Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Marie Delany: RCC “Eye Candy” or City Commissioner Candidate?

Much has been said in blogs and political back chatter about City Commission candidate Marie Delany.  I’ve had a soft spot in my heart for Ms. Delany because she was one of the first people to join our group when she was a City Council candidate.  However, recent events surrounding the campaign of this candidate are hard to ignore. 

As many of you know, there is a civil war between the bulk of Republican voters who want to see a powerful voice in checks and balances in Philadelphia Municipal Government, which has been under Democratic control for over sixty years, and those who follow the existing Republican City Committee (RCC) who accept the 6:1 Democrat to Republican ratio in Philadelphia and fight to retain what little influence and patronage they still have (which is currently only within the ranks of the Philadelphia Parking Authority), and therefore do not “rock the boat” with the sizable stories of Democrat-committed corruption recently surfacing.

Ms. Delany was one of the early Republican candidates for City Council-at-Large.  While we have been closely following this colorful race, we are also following the unofficial race that will resolve the aforementioned dispute within the Philadelphia Republican Party.  See, some very notable republican candidates for Council-at-Large, Mayor, and City Commissioner are running without the endorsement or “support” of the RCC, yet they continue to run as they believe in their platform and qualifications.  Ms. Delany was not one of those candidates.  When she initially sought and did not win the RCC endorsement for her City Council run, she dropped out of the race.  Shortly thereafter, she announced a run for City Commissioner with a late RCC endorsement, raising serious questions as to why the RCC, led by Vito Canuso and Mike Meehan, would endorse Ms. Delany for City Commission but not for Council-at-Large, as her qualifications did not change in the short time span between runs.  It is widely speculated that Ms. Delany’s RCC-backed run for Commission was a direct bid to try and pull votes from Commissioner Candidate Al Schmidt, who challenged Canuso and Meehan for control over the RCC and challenged a weak audit of the RCC-controlled Philadelphia Parking Authority. 

Last night, at the East Falls Community Council’s Candidates’ Forum, Ms. Delany confirmed many of our suspicions about her candidacy, as she showed the audience that she did not have a clear understanding of what the Commissioner’s office does, what the election laws are, and why she’s running for that office. During her speech, Ms. Delany said she was asked if she was running to be “eye candy” for the election, somehow conveying a sexist or inappropriate connotation to her experiences as a “real” candidate; which shows that others are also questioning the odd timing for which she became a Commissioners candidate after withdrawing from the Council-at-Large race.  See, I’m personally compelled to analyze her motivation for running.  When I first met Ms. Delany, she was running for City Council, which is a legislative position involving constituent service and oversight of city agencies requesting budgetary allotment.  When she dropped out of that race, she promptly joined the race for City Commissioner, a position that involves regulatory enforcement and oversight of election law.  This is a very different position from council, which begs the question whether Ms. Delany truly wants to be a Council Member or Commissioner; or whether she just wants a good-paying elected position with influence and a favor from the RCC in her pocket?

She then proceeded to speak about what she’d do to fix the Commissioner’s office; without a clear understanding of the legal responsibilities and the authority of the office.  This was highlighted by her claim that she would have been able to, as Commissioner, take care of the November 4, 2008 incident where New Black Panther Samir Shabazz was recorded in front of the entrance to a polling place wearing black BDUs and holding a police-style baton.  When challenged by an audience member within the hyper-literate crowd of critical thinkers that were in attendance, Ms. Delany said that she would have notified the DA’s office for Voter Intimidation.  The problem is that:
  1. She didn’t know that the crime was called “Voter Intimidation”, she stammered and asked the crowd for assistance and her opponent, Al Schmidt told her that it was voter intimidation, which is publically known since the story had considerable media coverage.
  2. The Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office has no jurisdiction over the crime of Voter Intimidation, which is a federal offense requiring report to the FBI and/or US Attorney’s Office.  I’m not even running for Commissioner and I knew that.
  3. If these incidents occur, then the City Commissioner’s Office has already failed to carry out its mission to provide fair and safe voting places.  The real question is why Philadelphia, unlike the other 66 Pennsylvania counties and every other major city in America, fails to assign a law enforcement officer (police, sheriff, or constable) at every polling place on Election Day.  This preventative measure would have kept the panthers away from polling places in the first place.
So as much as I like being friendly with the folks I see at political events, I feel compelled to call out what I feel is a straw candidate and distraction from candidates who can actually make a difference (such as Schmidt and Singer).   In my opinion, Ms. Delany’s rapid withdrawal from the Council race and subsequent endorsement in the Commissioner’s race against stinks of the same RCC manipulation seen in the endorsement of Karen Brown against John Featherman in the Mayoral election. 

As Philadelphians for Ethical Leadership, it’s irresponsible for us to stand by and tolerate the manipulation of the most important political race in over a quarter-century so that some unelected, outdated party bosses can keep their illicit influence. Let’s send a clear message to Ms. Delany, Ms. Brown, Mr. Canuso and Mr. Meehan that this behavior is simply intolerable by voting in a new slate of elected officials that actually have the best interests of the city, not the committee at heart.

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