Democratic corruption is usually at the city or state level. We don’t have Karl Roves and Dick Cheneys and Jack Abramoffs who make national news. We’ve still got corrupt politicians, though, and we still need to root them out. It is a shame when our leaders turn their heads while the corruption continues.
Commentary By: Steven Reynolds
Corruption in the Republican Party has seemingly resided at the top over the last few years. National figures are responsible for US Attorney scandals and leaking classified information about CIA agents. National figures and Congressman and Senators have gone down for payoffs in the Abramoff scandals, and More Republican Senators and Governors have been caught with their pants literally down. In the Democratic Party, corruption seems to be local, but when it happens it still gets one upset, and I’m upset this morning. Let’s start with Anna C. Verna, there on the left.
Ms. Verna is the head of City Council here in Philadelphia, a very powerful position in our government. She put together a commission to recommend a candidate for an important position to the veterans in our city, the Director of Veteran’s Affairs. That commission recommneded Robert Politz, a man with 20 years in the field and with a Masters degree in counselling. That should have been that. The job description calls for a college degree and experience in the field after all. But, no.
Anna Verna decided to use the appointment to make a political favor, instead. Edgar Howard has never worked with veterans, and has no college degree, but he’s a former city commissioner until he got booted by the voters, and he’s probably done a few favors for Anna Verna in the past. So Anna Verna appointed Howard, then she increased the salary of the position by 60%. Veterans are upset, and we all should be. Here’s a bit from the Philadelphia Inquirer:
The maneuver has infuriated city veterans.
‘It got me upset that we couldn’t get the candidate we all thought was best, but what really burns my bridges is that he’s got the gall to take the director’s money and the deputy’s money,’ said Ernest Landers, a member of the Veterans Advisory Commission and an American Legion leader. ‘It’s a slap in the face to veterans.’
The city’s American Legion chapter has begun drafting a resolution condemning Verna’s decision and declaring that Council ‘does not consider the interests of veterans to be of any concern or interest to them.’
Politz has also responded angrily, but it looks like Michael Nutter is not going to get involved.
Last week, Politz, 60, wrote an impassioned letter to Mayor Nutter, imploring him to exercise ‘fearless leadership’ and intervene. The letter castigated Verna and Council for their ‘shameful disregard of the efforts of the Veterans Advisory Commission’ and their ‘complete and utter failure to put the interest of the people ahead of the greed and self-preservation of a few.’
Politz said he debated whether or not to write the letter for weeks, concerned that it would come across as sour grapes.
‘I’m not interested in pursuing anything in terms of employment. This really now is a matter of legitimizing the advisory commission and not using the office as some kind of depository for politicos,’ Politz said.
Nutter, however, will not be getting involved.
Administration spokesman Doug Oliver said the matter ‘rests squarely within the purview of the Council president.’
‘The mayor trusts the Council president’s judgment and respects her right to make the call,’ Oliver said.
That’s bound to disappoint Politz, who sees the episode as a case of politicians taking care of their own at the expense of taxpayers and citizens who rely on city services.
‘You know the reality of this stuff exists,’ Politz said. ‘But when you see it firsthand, it’s an eye-opener.’
Our veterans deserve better than Anna Verna has given them, and our city deserves better. Indeed, Michael Nutter’s hands may be tied, and he may have made a decision here about this not being the battle to fight with City Council, but I’m thinking a bit more light on this subject will at least alert citizens just how their City Council works, by dishing out favors. Heck, though, that’s nothing new. Vince Fumo, indicted now on 139 counts, perfected the art of dishing out favors in his time in the State Senate. Do you imagine any politician criticizing Mr. Fumo? Not the ones who wat to stay in office, that’s for sure.
Ed Rendell, for instance, is quoted in today’s Philadelphia Inquirer that if asked he will endorse Vince Fumo in the Democratic primary for State Senator. I’m a bit floored. Sure, his nickname is ‘Fast Eddie,’ and Rendell is known as a bit of a dealer, but to endorse a man who is the subject of a 139 count indictment is to ignore our system of justice. Rendell used to be a prosecutor, and he should know better. But here’s Ed Rendell’s words on supporting indicted State Senator Vince Fumo, also from the Philadelphia Inquirer:
‘He hasn’t asked, and I haven’t done a formal endorsement, but all things being equal, I probably would,’ Rendell said. ‘We would be lost in Harrisburg without him because of his skill. He has done great things, and we are lucky to have him.’
No, Ed, we’ll be lucky if we can get rid of people like Vince Fumo in our party. We need to dream, Ed, and that dream needs to be about getting rid of corruption, whether it is of the Anna Verna type or the Vince Fumo type. And we need Ed Rendell and Michael Nutter, two of the biggest political voices in our state, to do the leading in rooting out corruption. In these isntances, Nutter has demurred, and Rendell is actively offering to support a corrupt official. Not good news.