Joan Specter is the only University student who has expressed serious interest in being the mayor of Philadelphia. While University graduates pepper the race, Specter, who is taking an Eastern Religions class, is the only current student who could win a party endorsement. Specter has not resigned her seat to officially enter the race, but she said she would do so if she gets the Republican Party nod. Specter and her opponents are anxiously waiting for Wednesday when the party, led by the powerful William Meehan, will announce the candidate it will endorse for mayor. But Specter is competing for the endorsement with the likes of former mayor Frank Rizzo, municipal finance expert Sam Katz and fellow City Council members Brian O'Neill and Thacher Longstreth. Council members who want to join the race must resign their seats before officially entering, as Democrat Lucien Blackwell did last week. Specter, like Longstreth and O'Neill, is waiting for the Wednesday party announcement to decide whether she will resign from council and officially join the race. Specter already has an advantage over the other candidates -- name recognition. She is married to U.S. Senator Arlen Specter. Joan Specter, as a three-time veteran of the City Council, said she knows what problems the city faces and what to do to solve them. Specter seems to be the candidate most strongly in favor of charging the University and other non-profit private organizations user fees. Such institutions do not pay the city property taxes. She said she met with President Sheldon Hackney a year ago to discuss how non-profit institutions can contribute more to the city, either monetarily or otherwise. "We need to ask them, 'What are you willing to contribute to the good of the city in a collective way?' " Specter said. But now, she said, the University contributes only as much as it wants, instead of asking what the city needs. Specter suggested that these institutions would be wise to make contributions soon, before the city forces contributions on its terms. "I think [user fees] are coming," Specter said. "I really do." Last fall Specter prepared a report called "Philadelphia: A Strategy for the Future" which contains concept papers dealing with issues like city finances, police and streets. The proposals in the report, Specter said, are at the core of her solution to the city's financial woes. "We need to get back to the basics," Specter said. "We have to get our streets clean and have more police patrolling." She said, for example, that many police are wasted doing non-crime activities. She cited the police department's former practice of driving individuals to medical appointments. The department discontinued the practice late last year during emergency citywide cost cutting measures. Specter also said she seeks at least partial privatization of various city services which she said would promote competition and better service. In particular, she said that she would seek to privatize street maintenance service. However, any privatization would have to wait until relevant contracts expire. Another of Specter's plans is to restructure city government. Currently the city is functioning under the 40-year-old City Charter which does not allow departments to be added, dropped or merged. The charter was written in an era of rampant government corruption and was designed to put legal restraints on individual leaders. She also said that the charter forces the city to go through too many procedures to obtain materials and hire workers. "It is so convoluted," Specter said. "We need to streamline government and redistribute our resources." And, to solve the financial crisis facing the city, Specter said she wants to float more bonds and request increased state aid once the city restructures its own government. The state, however, faces a nearly $1 billion shortfall and is cutting down many aid programs. Such moves, Specter said, will take some of the burden off the average Philadelphia resident. "Middle-class Philadelphians are tapped out," Specter said.Comments powered by Disqus
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