When City Council mainstay Anna Verna retires at year’s end, council will not only need to elect a new president, but the legislative body itself will look very different than it does today.
“I always said I would go when the time was right to step down. The time has come,” said Verna, at a brief press conference in Council Chambers yesterday afternoon. Her city employment started as Richardson Dilworth’s office assistant in 1951. “I’ve done what I wanted to accomplish.”
Including three council members elected to first terms in 2008, at least seven of 17 will be legislative underclassmen since Jack Kelly, Joan Krajewski and Donna Reed Miller also aren’t seeking re-election. “A lot of good things can come from new people,” Verna said.
The city’s longest-standing councilwoman and first female Council President, Verna, 79, became the face of the much-maligned DROP program when calling for a financial study to follow-up a study, commissioned by Mayor Nutter, which found it already cost the city $258 million. She will receive a $584,777 lump-sum payment.
Council members currently seeking re-election despite intentions to collect DROP payments – which is developing into a major campaign issue – are Frank DiCicco, Frank Rizzo and Marian Tasco. When asked whether DROP played a role in her decision, Verna said, “Absolutely, unequivocally not. No, no, no, no.”
Verna cited legislation freezing property taxes for seniors “until the house was sold, or they passed away” as a memorable accomplishment. When asked whether she’d endorse a successor, Verna answered, “Certainly not today.”
Fresh voices wanted
After Verna’s announcement, first-termers Maria Quinones-Sanchez and Bill Green said they tried meeting with “every living former managing director” to help learn City Hall’s intricacies.
“It offered a chance to make an immediate impact,” Green said. “Four new sets of eyes are going to be invigorating.”
Added Sanchez: “Joining in the same spirit that we did can lead to … breaking down barriers.”
Attorney Damon K. Roberts, 40, is the only candidate currently in the 2nd District race. He thanked Verna, who beat him in the 2007 primary, for her service yesterday while noting “she did the right thing, which she signed up to do” through DROP.
“Four years ago, voters wanted change. That desire is at an even-higher level now,” said Roberts, of 17th and Reed streets. “We were planning to address the issues [of dropout rates, abandoned properties, safe and clean streets] and definitely have a head start on other people.”
The “other people” who political insiders mention as potential candidates are state Rep. Kenyatta Johnson, Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority executive director Terry Gillen, realtor Barbara Capozzi, Councilman Green’s director of constituent services Marita Crawford and Councilman-at-Large James Kenney.