Zecca urges voters to unseat Butkovitz in city controller race

Meet the man: Mark Zecca stands in front of City Hall on Monday. MARIA POUCH­NIKOVA / TIMES PHO­TOS

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 twar­ing@bsmphilly.com

You can reach at twaring@bsmphilly.com.

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