Three long-term incumbents lost their seats in the May primary — embattled Sheriff Jewell Williams, ten-term Register of Wills Ronald Donatucci, and six-term City Council member Jannie Blackwell. That’s one backdrop to the 10th District Council race in the Northeast, where a first-time candidate, Judy Moore, is attempting to unseat Brian O’Neill, the longest-sitting elected official in Philadelphia.
Council member O’Neill is a titan in Philly politics. He was first elected to City Council in 1979 — the same year his challenger, Judy Moore, was born. To his credit, and unlike many of his peers over the decades, O’Neill’s tenure has been scandal-free. He is less focused on crafting new legislation and more about solving constituents’ complaints, usually in the realm of land use issues. In fact, he is considered a master of the much reviled practice of councilmanic privilege, using his authority to discourage development deals he doesn’t deem suitable for his district. That has given him an outsize influence over the shape of his district.
His focus on constituents limits his view to the trees instead of the forest — the larger and more complex needs of the city. Some of those needs have hit the Northeast hard — schools, rising poverty, opioid addiction, and growing immigrant populations.
We endorse change for the district, in the form of O’Neill’s challenger, Judy Moore. A lifelong resident of the Northeast, Moore, 40, calls herself a moderate. She has seen many of the families that she knew growing up leaving the city in search of jobs and better schools in the suburbs. Improving the city’s public schools is one of her main priorities. She pulled her own kids from public school and depleted their college funds to send them to Catholic school, as a way to stay in the city.
Moore’s candidacy is influenced by her own personal story, beyond her experience of having her first son while a high school senior. Her husband is a police officer and her mother was addicted to drugs. Improving the relationship between the community and law enforcement, as well as providing support to families whose loved ones are struggling with addiction are two of her major priorities.
A hospitality industry executive, Moore doesn’t have experience in government, though she has completed the Emerge training program that aims to inspire and prepare women in Pennsylvania to run for office.
A major point of disagreement between Moore and O’Neill is over term limits. The incumbent opposes term limits, even if he’d be grandfathered in, arguing that elections are the appropriate mechanism to determine how many terms an elected official should serve. On the other hand, Moore argues that holding elected office should be service, and not a career. We agree with Moore, as we argued on these pages before.
Brian O’Neill served his district and constituents well for many decades but it is time to pass the torch. Judy Moore is the right person to represent the 10th District in City Council in this time of both great challenges and great opportunities for the Northeast.