Why am I running for controller? What does the controller do? Those are the two questions most frequently asked of me when I’m speaking with voters. And the answers are not mutually exclusive.
I am running because I believe I am the right person for the job and I want to have a greater impact on the city. I'm proud that Gov. Ed Rendell, when he endorsed me, called me the most qualified candidate for controller in his entire career; however, my real motivation is that our city needs a change. That’s been made increasingly clear in the wake of the 2016 elections. This city, this country and the Democratic Party need more fresh faces, new energy and a return to making government about the people it serves – something that has been lacking in Philadelphia for far too long. And I believe I can be that change here.
My opponent represents the opposite of change. He has been in elected office for 27 years – since I was in high school. He is beholden to an establishment that is more interested in political expediency and rewarding loyalties than the needs of our communities.
And, what’s worse, he doesn’t do his job. For example:
• He does not audit every city department annually as required by the City Charter – and he has publicly admitted as much. I would do this.
• He does not initiate a full independent audit of the Controller’s Office, another unfulfilled requirement of the Charter and something I believe is necessary to ensure that it functions properly. I would do this.
• He has not audited the Parking Authority since 2009. With so many city taxpayer dollars on the line – tens of millions of which are supposed to go to the School District of Philadelphia – the Parking Authority should be audited much more regularly. I would do this. If it had been audited over the last seven years by my opponent, perhaps much of the corruption and scandals that have become emblematic of the Authority would have been avoided. He is too timid to take on real challenges, enabling ongoing waste of millions of taxpayer dollars.
In the last week, the incumbent has cited $800 million in savings for the city. These so-called savings have never been realized; they are merely the aggregate of what he has claimed to find in audits and reports over his 11 years in office. In fact, just last week, he said his office found only $116 million in savings – a mere fraction of the $800 million claim.
He says he rooted out corruption auditing the Mayor’s Fund. To be clear, I think it’s great that organization was reviewed – it clearly needed auditing. But why didn’t he audit the fund years ago, instead of waiting until after Mayor Nutter was no longer in office?
I am different. I believe in this city and all of its potential, and I want to make sure we are heading in the right direction. The best way to do that is by working as collaboratively, transparently and efficiently as possible. My background working for two Philadelphia mayors after leaving my job on Wall Street in New York provides me with the financial knowledge and ability to do this job – and do it the right way.
As Philadelphia City Controller, I will focus on rooting out fraud and focusing on efficiencies, modernizing city operations to save taxpayer dollars. I believe I can save a minimum of $10 million per year - real money that can go toward our schools, parks, rec centers and other important community services. I believe strongly in government transparency and the need for the City Controller to take a more active role in the call for publishing data sets and releasing government information to the public. Increased transparency will undoubtedly lead to savings because the public will be able to see how the city is spending its money. Residents and businesses deserve to know what their government is spending its money on; increased transparency builds trust between government and people.
And because I am not beholden to anyone, save the residents of Philadelphia, I have the independence and follow-through necessary to make these commitments a reality.
For many, the job of city controller – to eliminate waste and find savings across all city departments to make government work better – might sound boring. But for me, this office is vital to the well being of the city, and I am invigorated by the possibilities to help Philadelphians offered by the position.
That’s why I’m running for controller.
I hope all Philadelphia voters go to the polls on Election Day, May 16, to vote for the candidate they believe will best do this essential work on their behalf; they deserve nothing less.
Rebecca Rhynhart is a candidate for the Democratic nomination for Philadelphia City Controller.