Rubin takes aim at O’Neill

Four years ago, Re­pub­lic­an City Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill faced a fairly stiff chal­lenge from Demo­crat Sean McAleer, but the in­cum­bent rolled to re-elec­tion with 58 per­cent of the vote des­pite Mi­chael Nut­ter’s strength at the top of the tick­et.

Today, while en­thu­si­asm for May­or Nut­ter doesn’t ap­pear to be as strong as it was in 2007, O’Neill will still need the votes of Demo­crats and tick­et-split­ters to fend off what most on­look­ers see as an even stronger chal­lenge from Bill Ru­bin.

The 10th Coun­cil­man­ic Dis­trict elect­or­ate con­sists of 58 per­cent Demo­crats, 33 per­cent Re­pub­lic­ans and 9 per­cent in­de­pend­ents and third-party mem­bers. The dis­trict gen­er­ally stretches from Burholme to Somer­ton and in­cludes most of the Far North­east.

Voters every­where seemed to be ticked off four years ago be­cause of the Ir­aq War, and some took it out on Re­pub­lic­ans be­cause George W. Bush was in the White House. O’Neill sur­vived the an­ger and might be­ne­fit a little this year be­cause voters are sour on the poor eco­nomy un­der Pres­id­ent Barack Obama.

O’Neill, 61, was elec­ted in 1979, edging Demo­crat­ic Coun­cil­man Melvin Green­berg. In the vic­tory over McAleer, the in­cum­bent racked up huge mar­gins in Fox Chase and Pine Val­ley, but Ru­bin has ties to those areas — he’s coached at St. Al­bert the Great Par­ish and Fox Rok Ath­let­ic As­so­ci­ation — and knows he must per­form well there.

Ru­bin, 44, worked in the city com­mis­sion­ers’ of­fice for al­most 25 years. He was su­per­visor of elec­tions and also vice chair­man and trust­ee of the Phil­adelphia Board of Pen­sions and Re­tire­ment.

The chal­lenger is look­ing for­ward to join­ing an en­er­gized Coun­cil that will have at least six new mem­bers.

“I ex­pect to be sev­en,” he said.

The chal­lenger has tried to link his op­pon­ent to the con­tro­ver­sial De­ferred Re­tire­ment Op­tion Plan, which al­lows city work­ers to set re­tire­ment dates up to four years in ad­vance and col­lect lump sum pay­ments when they re­tire. The city so­li­cit­or’s of­fice has ruled that elec­ted of­fi­cials are al­lowed to join, and sev­er­al have taken ad­vant­age. O’Neill has not, al­though he has re­fused to sign a waiver form presen­ted to him by Ru­bin.

“I’m not en­rolled in DROP. I’ll nev­er en­roll in DROP,” O’Neill told a crowd at a re­cent can­did­ates’ for­um at Con­greg­a­tions of Shaare Shamay­im.

Ru­bin points out that Coun­cil has not voted to pro­hib­it cur­rent mem­bers from join­ing DROP. He be­lieves O’Neill will en­roll if he wins an­oth­er term, fig­ur­ing that a Re­pub­lic­an will not be able to win in four years with the new Demo­crat­ic ter­rit­ory ad­ded to the 10th dis­trict fol­low­ing re­dis­trict­ing.

The chal­lenger said O’Neill star­ted talk­ing tough about DROP once Coun­cil­man at-large Frank Rizzo, who is en­rolled in the pro­gram, was de­feated in the Re­pub­lic­an primary.

“It’s easy to do now,” he said.

The O’Neill cam­paign has poin­ted to a video of a Feb­ru­ary 2010 meet­ing of the Bustleton Civic League. Ru­bin, the guest speak­er, seemed to in­dic­ate that DROP would be less costly if an elec­ted of­fi­cial re­mained in of­fice after en­rolling be­cause the city wouldn’t be pay­ing the salary and be­ne­fits of a re­place­ment.

Ru­bin made a pledge in May not to sup­port Coun­cil­wo­man Mari­an Tasco for Coun­cil pres­id­ent be­cause she is en­rolled in DROP. Tasco will col­lect $478,057 in re­tire­ment money in Janu­ary but re­main on the job and con­tin­ue to col­lect her full salary.

O’Neill has not said whom he’ll sup­port. Coun­cil­man Dar­rell Clarke is ex­pec­ted to op­pose Tasco for the top spot.

In­ter­est­ingly, Rizzo donated $1,000 to Ru­bin’s cam­paign.

O’Neill and fel­low Re­pub­lic­an Coun­cil­man Jack Kelly voted to re­move Rizzo as minor­ity-party whip and re­place him with Kelly. The move was made after Rizzo sided with Demo­crats to pass a re­dis­trict­ing bill that in­ser­ted all of the heav­ily Demo­crat­ic 56th Ward in­to the 10th dis­trict and re­moved some GOP-friendly ter­rit­ory. The change takes ef­fect in 2015. Rizzo has since be­come an in­de­pend­ent.

Oth­er big dona­tions to the chal­lenger came from AF­SCME and the loc­al iron­work­ers, sprink­ler fit­ters and elec­tri­cians uni­ons.

Ru­bin has pushed for Coun­cil re­forms in­clud­ing a lim­it of three four-year terms, an end to out­side em­ploy­ment and a ban on the use of city-owned cars. He’s cri­ti­cized O’Neill as a part-time coun­cil­man who main­tains a luc­rat­ive law prac­tice.

O’Neill has been en­dorsed by The Phil­adelphia In­quirer, Fraternal Or­der of Po­lice Lodge 5 and In­ter­na­tion­al As­so­ci­ation of Fire Fight­ers Loc­al 22. He has cam­paigned on the fact that he has nev­er voted to raise prop­erty taxes and his use of zon­ing to pre­vent un­wanted de­vel­op­ment. He also be­lieves his dis­trict of­fice at Bustleton Av­en­ue and Bowl­er Street has been help­ful for con­stitu­ents who do not want to travel to City Hall.

Ru­bin, who’d also open a dis­trict of­fice, scoffs at O’Neill’s claim about the prop­erty tax is­sue.

“That’s not an an­swer,” he said, ar­guing that O’Neill doesn’t of­fer any ideas about bal­an­cing the budget.

Both can­did­ates have been run­ning com­mer­cials on cable tele­vi­sion. Ru­bin’s spot tries to tie O’Neill to DROP. O’Neill has one pos­it­ive com­mer­cial that fea­tures people say­ing nice things about him and a neg­at­ive com­mer­cial point­ing to Ru­bin’s work for City Com­mis­sion­er Marge Tartagli­one, a DROP en­rollee de­feated in the primary.

“His own boss took the double-dip, Marge Tartagli­one,” O’Neill said dur­ing a re­cent de­bate at Klein JCC. “He nev­er said a word about it.”

The can­did­ates have clashed over the city’s chron­ic­ally un­der­fun­ded pen­sion sys­tem, with Ru­bin blam­ing O’Neill and Coun­cil for short­chan­ging it and not­ing the stock mar­ket crash of 2008. O’Neill points to Ru­bin’s ser­vice on the pen­sion board.

“The pen­sion fund is run by the pen­sion board,” he said.

Joe Mc­Gar­rity, O’Neill’s cam­paign man­ager, wrote let­ters in the last week to Tartagli­one and the Phil­adelphia Board of Eth­ics, com­plain­ing about a mail­ing that, among oth­er things, in­cor­rectly lis­ted poll hours as be­ing from 6 a.m. to 7 p.m. The cor­rect hours are 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. The pro-Ru­bin piece has a re­turn ad­dress of the Wash­ing­ton, D.C.-based AF­SCME People.

“Since Re­pub­lic­an voters re­ceived this mail­er, we be­lieve this was an in­ten­tion­al ef­fort to con­fuse and mis­lead voters likely to sup­port Coun­cil­man Bri­an O’Neill,” the let­ter read, in part. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­

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