Sandra Stewart, the Republican candidate in the 6th Councilmanic District, is a neighborhood volunteer from Tacony who describes herself as an “independent community-based leader.”
“I feel that I accurately represent the majority of people in District Six,” she said.
Democratic candidate Bobby Henon, of Torresdale, is political director of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers Local 98. He has ties not only to Philadelphia movers and shakers, but those in the region.
“I’m the only candidate who has the friendships, connections and business associations that will result in getting things done,” he said.
Henon describes himself as a “moderate Democrat.”
“I represent working Philadelphia,” he said.
Stewart and Henon visited the Times editorial board last week. Both are making their first bid for office.
In the primary, Stewart was unopposed, while Henon defeated Marty Bednarek, 8,210 to 4,376.
The candidates are vying to replace Democratic Councilwoman Joan Krajewski, who is retiring. She supported Bednarek in the primary.
Democrats have a large registration advantage in the district, making Henon the favorite. He also has proved to be a potent fund-raiser, overwhelming Bednarek during the primary season.
Former Gov. and Mayor Ed Rendell and the police and firefighters unions were major supporters of Henon in the primary, and they continue to back him.
Stewart said it’s time that voters revolt against 60 years of Democratic rule in Philadelphia. She vows not to be beholden to union bosses and campaign contributors.
“I’m independent,” she said.
One of the first votes the newly elected member will make is for Council president. It looks like a two-person race between Councilwoman Marian Tasco and Councilman Darrell Clarke, both Democrats, although longtime Councilman James Kenney is said to be interested in the top spot. The current president, Anna Verna, is retiring.
In the primary, Henon declared his opposition to Tasco because she is running for re-election despite being enrolled in the Deferred Retirement Option Plan. He remains opposed to her bid.
Tasco will collect $478,057 in retirement money in January but remain on the job at her full salary. Clarke is not enrolled in DROP.
“I cannot and will not vote for somebody who has abused the DROP program and misled the people of Philadelphia,” he said.
Henon said he would vote for Clarke over Tasco and wouldn’t vote for Tasco even if she were the only candidate.
During the primary season, Stewart traveled to a candidates’ event at the Olney Library, where she declared her support for Lamont Thomas over Tasco in the primary.
“She’s not one of my biggest fans,” Stewart said of Tasco.
Nonetheless, she notes that no Council members have publicly declared they’re running for president. It’s been behind-the-scenes jockeying.
“Do I like Marian Tasco? No. Do I like Darrell Clarke? No,” Stewart said.
If elected on Nov. 8, Stewart will be in the minority. She prides herself on being “a conservative through and through.”
Stewart said she will vote for the candidate she believes will do best for the 6th district in terms of tax relief and in other areas.
“I’m leaving my options open,” she said.
On the issue of public education, Henon faults former members of the School Reform Commission for a lack of oversight of the School District of Philadelphia. He wants the SRC to remain in place because of the need for state funding. The governor appoints three of the five members.
“I’m not for an elected school board in the city of Philadelphia,” he said. “We need the state involved with our schools.”
Stewart said former Superintendent Arlene Ackerman should have been fired for fiscal and management shortcomings. Instead, she took a buyout worth more than $900,000.
“I absolutely support an elected school board. All the surrounding counties have elected school boards,” she said.
Henon indicated that he favored a Philadelphian to replace Ackerman.
“I’m tired of national searches. Can’t we find home-grown talent?” he said.
On real estate taxes, Henon is strongly opposed to the actual value initiative, which is scheduled to be implemented next year. Properties will be assessed at their market rates, and Council will set a millage rate to determine annual real estate bills.
“I’m against it,” Henon said. “I’m not for having the Northeast have property taxes increased.”
At present, properties are assessed at a much lower rate than market value. Yearly tax bills are determined by using a mathematical formula.
Henon is hoping the actual value initiative is challenged in court.
“We have to stop these bills from going out,” he said.
Stewart fears that the initiative will lead to “back-door property tax increases” to fund what she calls an “out-of-control budget.”
“Their goal is to increase the city coffers,” she said of city officials.
On the issue of crime, Henon has met with Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey and is in regular contact with Fraternal Order of Police Lodge 5. He favors foot patrols on Torresdale and Frankford avenues and more use of surveillance cameras. He’d like to see the working conditions improved at the police station at Harbison Avenue and Levick Street and would favor splitting the large and busy 15th Police District.
“There’s a desperate need for more police enforcement,” he said.
Stewart has been active with the 15th Police District Advisory Council and recognizes the need for building improvements at Harbison and Levick. She opposes splitting the district.
It’s already split up in a way, she said, pointing to the three Police Service Areas.
“We need more officers and updated equipment,” she said. “I believe in public safety first. I’m a wife and mother of two.” ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org