The heat is on the office of district attorney — and that’s both a good and bad thing. The bad heat is the scandal brought down on the office by Seth Williams, who has spent the last few months crashing and burning because of a 23-count indictment (which was followed this past week by additional charges). The upside of this unfortunate chapter is that it helps clarify some priorities for the next district attorney. Certainly, ethics should be close to the top of the list. But the new DA will also take over in the middle of a wider call for criminal justice reform – primarily focused on reducing a staggering prison population. The field of candidates, many of whom hold similar positions, is very strong, including former prosecutors and a civil rights defense attorney. The Daily News endorsed Rich Negrin as the best candidate to take over and restore credibility and authority to the battered office. Negrin is a former assistant district attorney, former managing director under Mayor Nutter, and can bring strong leadership to this key role.
We feel the same about Rebecca Rhynhart for city controller, an office she’s seeking against longtime incumbent Alan Butkovitz. Rhynhart, who served as the city’s budget director and chief administrative officer, will not only bring financial expertise, but an independence from same-old-party politics that dog so many elected in this town. Alan Butkovitz, who is also a longtime ward leader, and former legislator, gets credit for exposing financial irregularities throughout city government, including the sheriff’s office, but we’re eager for a fresh perspective.
Two questions are on the ballot. Ballot Question No. 1 would amend the city charter “to allow for the award of certain contracts based on the best value to the city.”
We urge voters to vote “Yes” on Question 1.
The sealed-bid system is an antique of another simpler age. City officials say they are dealing with more complex projects – overhauling the city’s computer systems is an example — in which the lowest bidder is not always the quality bidder.
The best-value system calls for the city to negotiate with bidders to assure not only low prices but also high quality of work. It allows the city to assess their past performance, as well as their willingness to have a diverse work force, while also taking price into consideration.
The Kenney administration promises to enact regulations that make the process transparent by making public details of how contracts are awarded, so outsiders – including the news media — can view them with a critical eye.
Question No. 2 calls for creation of a Community Reinvestment Commission to help deal with the city’s large problems. The idea, originally advanced by Council President Darrell Clarke, is to bring together the collective wisdom and resources of the public and private sectors to help develop (and possibly help fund) programs for low-income communities.
While we are skeptical of the limits of what commissions can do, we urge voters to vote “Yes” on Question 2.
Also on the ballot are several judicial seats in the Supreme, Superior, Commonwealth, Common Pleas and Municipal courts. Voters should refer to the state and local bar association ratings for their vetting of candidates.