Northeast Times

Mandel is back on the campaign trail

When Brett Man­del ran for city con­trol­ler in 2009, he said the cam­paign op­er­ated on hustle and mox­ie.

In that cam­paign, he took 28 per­cent of the vote to fin­ish third in a three-way Demo­crat­ic primary. In­cum­bent Alan Butkovitz pre­vailed with 42 per­cent, while John Brax­ton re­ceived 30 per­cent.

Man­del is back this year to chal­lenge Butkovitz again, with Mark Zecca also in the race. Re­pub­lic­an Terry Tracy is un­op­posed in the May 21 primary.

Man­del de­scribed his cam­paign as more pro­fes­sion­al, or­gan­ized, fun­ded and planned than four years ago.

“That’s the biggest dif­fer­ence,” he said dur­ing a re­cent in­ter­view at Tiffany Diner. “The cam­paign is pro­fes­sion­al in every way. We have a ter­rif­ic plan in place.”

Man­del, 43, grew up on the 1600 block of Nap­fle St. in Rhawn­hurst. He at­ten­ded Rhawn­hurst Ele­ment­ary School, Wilson Middle School and North­east High School (class of 1987).

Man­del gradu­ated with a pub­lic policy de­gree from Hamilton Col­lege (N.Y.) and earned a mas­ter’s in gov­ern­ment­al ad­min­is­tra­tion from Penn’s Fels School of Gov­ern­ment.

Today, the mar­ried fath­er of three lives on the 2300 block of Lom­bard St. in Fitler Square.

Sports are a pas­sion of his. A week­end war­ri­or, he’s writ­ten two books on base­ball and serves as com­mis­sion­er of a men’s base­ball league. He’ll host a cam­paign fun­draiser at the May 2 Phil­lies game.

A former dir­ect­or of the fin­an­cial and policy ana­lys­is unit in the city con­trol­ler’s of­fice un­der Jonath­an Saidel, he vows to audit every gov­ern­ment agency to root out waste and cor­rup­tion and use the sav­ings to in­vest in pub­lic edu­ca­tion, safety and clean streets.

As an ex­ample, he said it was “not ac­cept­able” that the city spent $17,000 last year buy­ing and ser­vi­cing type­writers.

“We have to in­vest in the tech­no­logy of this cen­tury,” he said.

The can­did­ate’s ex­per­i­ence also in­cludes serving on the city Tax Re­form Com­mis­sion and start­ing the non­profit Phil­adelphia For­ward, which ad­voc­ated lower busi­ness and wage taxes and en­act­ment of eth­ics re­forms. And he was ex­ec­ut­ive dir­ect­or of the Na­tion­al Edu­ca­tion Tech­no­logy Fund­ing Cor­por­a­tion, which helped loc­al pub­lic school dis­tricts fin­ance school con­struc­tion and renov­a­tion.

On his first day in of­fice, he said he would be­gin to post all city pay­ments on­line so res­id­ents can see where their tax money is be­ing spent.

In Janu­ary, he un­veiled a web­site that con­tained in­form­a­tion on budgets for city de­part­ments.

“That’s the kind of in­form­a­tion we need to make bet­ter choices and build a bet­ter Phil­adelphia,” he said.

A diner cus­tom­er walk­ing by his table wanted to know why he has a pic­ture of a bull­dog on his cam­paign lit­er­at­ure.

“I will be your budget bull­dog,” he told the wo­man.

Man­del, an 8th Ward com­mit­tee­man who turns 44 on May 10, doesn’t have much sup­port among the Demo­crat­ic Party hier­archy. That be­longs to the in­cum­bent.

Still, he is at least on pace with Butkovitz when it comes to rais­ing money.

As he greeted diners, he handed the adults a cam­paign bro­chure and the kids tem­por­ary tat­toos.

Com­ments from diners in­cluded one about ban­ning pi­geon shoot­ing, and an­oth­er about elec­ted of­fi­cials en­rolling in the city’s De­ferred Re­tire­ment Op­tion Plan and run­ning for an­oth­er term.

One wo­man com­plained that City Hall doesn’t know the North­east ex­ists. An­oth­er wo­man whose fi­ance is a fire­man cri­ti­cized May­or Mi­chael Nut­ter’s re­peated ap­peals of Loc­al 22’s ar­bit­ra­tion con­tract. Man­del earned the vote of a man who’s a mu­tu­al friend of prom­in­ent de­veloper and Ox­ford Circle nat­ive Carl Dranoff.

One man, an em­ploy­ee of the city De­part­ment of Li­censes and In­spec­tions, wasn’t too pleased to see “Demo­crat” on Man­del’s lit­er­at­ure.

“I’m go­ing to be watch­ing over a lot of Demo­crats,” the can­did­ate re­spon­ded.

Nobody asked about the city’s new Ac­tu­al Value Ini­ti­at­ive, but Man­del be­lieves it will be an over­all be­ne­fit for North­east res­id­ents who be­lieve they are over­taxed and un­der­served. He re­calls work­ing at Phil­adelphia For­ward and no­ti­cing that a house on Holme Av­en­ue that sold for $88,000 had high­er prop­erty taxes than a home on Saint Al­bans Street in South­w­est Cen­ter City that sold for $480,000.

“We have to fix this prob­lem in real es­tate tax­a­tion,” he said.

In gen­er­al on the cam­paign trail, Man­del said he talks with voters about is­sues such as im­prov­ing schools, re­du­cing crime, con­trolling taxes and mak­ing gov­ern­ment more trans­par­ent.

Four years ago, Man­del lost the North­east’s 14 wards to Butkovitz by a count of 58 per­cent to 27 per­cent. Man­del also has to im­prove his per­form­ance in the river wards, South Phil­adelphia and Roxbor­ough. He did well in Cen­ter City and Uni­versity City. The black vote, which went largely to Brax­ton in 2009, is up for grabs, though Butkovitz took one-third of it four years ago.

Man­del be­lieves he is giv­ing voters a mes­sage they want to hear.

“They’re ex­cited about the things I’m talk­ing about,” he said. “We’re con­nect­ing one-on-one with voters across the city.”

The Home Rule Charter re­quires an audit of every city agency every year.

In prom­ising to do that, Man­del re­called a mid-1990s case where Saidel’s of­fice audited Vet­er­ans Sta­di­um and found that a work­er al­legedly sold more than $34,000 in toi­let pa­per and clean­ing sup­plies.

Man­del also poin­ted to last Novem­ber’s fed­er­al in­dict­ment of a wa­ter de­part­ment mail­room clerk, who al­legedly ordered and sold print­er ink and toner cart­ridges over a six-year peri­od, cost­ing the city $1.3 mil­lion.

“A routine audit should have caught this,” he said.

Man­del be­lieves that Butkovitz is po­s­i­tion­ing him­self to run for may­or in 2015. He prom­ises to serve a full four-year term.

“Alan will not make that prom­ise,” he said. ••

Re­port­er Tom War­ing can be reached at 215-354-3034 or twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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