This fall, "Fast Eddie" has not been a candidate for mayor of Philadelphia. Few have discussed alleged hijinks such as throwing snowballs at Eagles' games and delinquent payment of parking tickets, and the threatened file of juicy personal details has not been released to the public. Instead, a thoughtful Edward Rendell is the focus of attention. His public speeches have centered on his platform for running Philadelphia and he has avoided personal attacks on his opponents. Rendell's thoughtfulness, observers say, is the product of a different Republican candidate. Republican primary winner, the late Frank Rizzo, would have headed off Rendell's issue-oriented discussion by attacking Rendell's private life, observers say, causing Rendell to abandon his positions and defend himself. However, the current Republican opponent, Joseph Egan, simply criticizes Rendell's stances on a variety of issues. His only attack -- one spoken less loudly by other Republicans -- is to say Rendell delivers canned responses without thought. Egan trails both in popular support and in financial backing, and the "Fast Eddie" image has faded from many voters' minds. Many indications show Rendell's year-long march toward City Hall ending in a landslide. · Rendell has brought a lot of experience to the mayoral campaign -- experience in losing elections. Although Rendell was elected the city's District Attorney in 1982, he lost a gubernatorial campaign in 1986 and a mayoral campaign in 1987. This time, observers say, his grasp of the issues has helped him carve a unique place for himself. City Controller Jonathan Saidel said he thinks Rendell's wide-ranging strategies for cutting the city's debt are feasible. "I think that everything has to be looked at," Saidel said. "I don't think one thing is a panacea." But Republicans Egan and City Council member Thacher Longstreth both say Rendell's plans are unrealistic, saying he is suggesting plans he cannot possibly implement. "If you haven't been mayor, you don't know about positions to be specific with much validity," Longstreth said. Rendell maintains it is possible to trim down the city budget without cutting city services or increasing taxes. Instead, Rendell plans to cut waste in the city's budget, using a political posture as an "outsider" who can slash unnecessary expenses. Rendell's plan to bid out city services has drawn the most controversy during the campaign. He maintains the city will save money through more efficient delivery of city services rather than by cutting wages or workers, adding that Philadelphia is currently the only major city which does not bid out any city services. In his plan to privatize certain services, though, Rendell has tried to avoid completely alienating city employees. After the city received all its bids for a given service, unions would then be informed of the lowest bid. If the union could perform the work for within 10 percent of that bid, it would retain the contract. Additionally, Rendell would require all successful contractors to hire their additional workers from the pool of displaced city workers. The companies would also have a unionized work force. But Egan said that allowing the city unions a chance to revise its bid is against the City Charter. Also, Frederick Voigt, chairperson of the Committee of 70, a government watchdog group, said that bidding out city services requires the approval of City Council, which he said is highly unlikely. Professor Theodore Hershberg, who spent a year working for Mayor Wilson Goode, says city unions have an advantage in the bidding process because the city does not have to operate its services at a profit. City union representatives say the plan is subtly racist, saying that bidding out trash collection -- the most likely service to be provided privately -- would jeopardize the jobs of more black workers than white workers. And Republican candidate Egan says that Rendell's plan is not only divisive, but goes against current business practices of cooperation. "It's cruel," Egan said. "It sends the wrong message." Rendell's plans aim to motivate city workers -- a necessity, Hershberg said, because city workers have become complacent and are not as productive as municipal workers in other cities. The Democratic candidate also plans to save money by capping the amount of employee overtime, saying such a measure can save up to $35 million. He supports efforts to change the way in which the city purchases supplies to decrease the cost and effort it takes to buy anything "more expensive than a Macintosh," Hershberg said. Such a change would require the approval of a proposed change in the City Charter which is on the election ballot. However, Rendell also has drafted a few plans to expand city services. The former District Attorney wants to increase the number of police officers in the city force by 1000, apparently responding to surveys which say crime is a top concern to city residents. Rendell also wants to place health-care clinics in city high schools and to implement programs for latch-key children. · Some political observers say Rendell's commanding popularity could give the 1965 College alumnus a strong bargaining position should he take office in January -- both within the city and in state government. And fellow Democrats say they hope Rendell's election will be a popular mandate for change in the city. Rendell has already said he would stand up to city workers in labor contract negotiations. He has also offered a casual "sure" when asked if he would control the city by executive mandate if Council would not pass his proposals. But Rendell said he thinks the dire financial situation the city faces will force City Council and the mayor to cooperate more extensively than in the past. City Council At-Large candidate Happy Fernandez said a Rendell landslide would be a strong signal that the voters want a different style of government. "[Rendell] has run a strong, vibrant, energetic campaign," Fernandez, a Democrat, said. "Hopefully it will be a very long honeymoon." And while City Controller Saidel said Rendell's heavy-handed posture may not "sit well" with Council, Rendell will have the necessary "guts to make tough decisions." "To be an effective leader . . . the mayor has to be respected and feared," Saidel said. "People have to believe in you." It is unclear, however, how Rendell would deal with powerful City Council member John Street. Street is openly campaigning for the Council presidency and has obstructed several initiatives by current Mayor Goode. "John Street has been part of the crew," Fernandez said. "[The new Council president] should be someone who also wants to work with the mayor and not overstep the bounds." Although Rendell does not plan to raise taxes -- saying city residents are already taxed enough -- he does plan to request additional aid from the state as well as a 10-cent surcharge on lottery tickets to pay for the extra police officers. Rendell says the city would be in a better position to negotiate with the state legislature after cutting back its own budget. The state legislature, which traditionally has not supported many city administrations, has been reluctant to increase the city's appropriation. While Senate Majority Leader Joseph Loeper (R-Delaware Co.) says the state legislature is prepared to work with both major-party candidates, House Minority Leader Matthew Ryan (R-Delaware Co.) said Rendell might have less sway than Republican candidate Egan.Comments powered by Disqus
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