Councilman David Oh told the Philadelphia Ethics Board Wednesday that he may introduce a bill this fall to end the rule barring city politicians from running for another office without first resigning.
The proposal ultimately would have to be approved by voters as a change to the City Charter and would not go into effect until 2016, after the 2015 mayoral election.
Oh’s plan would not allow an elected official to run for two offices at the same time – meaning a City Council member still would have to resign to appear on the ballot in the mayor’s race, since Council members and the mayor are elected in the same cycle.
At least two and as many as five current Council members are considered potential candidates in the 2015 mayoral race.
Officials elected on a different cycle, such as the City Controller, could run for mayor while holding on to their current office. Controller Alan Butkovitz, who is likely to win reelection to his office this November, also is considering a run for mayor in 2015.
Shane Creamer Jr., the ethic board’s executive director, said making the change effective after the next mayoral election should “undercut any cynicism that this is being done to benefit any particular candidate or candidates.”
Oh, a Republican at-large member, said he thought the change was a good idea because of the “unintended consequences” of the resign-to-run rule. He said city elected officials tend to hang on to office – perhaps too long – rather than giving up safe seats to seek higher office. The rule also partly accounts for the dearth of Philadelphians in the top levels of state government, he said, and therefore the city’s meager stature in Harrisburg.
“We’ve had a bottleneck of elected officials,” Oh said. “Nobody comes in, nobody goes out.”
The change could make Philadelphia more influential if, for instance, the city’s mayor was considered a potential candidate for governor.
“If you’re governor and you get a phone call from a mayor of Philadelphia who could run for governor, you might take that call seriously,” Oh said.
For Council members, the change also would eliminate the awkward dance many have to perform before declaring a candidacy for mayor – testing the waters, without raising money or ever publicly admitting they might run. This way, Council members and other similarly-situated politicians could be honest about their interest in another office and potentially still back out before the filing deadline.
For now, Oh said he was seeking feedback from the board and the watchdog group Committee of Seventy. The ethics board plans to discuss Oh’s proposal at its next meeting.
“If they think it’s horrible or Committee of Seventy hates it, I won’t do it,” he said.
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