Just eight days removed from the May 17 primary, Republican City Councilman Brian J. O'Neill's Democratic opponent is taking swings aimed at the general election in November.
Democrat Bill Rubin, the city's former supervisor of elections and ex-vice chair of the Philadelphia Board of Pensions and Retirement, wants O'Neill to pledge never to enroll in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan that has caused elected officials so much angst this year.
In a generous gesture to his opponent, Rubin even filled out a waiver form by which O'Neill can officially decline a DROP benefit of more than $500,000 he would be due to receive should he join the program. (O'Neill has not joined DROP but has not ruled it out). DROP allows city employees to collect lump-sum pension payments when they retire, in exchange for freezing their pension four years before they retire.
"There have been at least four opportunities over the last eleven years for City Council to remove elected officials, including you, from this program," Rubin wrote in an open letter to O'Neill, who represents the 10th Council District in the Northeast. "On each occasion you and your colleagues have failed to do so."
Mayor Nutter wants to end the program for all employees, saying it has cost anywhere between $100 million and $258 million since its inception in 1999. Rubin, a staunch defender of the program for regular employees, wants to end it for elected officials.
But City Council, including O'Neill and some of the other nine Councill members who can still qualify for DROP, appear bent on keeping DROP for all employees, including themselves. (Six of the 10 Council members who can still elect DROP have promised never to join). Seven other Council members have already joined DROP, and future elected officials are barred from DROP by a 2009 state law.
Philadelphia elected officials, including some City Council members, have stoked public resentment by collecting six-figure DROP payments without actually retiring. Anti-DROP sentiment helped send veteran Councilman Frank Rizzo to defeat in the Republican primary, and may impede Majority Leader Marian B. Tasco from claiming the Council presidency. Rubin also announced Wednesday that, if elected, he would not support Tasco for Council President because she plans to collect a $478,058 DROP payment and return to office in January.
The negative public sentiment around DROP appeared to be a factor in decisions by Council President Anna C. Verna, Donna Reed Miller and Frank DiCicco not to seek reelection.
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