The crowded Democratic field for five at-large Council seats includes five incumbents, making it difficult for challengers to break through the barrier.

But one challenger stands out as especially worthy of voters' support this spring. The Inquirer endorses ANDY TOY. Toy, 52, of Logan Square, is diligent and passionate about improving the city's business climate and its quality of life. An economic development specialist at the Enterprise Center, he has worked inside city government and in neighborhoods to grow minority-owned firms and small businesses.

A candidate for Council four years ago, Toy deserves to win a seat this time. His commitment to turning the city's vacant and abandoned properties into productive parcels would be a needed catalyst in City Hall.

Among the other candidates, The Inquirer also endorses:

BILL GREEN, 46, of Chestnut Hill. Few first-term Council members have had a bigger impact than Green, son of the former mayor. Whether it's pushing for savings in the city budget, fighting to keep library branches open, or abolishing the dysfunctional Board of Revision of Taxes, Green has been in the thick of the battles. It's no secret that he would like to run for mayor in four years, but in the meantime Green is an indispensable force on Council.

BLONDELL REYNOLDS BROWN, 58, of Wynnefield. Since joining the Council in 2000, Reynolds Brown has made herself an important voice for the city's youth and its vulnerable populations. Along the way, she also has become a strong advocate of the city's arts and cultural communities, and stepped up to the plate in a needed union of the parks and recreation departments. Whether or not her successful effort to put nutrition information on restaurant menus has changed habits, she has put the focus on healthier diets.

JIM KENNEY, 52, of South Philadelphia. Running for his sixth term, Kenney has earned a reputation for working on behalf of progressive causes, from gay rights to sustainability. He doesn't insert himself into the forefront of some debates as aggressively as he did in past years, but Kenney still has fire in his belly and an unwavering sense of fair play.

WILSON GOODE JR., 45, of West Philadelphia. Running for his fourth term, Goode says it will probably be his last. He has been a valuable advocate for expanding minority-owned business opportunities and community development. Aside from the distraction of an aide's ugly feud with a television reporter several years ago, Goode has been a solid member of Council and a prolific sponsor of successful legislation.

Councilman Bill Greenlee, 58, of Fairmount, is running for his second full term. The former aide to the late Councilman David Cohen is an excellent provider of constituent services, but he hasn't distinguished himself as a leader on the pressing citywide issues that should be the focus of any at-large representative.

Also on the ballot are social activist Sherrie Cohen, an attorney and daughter of the late councilman; Ralph Blakney, a social worker who ran the mayor's office of community services for eight years; Lawrence Clark, a community activist; Michael Jones, the first fully blind candidate for Council; Janis Manson, a psychotherapist from the Northeast; Edward Nesmith, founder of a construction company; Humberto Perez, an advocate for better city services; Isaiah Thomas, a charter school administrator; and Louis Borda, a public school teacher.