The criminal justice pendulum swung in an unexpected direction with the indictment of District Attorney Seth Williams on corruption charges. With Democrats holding an overwhelming voter registration edge in the city, that raises the stakes in Tuesday’s primary to choose the party’s nominee to replace Williams.
Among an impressive field that includes a judge who resigned to run for the office, four former assistant district attorneys, a former federal prosecutor, and a civil rights defense attorney, RICH NEGRIN stands out. His background and reputation make him better prepared to restore the office’s dignity.
Negrin is a former assistant district attorney who built his administrative chops as managing director for Mayor Michael Nutter. He is well prepared to manage a $52 million budget and 594-employee department.
Negrin’s independence from the oligarchy known as the city Democratic Party should help him keep his promise to go after corruption. But his first job, if elected, will be to improve morale in an office that was battered by Williams’ indictment for allegedly taking gifts in exchange for favors.
Negrin also has a deep emotional understanding of what it means to be a crime victim. At age 13, he witnessed his father’s murder by a Cuban terrorist group.
Beth Grossman, another former assistant district attorney, is unopposed in the Republican primary.
In the primary for city controller REBECCA RHYNHART, a former city treasurer, would bring a fresh perspective to an office adequately run by Alan Butkovitz for nearly 12 years. Rhynhart’s past roles as city budget director and chief administrative officer should give her powerful insight in monitoring how the city spends its taxpayers’ dollars.
Count Rhynhart as a member of the city’s growing cadre of enthusiastic policy wonks who have figured out the best way to achieve good government is to be a part of it. Like Negrin, she hasn’t been part of the old Democratic Party guard, which should ensure the independence needed to ignore petty politics and keep an eye on the public’s money.
Republican Mike Tomlinson, a certified public accountant, is unopposed in the Republican primary.
Two questions are also on Tuesday’s ballot:
The first rather innocuously asks: “Shall the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter be amended to allow award of certain contracts based on best value to the City?” Sounds reasonable until you realize “best value” doesn’t necessarily mean “lowest bid.” The question assumes it is impossible to write bid specifications to ensure both value and price. The city already has the power to demand quality work from contractors and fire them for poor performance. Vote No.
The second ballot question asks for a charter change to create a Community Reinvestment Commission, which would include representatives of the public, private, and philanthropic sectors who would create strategies to improve low-income neighborhoods. Seems like it shouldn’t take a charter change to create a committee for that purpose. But the goal is worthy of a YES vote.
Also on the primary ballot are elections to fill seats on the state Supreme, Superior, and Commonwealth courts, and the city’s Common Pleas and municipal courts. For guidance, voters can refer to the recommendations of the Pennsylvania Bar Association (www.pabar.org) and Philadelphia Bar Association (www.philadelphiabar.org).