Friday, September 05, 2008


I would urge caution on structural changes in the City Council. I tend to believe in the old adage that where there is no clear reason to change, there is reason not to change.Getting rid of two city council seats saves the city little if any money, as the "saved" money could well be used for substitute services.The Republican Party with its two at large seats and one district seat and heavy representation in the business community has been an active partner in city government for the past 56 years of Democratic administrations. While there are undoubtedly decisions that they have influenced that I and my late father Councilman David Cohen have disagreed with, I believe that inclusiveness is a positive value.Further, Republicans have power at a state level that they do not have at a city level. Consolidating Democratic power in the City Council might well lead to more Republican efforts to take power away from city government, as happened with the schools takeover after the charter was changed giving effective control of the school district to the Mayor of Philadelphia.Three seats our of 17 gives the Republicans 17.6% of the City Council with about 14% of the registered voters. This is closer to the registration than giving them 1 of 15 seats, or 6.7% of the City Council seats.I would be surprised if the 10th District does not soon vote Democratic for City Council, which would reduce the Republican percentage to 12.2%, putting the Republican percentage of seats below the current percentage of Republicans without eliminating the at-large seats. If the Republicans lose both the 10th District seat and the two at large seats, they will join the Republicans in Harrisburg, Erie, Scranton, and Reading in being totally without City Council representation.The lower the Republican percentage falls, the greater the possibility that an independent slate could beat one or two of the Republicans for the at large seats in a general election.All Philadelphia political groups are composed of Philadelphia citizens. Respecting these citizens, rather than trying to push them out of the way or marginalize them through structural change, seems to be the best way for Philadelphia to proceed. If the voters feel strongly enough about removing Republicans from Philadelphia government, they can do so under the current rules.