Mark Zecca said Philadelphia needs an independent, reform-minded city controller and is urging voters to discard two-term incumbent Alan Butkovitz.
Zecca also believes he, not Brett Mandel, has the independence and reform ideas to best run the office.
“Alan is a ward leader and is too conflicted, and Brett is a phony reformer,” he said. “I’d be the real reformer.”
Zecca, 60, is making his first run for office. He, Butkovitz and Mandel are running in a three-way Democratic primary on May 21. Terry Tracy is unopposed on the Republican side.
Butkovitz served 15 years as a state representative before being elected controller in 2005. Mandel challenged the incumbent in 2009.
Zecca was hoping for an alternative in 2013.
“We just can’t continue with Alan, but I couldn’t support Brett,” he said.
In the end, Zecca became the alternative.
As a child, Zecca lived on the 3500 block of Bleigh Ave. in Mayfair and attended Forrest Elementary School for kindergarten and St. Matthew Grammar School in first and second grade.
The family moved to Dorchester Road in the Far Northeast, and Zecca attended Our Lady of Calvary and A.L. FitzPatrick before moving on to George Washington High School (class of 1970), where he was student council president and on the cross country and track and field teams.
Zecca graduated from the University of Pennsylvania with a history/sociology degree. He went on to graduate from Temple Law School. He’s a former assistant district attorney and city law department attorney.
At the federal level, he worked for 15 years in Washington, employed by the House Judiciary Committee, the Department of Justice and the Department of Health and Human Services.
Today, he lives in Center City. To join the race, he left his job with the law department, where he served from 1992 to 2012.
“I’ve spent my career trying to make government work for the people,” he said.
At the law department, he battled the likes of the NRA, SEPTA and the state legislature, and was involved in issues such as the prison cap and casinos.
“I was the fighter in the law department,” he said.
The name Zecca is familiar to oldtimers. His father, Tony, was a deputy mayor under James Tate and Frank L. Rizzo. When Rizzo tried to return to City Hall in 1983, ‘87 and ‘91, the elder Zecca was part of the campaign.
In fact, it was Tony Zecca who found Rizzo lying on the bathroom floor of his campaign headquarters in 1991. He was the one who called Carmella Rizzo to tell her about her husband’s condition. He held the intravenous in the ambulance on the way to Thomas Jefferson University Hospital. And he announced Rizzo’s death to the assembled media.
Tony Zecca died in 2011.
If elected, Mark Zecca wouldn’t resign to seek another office. Butkovitz is rumored as a possible candidate for mayor in 2015. Zecca also vows to serve only one four-year term.
“I don’t think any controller should have a third term,” he said.
Zecca supports the city’s move to assess properties at their actual value, but would not implement the policy until a “tax cap protection” was put in place.
“That would be guaranteeing every single Philadelphian that their taxes would not go up any year more than that percentage,” he said.
Zecca dismisses Butkovitz for being a mere “minor irritation” to Mayor Michael Nutter and Mandel for having no track record.
In office, Zecca said he would provide the leadership and supervision to stop fraud, waste and abuse. He knows city agencies from his two decades in the law department.
City departments will have to prove that their purchases are valid before he’d approve payment.
“I’ll stop the checks,” he said. “We need a controller who’s not going to be nice.”
Zecca believes the election will come down to a two-man race between him and Butkovitz, and he likes the reaction he is getting from voters.
“The people don’t think Alan deserves a third term and they don’t trust Brett,” he said. “I don’t have as much money as the other two guys, but an informed public beats money and patronage every single time.” ••
Reporter Tom Waring can be reached at 215-354-3034 or firstname.lastname@example.org