Friday, October 24, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

How about a seat on Philly's City Council?

The odds of any one of you becoming Philadelphia's newest Council member are much more favorable than the Mega Millions jackpot.

How about a seat on Philly's City Council?

Anyone can run for City Council in a special election on May 20, 2014, the same day as Philadelphia’s already scheduled primary election.
Anyone can run for City Council in a special election on May 20, 2014, the same day as Philadelphia’s already scheduled primary election. Reid Kanaley / Staff

The jackpot for tonight's Mega Millions drawing has reached $240 million. The odds of winning the jackpot with a single $1 ticket are a staggering 1 in 258.9 million.

But before you rush out to buy a ticket, I’ve got a better proposition for you.

How about a seat on Philadelphia’s City Council?

After all, the odds of any one of you becoming Philadelphia’s newest City Council Member are much more favorable than that lottery ticket’s jackpot.

Here’s why.

Today, City Council President Darrell L. Clarke announced he would issue a writ of election on March 24th to fill the At-Large Council seat vacated by former Councilman Bill Green, who now serves as School Reform Commission Chairman.

That means there will be a special election to fill the vacancy on May 20, 2014, coincidentally the same day as Philadelphia’s already scheduled primary election.

Not only can all registered voters, regardless of party, vote in this special election. But any Philadelphian can run in it.

That’s right.

Although the major political parties have it easy and don’t need to circulate nomination petitions, any registered Philadelphian can decide to put their hat in the ring as well.

True that the Democratic and Republican parties only need to submit a nomination certificate with their chosen candidate’s name and contact information on the form, in accordance with their internal party rules – which typically means the party bosses and the ward leaders will duke it out over who the chosen one shall be.

But for those disenfranchised voters who either feel that the major parties have been tone deaf to their needs or for the Democratic/Republican hopefuls that didn’t get selected, there’s the independent/third party route.

And kudos to Council President Clarke for addressing that segment of the electorate. In a city so Democratically partisan that Republicans have been eating crumbs from the Democrats for most of my life, Clarke deserves a lot of credit for inviting all Philadelphians to participate in this election, both as voters and candidates.

“Anyone who wants to serve the people of Philadelphia ought to have an opportunity to do so. I urge all those interested in running for this seat as Independent to contact the County Board of Elections in Room 142 in City Hall or at 215-686-3943,” Clarke said in his press release.

Clarke even spelled out the conditions under which independents could get onto the special election ballot. “Independent candidates must collect a minimum of 1,785 valid signatures to get on the ballot.  Democrats and Republicans wishing to run as Independent must re-register their party affiliation by the date he or she files nominating papers. The deadline to file nomination papers is the same as the deadline for the parties to file their nomination certificates:  April 8, 2014.”

In a Daily News piece written by Sean Collins Walsh, U.S. Rep Bob Brady, who also serves as the Democratic City Committee’s Chairman, was quoted as saying that at least 20 people were interested in being selected as the Democratic Party’s candidate. Brady told the Daily News, “So we'll have one happy candidate and 19 mad.”

Yeah, I’d say that’s a pretty honest description, Congressman Brady.

So what’s a disaffected Democrat or Republican to do?

Well, when I got my M.B.A., I learned a lot about hedging  -- in Philly, it’s known as another acronym: C.Y.A.

Well, since candidates seeking an independent nomination don’t have to change their registration until they file their nomination papers due on April 8th, they might want to get in gear and start gathering signatures beginning March 24th just in case they don’t get their party’s nod.

How cool would it be if we had 15-20 candidates on the ballot for a quick election season of a little over a month? No election fatigue, lots of protein and little sugar.

Let’s make it happen.

We need choices in this city.

We need them now.

 Contact John Featherman at john@featherman.com

John Featherman
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