Race for Controller: Alan Butkovitz
by Angela Thomas
May 16, 2013 | 1595 views | 0 0 comments | 308 308 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Alan Butkovitz has served as city controller of Philadelphia since 2005 and is looking to continue his tenure overseeing the city’s financial direction.

Butkovitz said he has worked to create an inclusive working environment in his office, and that the department itself has supported an array of pro-LGBT legislative efforts.

“On the pension board, we approved a measure that allowed the transfer of inheritance rights to a gay partner. We support all the legislative efforts. We’re for gay marriage — for all equality and freedom measures,” he said. “We have tried to make it clear in our office that this is a protected environment and people will not face these whispering campaigns or these bullying efforts for being who they are.”

Butkovitz, who has out LGBT staffers in his office, said he recommitted himself to fostering a safe work environment in the controller’s office after an incident last year in which an office staffer was harassed for his orientation.

“It caused quite an internal and external battle,” he said. “He went through a series of incidents. It culminated last year with somebody writing on a bathroom wall a very graphic description of a sex act between him and somebody that was a contractor in our office, and we did an extensive investigation and we imposed sensitivity training as a result of it.”

Despite the challenging financial time the city has faced, Butkovitz said his office has implemented aggressive tax-collection policies and made use of a 1937 law that allows the city controller to garnish wages of city workers who were not paying taxes — which he said resulted in the collection of $2.5 million.

Butkovitz was also proud to have recommended more than $800 million in savings and efficiencies, which he said resulted, in part, in better rescue-squad services.

Butkovitz said he has worked hard to make the office more transparent by keeping up with the latest technology.

“Everything is online. We inherited a primitive website, so we built the website up and everything is on it,” he said. “We have developed this watchdog mobile app so that people can take pictures if there is evidence of fraud or evidence of failure of city services. There is a GPS function on it, so you can send it to our office and we have investigators who follow up on it.”

The office also tries to find other unique ways to be more present and open in the city.

“We have issued hundreds of reports all with detailed recommendations, we do opinion editorials and we’re in the community all the time,” he said. “Take the property-tax assessment. We have been analyzing it and making it understandable for many years. What we try and do is make sure we focus on all the issues.”

Butkovitz, who was born and raised in Philadelphia, said that, while the city is a leader, it’s also a municipality in which government leaders can truly be in touch with constituents.

“It’s enough of a big city that it has characteristics of New York City, Washington, D.C., and Chicago, and you can do things to scale but it is also small-town — you can get to know everybody in a particular issue, area or community. You can geographically make it around the city and it is one where you can break in and have that opportunity for upward mobility.”

If he’s reelected as controller, Butkovitz said, he would hold accountable agencies that discriminate against any community, including the LGBT community.

“The controller’s role is to implement the rules that have been passed by council, and the thing that we can do is that, where there is an indication that the letter of the law is not being lived up to or there is some kind of discriminatory practice in effect, to do an audit of those functions and where there is evidence of some unlawful discrimination, we would pursue that through an audit,” he said. “Philly is good on LGBT issues on paper, so if there is a problem, it is mostly likely a failure to adhere to what the rules on paper say.”

Butkovitz said LGBTs can be confident he would work for the betterment of the city as a whole.

“The LGBT community has the same interests as every other Philadelphian — in the functioning of the city, they need somebody competent who is committed to progressive decisions.”

For more information on Butkovitz, visit www.alanbutkovitz.com.

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