Stirring the local political pot
by Mark Segal
Apr 25, 2013 | 1281 views | 1 1 comments | 32 32 recommendations | email to a friend | print
For my readers nationwide, this may not be of interest to you since it’s a local political story. On the other hand, it might serve to point out issues that all of our communities endure as we grow and find differences — and, more importantly, the way we deal with them. Hopefully we can agree to disagree.

Our political issue this year in Philadelphia is the city controller’s race. The incumbent is most likely the most boring man in political history, Alan Butkovitz …

His main challenger is a smooth-talking “progressive” named Brett Mandel. Problem is, he’s really not a progressive, since the progressive organizations want no part of him. Progressive political groups Philly For Change, Progressive Democratic Caucus and Philadelphia Neighborhood Networks did not endorse him. He also lost the endorsement in the wards in Chestnut Hill — a liberal bastion — and the 30th Ward, a gentrified LGBT neighborhood. Butkovitz has the support of the Democratic City Committee. Thus far, of the 69 wards in the city, Mandel has a total of one.

This is a rematch. Four years ago, Mandel came in third place. So, how is this an LGBT issue? And was it a miscalculation of Mandel’s supporters to make LGBT an issue, since the candidate’s record is not so good?

It should be noted that Philadelphia’s Liberty City Democratic Club, an LGBT organization, did endorse him — but that came at a cost, as the debate at Liberty City’s meeting started an examination of Mandel’s tactics. Even more embarrassing, the morning after Liberty City made its endorsement, the Philadelphia Daily News ran a story about Mandel going from city office to city office demanding a job. And despite that his main campaign issue has been the Sheriff’s Office and patronage in city employment, he had to admit to the Daily News that he asked the sheriff for a $150,000-per-year job (more than the sheriff makes). Then he tried the controller’s office.

But we’ll leave the smoke-filled back rooms to Mandel and Butkovitz. For this column, let’s look at issue one: muscling out the LGBT candidate. Like four years ago, when Mandel came in third place, this year there were several candidates in the running, including Butkovitz, Mandel, Mark Zecca and Michael Williams. If you’re a progressive candidate, you should feel you can win the election on merits. Otherwise, you toss mud. And the Mandel campaign and/or its supporters did just that to Williams — an out lawyer who has served the city in public life for more than 20 years. When Mandel’s people weren’t tossing mud to get Williams out of the race, they labeled him a spoiler. The gay African-American attorney with 20-years’ experience is a spoiler? Against the third-rate candidate of four years ago?

But here’s the real lowdown: When Williams tried to rent a room at the William Way LGBT Community Center — our community’s home — a supporter and close friend of Mandel called the center’s executive director and threatened that he’d call the IRS and request an audit, claiming the center was getting involved in politics.

Renting a room is not politics, and trying to stir up trouble that way is sleazy. It was brought up at Liberty City, and no one from the Mandel campaign has apologized.

Mandel owes this community an apology for attempting to put our community center in the crosshairs.

Mark Segal, PGN publisher, is the nation’s most-award-winning commentator in LGBT media. He can be reached at

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April 27, 2013
Mark, I couldn't agree with you more. Brett, while a nice guy, is a fraud. He is too right wing to even be considered a pro-business Democrat, the only difference between him and a Tea Party is that he doesn't think LGBT people are yucky.

He supports the elimination of business taxes. While I do believe that Philadelphia's tax system is busted, and that a decrease in the sales and wage tax and increase on luxury, investment, and profits tax may be necessary, his trickle down economics would be bad for a struggling city.

Furthermore, he is the ARCHITECT OF AVI, which basically screws over my part of town. I am lucky to live in a relatively safe part of South Philly for $300 a month, but that still eats up a good percentage of my income. I do not want to move out of South Philly, it is the only part of town I feel safe in AND can afford. Butkovitz is right, the AVI will throw poor people (WHICH INCLUDES THE TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY) out of their homes.

Also, he is Mr. Privatization. He wants to sell off PGW, which hurts low income communities (WHICH INCLUDES THE TRANSGENDER COMMUNITY). What's next, selling off our schools, our parks, hell, if Brett Mandel had his way, I would have to purchase insurance from Blue Cross Constabulary.

And lets also talk about Michael P. Williams. He is a sweet man. I will always remember how we were part of the dream team that made the LGBT overhaul bill possible. I was actually a supporter of Mandel's before I woke up with a hangover, and I know firsthand how much his people were mean to him.

And concerning Liberty City, two months before Mandel got their endorsement, we had a platform convention. I was proud to serve on the core committee along with 3 other great progressive minds. What resulted was one of the most progressive platforms ever; many planks which would lift up marginalized communities and which sought social justice and economic empowerment, and we managed to get some hostile amendments removed.

Many of the good people who voted to ratify this progressive platform voted for Mandel, these people, in their hearts are really progressive minded individuals (I consider many of them friends) who think Mandel's economic ideas stink, yet, out of a sense of "reform", they vote for one of the most REGRESSIVE people ever. I know it, they know it, Mandel will be a destructive force.

I got suckered in by Mandel's bulldog budget, which I think is a great idea, but I think that Alan Butkovitz, while not perfect, deserves your vote.