Updated: Tuesday, October 3, 2017, 5:12 PM
Rebecca Rhynhart knows Philadelphia finances. She served as city treasurer, budget director, and chief administrative officer before she resigned last year to run for city controller. Voters should give her the job.
Before coming to government, Rhynhart, 43, of Center City, had a solid background in finance. She worked for Bear Stearns and Fitch Rating Services before Mayor Michael Nutter appointed her treasurer in 2008.
Rhynhart has a clear view of what she’d like to do as controller, which is the city’s auditor. If the Democrat wins, one of her first audits would be of the controller’s office to make sure its resources are being used effectively.
That’s a smart way to reorganize that office, which under Alan Butkovitz for 12 years was a decent advocate for taxpayers but could use a fresh outlook.
The Parking Authority would be a target for Rhynhart. That patronage haven was beleaguered with lax leadership until recently and still fails to live up to its promise to send $40 million a year to the struggling public schools.
Rhynhart says she will also take a hard look at the city’s woefully inadequate and underperforming pension fund, and find out why the city Revenue Department can’t do better collecting taxes.
She smartly suggests a thorough audit of Community Behavioral Health, an arm of the city government that directs about $1 billion in health-care spending, including funds used to treat opioid abuse.
If elected, she promises full audits of city departments each year as well as management audits of troubled agencies with an eye to saving taxpayers $10 million a year.
Rhynhart says she won’t be shy about using the office’s bully pulpit to seek public support for reforms and would work with the state auditor general to hold shared state and city agencies accountable.
Her opponent in the Nov. 7 general election is Republican Mike Tomlinson, whose experience as an auditor for banks and insurance companies qualifies him for the job. Tomlinson, 60, of Holmesburg, also would take an aggressive look at the pension fund. He wants to audit School District spending and says he wouldn’t let state control of the schools stop him.
That’s the right attitude. But the greater depth of Rhynhart’s experience makes her the superior choice to become the next controller.
With her experience, however, comes a potential conflict. How will she pass judgment on the work she did in her previous roles inside City Hall, or the spending of past mayors she has served?
Rhynhart says she’ll isolate herself from those decisions and entrust them to professional staff. She has a strong reputation for integrity, but time will tell if her solution works.
She already has proven her independence from the weary Democratic Party. She shook up the establishment by beating Butkovitz by a whopping 3-2 ratio in the May primary.
In doing that, she scaled the gender wall to become the first female major-party nominee for the position. If she wins, she will be the first woman controller and the highest-ranking female officeholder in Philadelphia.
REBECCA RHYNHART should be the next city controller because she is highly qualified, knowledgeable, imaginative, and independent. She would serve the city well.