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Deja vu? Candidate No. 2 has been here before

Mayor Nutter is aiming for some better luck in the days ahead in his second attempt to fill a vacancy on the Philadelphia Board of Ethics.

Mayor Nutter is aiming for some better luck in the days ahead in his second attempt to fill a vacancy on the Philadelphia Board of Ethics.

His first pick, Edward Kung, is expected to withdraw this week after City Council members raised questions about Kung's familiarity with the board's history and responsibilities.

Enter choice No. 2: the Rev. Damone B. Jones Sr., pastor of Bible Way Baptist Church in West Philadelphia.

Jones served on the Ethics Board once before, from late 2001 to mid-2004, when the panel functioned solely as an advisory group to Mayor John F. Street.

Oddly enough - or not - Jones was nominated for the Ethics Board again by Street in late 2007, when the former mayor had just 30 days left in office.

At that time, Nutter distanced himself from Jones, backing instead former federal prosecutor Kenya Mann, whose nomination was indeed approved by Council.

So what's changed? Perhaps the mayor.

Jones is a relatively well-known religious and community figure.

"The mayor has known Mr. Jones for years. His church is in his former district," Nutter spokesman Doug Oliver said. "He knows of his personal integrity. He knows of his fairness and his experience with the Ethics Board in the past."

Moreover, Jones also seems to be respected by Council members who know him, and gaining respect from those just meeting him.

It's a point not to be overlooked as Council these days is taking sharp jabs at the Ethics Board, and as Nutter seeks to smooth relations with Council.

It's like that old saying: You can catch more bees with honey.

- Marcia Gelbart

A stand-up guy doing stand-up

If Jonathan Saidel succeeds in his return to the world of politics, the audience for PCN's televised coverage of Pennsylvania Senate floor sessions should swell.

Saidel, the former city controller and a born comic, drew a couple of hundred people to a fund-raiser that doubled as a celebration of his 58th birthday Wednesday night at the Philadelphia Zoo. Serenading Saidel with a chorus of "Happy Birthday to You" outside the Rare Animal Conservation Center, the crowd chipped in $80,000 toward his campaign for the Democratic nomination for lieutenant governor in 2010.

The chief constitutional obligation of the LG, of course, is to preside over the Senate - a dry duty, except perhaps with the gavel in Saidel's hands. He's famous in Philadelphia for being a monster campaigner and cracking jokes.

"He's a stand-up guy, and he will bring a lot of humor to Harrisburg," Councilman Frank DiCicco said, introducing Saidel, for whom he served as a campaign driver 20 years ago.

"I have to lift this up, Frank," Saidel said, adjusting the microphone after the diminutive DiCicco. "It's very sad – such a big man in such a little body." He went on to praise the crowd for its diversity, joking that the large contingent of Irish Americans was only there for the beer.

But seriously, folks . . . Saidel said he misses public service. He told a story from his last days as controller, helping an elderly woman reduce her gas bill by straightening out a billing error. "She kissed my hand and said 'Thank you,' " Saidel said. "All the money in the world is not equivalent to that thank-you."

Saidel was controller for 16 years, but did not seek reelection in 2005 because he was preparing to run for mayor. In the end he stood aside for U.S. Rep. Bob Brady (D., Pa.) in the 2007 primary.

Allegheny County Democratic Chairman Jim Burn flew in for the event, which was also attended by Democratic elected officials from all four suburban counties, as well as a raft of Philadelphia notables, including State Sen. Larry Farnese and Councilmen Bill Green and William K. Greenlee. Organized-labor officials from throughout the region also were well represented.

- Thomas Fitzgerald

Rendell's casino talks irk DiCicco

Short jokes and other slights aside, Councilman Frank DiCicco is not insecure. He exudes a confidence built on decades in city government and politics, and he seems to shrug off insults that might become grudges in another's hands.

Gov. Rendell, however, appears to be an exception, especially when it comes to the subject that has become DiCicco's life - the advent of casinos to Philadelphia.

DiCicco was peeved that Rendell recently met with representatives of Foxwoods Casino to discuss concerns that Foxwoods' planned Center City site did not have enough parking. This after Foxwoods testified before Council that it had ample parking, and Mayor Nutter extolled the virtue of a site so close to public transit.

Foxwoods reportedly had expressed interest in the surface lot across the way at Eighth and Market, also known as the "Disney Hole" for a Disney proposal that never happened, as well as a Philadelphia Parking Authority lot at Eighth and Chestnut.

"I'm not happy that I was not included in those discussions," DiCicco said.

A Foxwoods spokeswoman declined comment; Gov. Rendell's spokesman, Chuck Ardo, did not return a call seeking comment.

DiCicco has rankled Rendell - the chief cheerleader for slot-machine gambling in the state - by holding up, for more than two years, the construction of the SugarHouse and Foxwoods Casinos. DiCicco followed the wishes of a vocal segment of his district, who objected to both casinos primarily for their traffic impacts.

Rendell has, in return, irked DiCicco by shutting him out of important decisions - including the talks last summer that resulted in a new proposal to move Foxwoods from the riverfront to Center City.

- Jeff Shields