The Committee of Seventy

The Committee of Seventy, Philadelphia's Century-old, non-partisan government watchdog organization, began an occasional series of reports in 2009 called "Roadmap to Reform." President Zack Stalberg and Vice President Ellen Mattleman Kaplan asked me to help research and write the first report, and I continued to assist them on various projects. I worked there full time in 2010 and 2011 until moving back to the West Coast. I continue to produce their in-house weekly news briefings for board members.

"In the Know" I wrote, edited, and distributed these easy-to-read explainers on important and complex topics as Deputy Policy Director. Major topics included the Family Court scandal, trouble at the Delaware River Port Authority, and the volatile controversy over the DROP retirement program. I use the formula to develop and execute the successful "Election 2010" collaboration with, the website of the Philadelphia Inquirer and Daily News.

Tackling True Reform, Fall 2009 The City of Philadelphia is losing a valuable chance to make real and lasting reforms in the face of the unprecedented budget crisis, according to the Committee of Seventy. An extensive report looks at ways the City could meet the fiscal crisis with more than just budget cuts and layoffs, instead looking at ways to substantially streamline the bloated bureaucracy and aging government infrastructure in ways that would produce savings and promote better governance even in good times. Ideas ranged from eliminating redundant offices (a longtime goal of the Committee of Seventy) to better uses of technology to track and collect revenue and to replace eliminated staff positions. My part of the report was to find specific examples, outlined at the end of each section, where other cities, states and federal agencies had responded to hard financial times with creative long-term solutions.

Philadelphia's Long, Hot Summer, Summer 2009 Philadelphia's budget crisis forced the city to face some stark choices. As time ticked away to the end of the fiscal year, City Council and the Mayor struggled with a series of unpleasant options on how to plug a $1.4 billion deficit over five years - would the city raise taxes? Lay off workers? Close libraries and pools? The crisis came at the same time the city was negotiating new contracts with its unions and struggling to shore up the pension system, which has desperately underfunded. Compounding the turmoil was the state's own budget crisis, which delayed consideration of several plans the city had to balance the budget but which required General Assembly approval. To explain the complex mess, the Committee of Seventy prepared a detailed Q&A to lay out the issues and solutions in the simplest possible language. I researched the city's budget in depth and prepared the first draft, connecting the budget, pension, and union issues in a coherent picture. I then coordinated closely on subsequent editing and updates.

Needless Jobs: Why Six Elected Positions Should Die, March 17, 2009 As part of his proposals to close the city's yawning budget deficit, Mayor Michael Nutter proposed eliminating at least some of the elected "Row Offices," a series of obscure judicial and administrative officials, and move their functions into the regular city and court administrations. The Committee of Seventy came out in favor of this change and turned to me to help research how these offices came to exist, what function they performed, and how other cities and states administer similar offices. Working as part of a team of lawyers and Committee of Seventy staff, I helped write and edit the report, which became the second in the "Roadmap to Reform' series, and formulate details of the Committee of Seventy's recommendations. The report generated considerable press attention, including from the Daily News and the Inquirer, and the report's conclusions were endorsed editorially by the Inquirer the next day.

A Roadmap to Reform, Jan. 10, 2009 When the Committee of Seventy testified before the mayor's commission on campaign finance and ethics reforms, they turned to me to produce an 80-page briefing book detailing their top proposals to refine and improve the sometimes sketchy ethics laws in the corruption-plagued city. I was the lead writer and did considerable research in producing the briefing book, in cooperation with Committee staff and lawyers.




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