Since 1999, Councilwoman Blondell Reynolds Brown has been a staunch advocate for Philadelphia's children. She was one of the city's leading forces in the much needed merger of the parks and recreation departments. A former dancer/company member of Philadanco, Reynolds Brown has been an important voice for the city's arts and cultural communities, and, to this day, she remains active as an ex-officio member of Philadanco's board. Her menu-labeling legislation, requiring chain restaurants to post nutritional and calorie information, has helped to disqualify Philadelphia as one of the fattest cities in America.
That is the Blondell Reynolds Brown that has been a champion to Philadelphians.
But there is another Blondell Reynolds Brown. That is the one who is expected and required to complete accurate and thorough campaign finance reports, where she abides by the law. That Reynolds Brown is not looking so good right now. Only days ago considered to be a front runner in 2015 to become Philadelphia's first female mayor (and its first African-American female mayor), Reynolds Brown is now in the fight of her political life.
This is not Reynolds Brown's first brush with the Board of Ethics. In a candidates' debate sponsored by WHYY in 2011, she admitted in this audio that there's "simply no excuse – we have responsibility to read the documents that come before us. No matter how busy we are, we have to take the time to read before we sign and then to make sure that they are filed on time."
Daily News columnist Christine Flowers shared with me on my open Facebook page thread: "Citing an 'error in judgment' will get you dispensation from a Catholic priest. It is insufficient to excuse what amounts to an ethical violation. Of course, in this city, ethics are optional."
Former City Council candidate and 2015 GOP mayoral hopeful Joe McColgan sent me this in an email: "Mayor Nutter should call for her resignation from City Council entirely, and at the very least he should call on her to relinquish her leadership role on council. Frankly, the entire Council should be doing the same, Republican and Democrat alike. If they don't, we can only assume all the conversation regarding ethics and transparency and reform over the past few years has been nothing more than a lie."
That sounds pretty mayoral to me.
Too many surveys are telling us that the public doesn't trust politicians and that the trust is at an all time low. We are tired of politicians who say, "Do what I say and not what I do." People take notice when politicians exempt themselves from the laws they create.
When Richard Nixon was implicated in Watergate, he had a choice. He could have called in the military and had them protect him from being removed from office. But he didn't do that because this is America – not a banana republic. Americans have a cultural norm of behaving a certain way. Rather than using the army or the police to shield one from physical removal of office, American politicians respect and employ the cultural norm of stepping down when it's time to move on.
The people that contributed to Reynolds Brown's campaign expected that money to be used for the purpose of her reelection. She has admitted that some wasn't used that way. Average Philadelphians who read about this sad case may never again feel comfortable financing candidates' elections. That's unfortunate – because this is not the time, in Philadelphia or in Washington – when we can accept the public's erosion of confidence in government.