Citizen Kelly


The new City Coun­cil took the oath of of­fice on Monday at the Academy of Mu­sic, and Jack Kelly was not on stage.

In fact, Kelly — who did not run for re-elec­tion — did not at­tend the ce­re­mony.

“Let the new people shine,” he said of the six fresh­men mem­bers of Coun­cil. “That’s their day. It’s not mine any­more.”

Kelly, a Re­pub­lic­an, served three terms in Coun­cil. He rep­res­en­ted the 7th Coun­cil­man­ic Dis­trict from 1988-91 and was an at-large mem­ber from 2004 un­til he left of­fice on Monday.

The end of his ser­vice brought “mixed emo­tions.”

“I’ll miss the re­la­tion­ships I had with my Coun­cil col­leagues and staffs, the pres­id­ent, the may­or and the ad­min­is­tra­tion,” he said. “We were civil to one an­oth­er.”

At the same time, he won’t miss what he calls the “grand­stand­ing” oc­ca­sion­ally seen dur­ing Coun­cil ses­sions and the com­pact sched­ules, es­pe­cially dur­ing elec­tion sea­son.

“I won’t be look­ing at my watch all the time, hav­ing to go here and there,” he said.

Kelly had a pretty stable staff over the years and cred­ited the sev­en em­ploy­ees with do­ing a good job. Five of them have de­cided to stay in city gov­ern­ment, with two headed to the man­aging dir­ect­or’s of­fice and the oth­er three mov­ing to the court sys­tem, the park­ing au­thor­ity and an­oth­er Coun­cil mem­ber’s of­fice.

New 8th dis­trict Coun­cil­wo­man Cindy Bass already has moved in­to Kelly’s of­fice at Room 594 City Hall.


One of the turnovers in the of­fice came when chief of staff Chris­toph­er Wright was con­victed in 2009 in a cor­rup­tion case that also res­ul­ted in guilty ver­dicts against Kelly’s cam­paign treas­urer and a lead­ing donor.

The coun­cil­man was not im­plic­ated in the case. In fact, he helped the gov­ern­ment by tap­ing a phone call with Wright and a meet­ing with the donor, along with testi­fy­ing at the tri­al.

Wright and the oth­ers con­victed in the case have since been re­leased from pris­on based on a un­an­im­ous rul­ing by the U.S. Su­preme Court that the charge of hon­est ser­vices fraud is vague. They are hop­ing that a loc­al fed­er­al court is­sues a form­al ac­quit­tal.

Kelly labeled the crim­in­al charges “much to do about noth­ing,” adding that there might have been mere eth­ic­al lapses that could have been re­solved with fines.

There were many hap­pi­er times for Kelly dur­ing his 12 years in Coun­cil and in his oth­er po­s­i­tions.

Kelly, 73, grew up near 23rd Street and Le­high Av­en­ue in Swam­poodle and lived for many years in Burholme. He worked for 25 years in the ad­vert­ising, pur­chas­ing and ad­min­is­tra­tion de­part­ments of a com­pany that man­u­fac­tured elec­tric­al en­ergy equip­ment.

Later, he spent a few years as a Traffic Court of­ficer and a brief time as an ad­min­is­trat­or at the Board of Re­vi­sion of Taxes be­fore edging Demo­crat­ic Coun­cil­wo­man Pa­tri­cia Hughes in 1987 by about 1,400 votes.


While rep­res­ent­ing the 7th dis­trict, he battled the ad­min­is­tra­tion of May­or Wilson Goode. He op­posed Goode’s re­appoint­ment of School Dis­trict of Phil­adelphia Su­per­in­tend­ent Con­stance Clayton, who in­fam­ously called North­east res­id­ents “his­tor­ic­ally priv­ileged.”

Kelly also suc­cess­fully fought Goode’s plan to close a fire­house at Lang­don and Foulk­rod streets in Sum­mer­dale. And he joined Ox­ford Circle res­id­ents in a protest march on Roosevelt Boulevard to pre­vent a home­less group from buy­ing a house on the 1200 block of East Chel­ten­ham Ave.

In 1991, Kelly lost his seat by about 1,700 votes to a North­wood law­yer named Dan McEl­hat­ton.

For the next dec­ade or so, he served as a gov­ern­ment­al af­fairs lob­by­ist for Coun­cil.

In 2003, aging at-large Re­pub­lic­an Coun­cil­man Thach­er Long­streth de­clined to seek an­oth­er term, and Kelly suc­cess­fully ran for the seat. He be­came the first at-large coun­cil­man from the North­east in 28 years.

In 2007, he won the sev­enth and fi­nal at-large seat by just 122 votes over fel­low Re­pub­lic­an Dav­id Oh, thanks to an ad­vant­age in ab­sent­ee bal­lots.

Late in the race, he was hurt by fli­ers dis­trib­uted out­side Cath­ol­ic churches by a group called Cit­izens Op­posed to Politi­cians Who Pander to Per­verts, which was angry with Kelly’s vote against al­low­ing the Boy Scouts to re­main in their rent-free headquar­ters be­cause of their policy pro­hib­it­ing gay lead­ers. Kelly sued Paul Corbett, the Lawndale man who craf­ted the harshly worded “voter alert,” but a judge ruled in Corbett’s fa­vor.


Kelly, who lives in Somer­ton, en­rolled in the De­ferred Re­tire­ment Op­tion Plan and de­cided not to run again in 2011.

The DROP is­sue is per­haps the most con­tro­ver­sial in the city. Some op­pose it be­cause of the cost. Oth­ers be­lieve city em­ploy­ees, not elec­ted of­fi­cials, should be en­titled to the perk.

Most are out­raged when elec­ted of­fi­cials en­roll in the pro­gram, run for re-elec­tion, col­lect their DROP pay­ment and re­turn to of­fice.

Former Coun­cil­wo­man Joan Kra­jew­ski, whose term just ended, did just that, win­ning re-elec­tion in 2007 des­pite be­ing in DROP.

“When Joan went in­to it, there was no up­roar,” Kelly said.

There was plenty of up­roar in 2011, as Coun­cil­man Frank Rizzo and Com­mis­sion­er Marge Tartagli­one lost their seats in the primary elec­tion, in large meas­ure, be­cause of their par­ti­cip­a­tion in DROP.

Kelly be­lieves out­rage grew as the eco­nomy slumped, and he sees the plan’s pay­ments as a “drop in the buck­et” in the over­all budget. Still, he thinks that any­one who en­rolls in DROP — from the “may­or on down to the san­it­a­tion de­part­ment” — should be re­quired to re­tire for good after the four-year peri­od.


On Dec. 15, Coun­cil held its last ses­sion of the year. Col­leagues lauded Kelly for his op­pos­i­tion to tax in­creases and lib­rary clos­ings and pro­mo­tion of an­im­al care, fire­fight­er and para­med­ic safety and arts and cul­tur­al fund­ing.

Look­ing back, Kelly is proud of rais­ing aware­ness of col­lege cam­pus safety after deadly shoot­ings at Vir­gin­ia Tech and the dangers of the staph in­fec­tion MRSA. He also brought Beth Hol­lo­way — whose daugh­ter Nat­alee re­mains miss­ing after a trip to Aruba in 2005 — to Coun­cil and called for a boy­cott of the is­land re­sort for its fum­bling of the in­vest­ig­a­tion.

The former coun­cil­man also brought Pro­ject Lifesaver to the city. Chil­dren or eld­erly people with med­ic­al con­di­tions wear a coded brace­let, mak­ing it easi­er for po­lice to find them if they wander away.

“It’s already saved a couple of lives,” he said.

As for the fu­ture, he plans to spend time at a new va­ca­tion home in Cape May County, N.J. He and wife, Kathy, are look­ing for­ward to a trip to Hawaii in the spring. And they’ll vis­it their four adult chil­dren, all of whom live out­side the area.

“I’ll have the time,” he said.


Al­though re­tired, he’ll stay act­ive on the polit­ic­al scene. He views Mitt Rom­ney as the strongest Re­pub­lic­an pres­id­en­tial can­did­ate. He counts Demo­crat­ic Coun­cil­man Bill Green as a cap­able con­tender for may­or in 2015. And he hopes the state and na­tion­al GOP make ef­forts to boost the strug­gling Phil­adelphia Re­pub­lic­an City Com­mit­tee.

Kelly isn’t es­pe­cially close to the two new at-large Re­pub­lic­ans, Denny O’Bri­en and Dav­id Oh.

Still, he thinks O’Bri­en’s long­time sup­port for aut­ist­ic chil­dren will lead him to sup­port Pro­ject Lifesaver and he likes Oh’s fo­cus on a friendly busi­ness cli­mate.

“I wish them both well,” he said.

Look­ing ahead, he wants to see Phil­adelphia be­come the first big city on the East Coast to ad­opt a “no kill” policy for an­im­als.

Oth­er big is­sues the city faces, he said, are real es­tate as­sess­ments and pen­sions. Lower busi­ness taxes are a must in his opin­ion.

“It’s amaz­ing that any­body is in­ter­ested in com­ing to Phil­adelphia to start a busi­ness,” he said.

Kelly fought to re­open the so-called “mini-City Hall” at 9239 Roosevelt Blvd. and wants to see its ser­vices ex­pan­ded.

Over­all, he’s hope­ful that loc­al Coun­cil mem­bers fight for the North­east.

“I’d like to see the North­east get its fair share,” he said ••


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