules put Philadelphia businesses—and jobs---at disadvantage to suburban competitors.
Millions of dollars are spent on homeless programs, obesity education, public housing, and economic development grants for insiders. When the budget needs to be cut, Democrats lay off police and fire fighters and close swimming pools, recreation centers, libraries and fire houses.
A Republican approach would be to concentrate on the core services cities are supposed to furnish----police, fire protection, recreation, libraries, public health, sanitation. Let the State and Federal governments do social engineering without putting Philadelphia employers at a disadvantage.
Republicans should also raise organic political reform. We need to open the political process. Philadelphia has unduly restrictive rules on ballot access. One thousand valid signatures are needed to place a candidate for City Council on the ballot. No wonder that in the last municipal election, the majority of district council candidates were unopposed in the November election. The Democratic primary decides everything.
Restrictive ballot access hurts everyone. Without competition, the public is deprived of the point and counterpoint, give and take, proposals and counter-proposals which are raised in contested elections.
Philadelphia Republicans have a big challenge and a bigger responsibility in 2013.
I challenge every Mount Airy voter to offer policy proposals for the Republican municipal agenda. I wish I could treat the maker of the best suggestion to a free cup of coffee at your favorite coffee shop at Greene and Carpenter, but I'm afraid I may violate those campaign finance and ethics rules which protect you against political competition.