Northeast Times

Redistricting plan could change Holme Circle state representatives

Dave Kralle, a long­time aide to Den­nis O’Bri­en, wants to run for the House seat that his boss held be­fore mov­ing to City Coun­cil.

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City Con­trol­ler Alan Butkovitz had just told a St. Jerome’s School lib­rary packed with Holme Circle res­id­ents about the fisc­al and op­er­a­tion­al fail­ings of the Phil­adelphia sher­iff’s of­fice, pub­lic school sys­tem, Fire De­part­ment and 311 sys­tem.

John Sabat­ina Jr. had just in­tro­duced him­self as Holme Circle’s new state rep­res­ent­at­ive — in light of the re­cent re-draw­ing of Pennsylvania’s House dis­tricts — and offered to help res­id­ents get new “Wel­come” signs and a flag­pole that they hope to erect along Holme Av­en­ue.

But then Dave Kralle, a le­gis­lat­ive aide to City Coun­cil­man at-large Den­nis O’Bri­en, trumped both elec­ted of­fi­cials with his own sur­pris­ing an­nounce­ment dur­ing the monthly Holme Circle Civic As­so­ci­ation meet­ing last Wed­nes­day night. Kralle re­por­ted that the Pennsylvania Su­preme Court had just struck down the re­dis­trict­ing plan, mean­ing that Sabat­ina Jr. isn’t the Holme Circle rep just yet.

Fur­ther, Kralle said, he’s hop­ing to run for O’Bri­en’s old 169th dis­trict seat, which was to end up in York County un­der the new map. But for the mo­ment, at least, it will re­main in the North­east as the Su­preme Court has in­struc­ted the Le­gis­lat­ive Re­ap­por­tion­ment Com­mis­sion to draft a new dis­trict map, a pro­cess that could take months or longer.

Kralle, who resigned his City Coun­cil job on Sat­urday so he could enter the House race, was at­tend­ing a class at the Uni­versity of Pennsylvania earli­er Wed­nes­day when O’Bri­en called to tell him about the Su­preme Court rul­ing. O’Bri­en then en­cour­aged Kralle to throw his own hat in the ring, Kralle said.

However, no an­nounce­ment has been made when or how the 169th dis­trict va­cancy will be filled. O’Bri­en resigned from the House last month be­fore his in­stall­a­tion as an at-large Coun­cil mem­ber. His House term was to con­clude next Nov. 30.

Reg­u­larly sched­uled elec­tions for all 203 House seats are to be held this year, while the Feb. 14 dead­line for fil­ing nom­in­at­ing pe­ti­tions is rap­idly ap­proach­ing. The reg­u­lar primary elec­tion will be on April 24 and the gen­er­al elec­tion on Nov. 6.

In a stump-style speech, Kralle touted his boss’ many ac­com­plish­ments in Har­ris­burg and said that, were he to run, he would sup­port the same causes, such as bet­ter pub­lic safety and edu­ca­tion; pro­grams for spe­cial needs chil­dren, par­tic­u­larly those with aut­ism; and en­hanced child sexu­al ab­use re­port­ing re­quire­ments.

Dur­ing Butkovitz’s earli­er present­a­tion, he ex­plained many of the re­veal­ing and dis­turb­ing out­comes of his of­fice’s forensic audit of former Sher­iff John Green’s de­part­ment. An art­icle ap­pear­ing in Jan. 18 edi­tions of the North­east Times re­por­ted many of the con­trol­ler’s find­ings as he de­scribed them dur­ing the Jan. 11 meet­ing of the Fox Chase Homeown­ers As­so­ci­ation.

Non­ethe­less, Butkovitz also spoke choice words about the Fire De­part­ment’s lit­any of con­tro­ver­sial policies in­clud­ing the mass trans­fers of its para­med­ic corps and its fail­ure to in­crease para­med­ic cov­er­age, des­pite in­creas­ing work­loads and poor re­sponse times.

The max­im­um para­med­ic re­sponse time to any emer­gency call should be nine minutes, ac­cord­ing to na­tion­al stand­ards. Yet in 2007, the con­trol­ler found that city para­med­ics did not bet­ter the nine-minute threshold 40 per­cent of the time.

In re­sponse, the Fire De­part­ment ad­ded five med­ic units to its ranks, but took them out of ser­vice months later, Butkovitz said. Nowadays, para­med­ics miss the nine-minute mark about one-third of the time.

Fire­fight­ers uni­on boss Bill Gault, pres­id­ent of Loc­al 22 of the In­ter­na­tion­al As­so­ci­ation of Fire Fight­ers, at­ten­ded the meet­ing, as did a para­med­ics’ uni­on rep and sev­er­al rank-and-file Loc­al 22 mem­bers.

On the pub­lic schools front, Butkovitz re­por­ted that his of­fice has ser­i­ous doubts that the school dis­trict will be able to make it to the end of the cur­rent school year as a “go­ing con­cern.” That is, the dis­trict will be bank­rupt by then, he fears.

The dis­trict is now star­ing at a pos­sible $61 mil­lion de­fi­cit by year’s end, com­pared to earli­er pro­jec­tions that placed the short­fall at about $20 mil­lion, he said.

One reas­on is the dis­trict’s failed re­tire­ment-in­cent­ive pro­gram for teach­ers, which he claims ended up cost­ing the schools more than it saved them in salar­ies be­cause they ended up pay­ing many re­tired teach­ers to re­turn to work on a per-diem basis when the schools found them­selves without enough ex­per­i­enced edu­cat­ors. ••

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You can reach at wkenny@bsmphilly.com.

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