Last week, some 2,000 Philadelphia houses went up for auction in a sheriff's sale program that sheriff candidate John Kromer describes as "one of the most opaque processes you can imagine."
According to Kromer, a former director of housing under Mayor Ed Rendell, the way houses are auctioned off is "a mystery to the uninitiated," in which parcel numbers — not addresses — are rattled off and only insiders can navigate the proceedings. "Meanwhile, there are some people in the room who will sell you information. ... The result is you have to pay somebody or call an elected official."
Kromer, along with Mayor Michael Nutter, thinks this all will be made more transparent only if the sheriff's office is consolidated as a city department, instead of an independently elected office. Thus Kromer is campaigning to be the "Last Sheriff" in order to abolish the office; and Nutter recently wrangled out a Memorandum of Understanding with Acting Sheriff Barbara Deeley that gives the city temporary control of the sheriff's financial accounts, after an audit by City Controller Alan Butkovitz uncovered questional financial practices.
But Democratic machine favorite state Rep. Jewell Williams disagrees that the sheriff should be folded into the city — and, according to Kromer campaign manager Dave Zega, told a recent ward meeting that he would not renew the MOU with the city. Williams campaign manager Harriet Lessy denies that, saying that Williams simply wants to wait and see how the current agreement works out. —Isaiah Thompson
It turns out that 8th Council District candidate Cindy Bass' campaign has employed two people close to former political corruption scandals.
Last week, it came out during an interview with Bass opponent Robin Tasco by G-Town Radio's Ed Feldman that Bass' campaign had hired Steven Vaughn, a former aide to Councilwoman Donna Reed Miller. Vaughn pleaded guilty in 2005 in a pay-to-play scandal. Tasco, in the same show, claimed that Vaughn tried to bribe her to drop out.
Then, City Paper found that Bass' campaign had hired Sabir Hameen, who's lived with Theresa Pinkett, another former Miller aide who pleaded guilty to bribery — suggesting to some that Bass is not the political outsider they want. Bass spokesman Joe Corrigan calls this news "a distraction." He says that in a city with "300,000 convicted felons," it's important to involve them — and those close to them. "Part of Cindy's platform is giving people a second chance," says Corrigan. —Holly Otterbein