GOP choices for at-large Council seats

There’s more to the Republicans’ impressive field of at-large City Council candidates than incumbent Frank Rizzo Jr.’s troubles with DROP. But let’s deal with Rizzo first.

Like other tone-deaf Council members, Rizzo infuriated many taxpayers by signing up to collect a six-figure deferred-retirement payment even though he knew he planned to run for reelection. Few issues have made Philadelphians more cynical about city government than elected officials exploiting the costly taxpayer-funded DROP program that was never intended for them.


On this basis alone, Rizzo, 68, who’s ending his 16th year on Council, shouldn’t be renominated. He is a capable public servant who knows the importance of constituent services. But 16 years is a good run. It’s time for voters to retire Rizzo.

There are plenty of other good choices among the nine GOP candidates vying for five positions on the November ballot. The Inquirer endorses:

DAVID OH, 51, of Cobbs Creek. Oh came within a handful of votes of winning an at-large council seat in 2007. An attorney in Center City, Oh has worked in the district attorney’s office and has served on a variety of civic boards. He believes the city is headed in the wrong direction, and should reform its tax code and promote tourism better to a worldwide audience.

DENNIS O’BRIEN, 58, of Millbrook. The former state House speaker is retiring from the seat he’s held in Harrisburg for 17 terms. He is passionate about improving city schools. Although one Council member’s ability to affect change in the school district is limited, the city would benefit from O’Brien’s knowledge of state government and his contacts in the Republican-controlled state Capitol.

MALCOLM LAZIN, 67, of Society Hill. He’s executive director of Equality Forum, a nonprofit that advances gay, lesbian, bisexual, and transgender civil rights. He was a federal prosecutor and chaired the Pennsylvania Crime Commission in the 1980s, and has also served as president of the Penn’s Landing Development Corp. Lazin favors expanding the airport and the school district’s roster of charter schools.

JOE MCCOLGAN, 48, of Torresdale. A former naval officer, McColgan has worked for the past 15 years in private banking and wealth management. Like many candidates, he favors eliminating the city’s business-privilege tax and also wants to eliminate the state-controlled School Reform Commission. He believes the city suffers from a lack of good leadership.

STEVE ODABASHIAN, 41, of Northern Liberties. An attorney with a background in equities trading, Odabashian decries the lack of urgency about the city’s fiscal crisis. Like most candidates, he cites DROP as a reason residents are “fed up” with City Hall and says he would eliminate it for elected officials. He’s also worked as a stand-up comic, which could come in handy on the 17-member Council.

Other candidates in the field are Al Taubenberger, who ran a lackluster campaign for mayor four years ago; Michael Untermeyer, a former prosecutor who ran for district attorney in 2009; and Elmer Money, who works in the business office at Abington Memorial Hospital.

The top five GOP vote-getters will face the top five Democratic at-large nominees in November, with seven candidates winning at-large seats.