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Seventy Urges City Commissioner Anthony Clark Not to Seek Reelection in 2015

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Contact:  Ellen Mattleman Kaplan
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Seventy Urges City Commissioner Anthony Clark Not to Seek Reelection in 2015
Says Failure to Vote for Three Years is Astonishing

PHILADELPHIA – October 9, 2014 – The Committee of Seventy, a non-partisan watchdog whose mission includes fighting for honest elections and increased access to voting, today urged City Commissioner Chairman Anthony Clark not to seek reelection in 2015 if he cannot disprove a report in Philadelphia City Paper that he has not voted in almost three years.  

This week’s edition of Philadelphia City Paper reported that Clark has not voted in person or by absentee ballot since the 2011 general election, according to city voting records. Clark was first elected in 2007 and ran for reelection in 2011.

“It’s astonishing that the head of the board that oversees Philadelphia’s elections doesn’t vote,” said Ellen Kaplan, Seventy’s Interim President and CEO. “Clark should be the first to set an example for city voters about the importance of voting. He can’t credibly deliver this message when he doesn’t vote himself.”

Kaplan said that if Clark cannot disprove reports of his failure to vote, or explain his voting record, he should not seek reelection in 2015. “I’m confident there is no shortage of people who are passionate about voting and would never miss an election to take his place,” she said.

According to Kaplan, Seventy is already concerned about the operations of the City Commissioners’ office during the busy 2015 municipal elections. The Pennsylvania Election Code requires the President Judge of the Philadelphia Court of Common Pleas to appoint a replacement for any City Commissioner running for reelection. Kaplan said Seventy already sent a letter to President Judge Sheila Woods-Skipper to urge replacements who are only high-qualified and independent but also able to devote significant time to their elections-related duties during the 2015 municipal elections.  

Seventy also sent letters to Commissioner Clark and his two colleagues – City Commissioners Al Schmidt and Stephanie Singer – asking them to reduce their salary by a reasonable amount in 2015 if they intended to run for reelection. “For the Commissioners to continue to earn a full-time salary, while they are not working full-time, would be a slap in the face to city taxpayers, thousands of whom are unemployed and receiving no salary or benefits,” said Kaplan in Seventy’s letter. 

Clark, who earns $134,149 annually as the Chairman of the City Commissioners, has not responded to Seventy’s request or revealed whether he will seek re-election in 2015. City Commissioner Schmidt, who earns $125,207 annually, told Seventy he already takes a 10% salary reduction and, if he decides to run for reelection in 2015, will increase his reduction to 25% and decline the 2015 cost-of-living adjustment. Commissioner Singer, who also earns $125,207 annually, has not responded to Seventy but told City Paper she has no plans to reduce her salary. Singer has already declared her intention to seek re-election in 2015.

Kaplan observed that any discussion about replacements to the City Commissioners or salary reductions would be moot if Philadelphia eliminated partisan elections of City Commissioners. “Seventy has long supported replacing three independently elected City Commissioners with an appointed elections professional like other 21st century cities,” she said, referring to Seventy’s 2009 “Needless Jobs” report

“But elected or appointed, the people who run elections should vote,” she concluded.

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The Committee of Seventy is a non-partisan government watchdog fighting for clean and effective government, fair elections and informed citizens. For more information, see www.seventy.org.