When the most competitive challenger in a City Council race acknowledges that the incumbent councilwoman has done a good job, it hardly helps to make the case for turning her out of office.

That's not to say Democratic Council hopeful Ray Jones Jr. - cofounder of the antiviolence group Men United for a Better Philadelphia - doesn't think he can bring fresh ideas and a new vigor to representing Council's Ninth District, which spans West Oak Lane, Olney and Logan.

Jones, a former community coordinator for the city's Neighborhood Transformation Initiative, would bring both a passion for reform and an analytical eye to city affairs.

Standing in Jones' path, however, is that capable councilwoman. The Inquirer endorses MARIAN B. TASCO. She has been a moderate voice on Council, chairing the committee on health and human services. Her good working relationship with former Councilman Michael Nutter would bode well for a Nutter administration.

During her current four-year term, Tasco, 69, made important votes to sustain progressive tax cuts. Last year, she resurrected and pushed through Nutter's ban on indoor smoking - a measure that's made Philadelphia both a healthier workplace and more attractive to visitors. During her previous term, Tasco led a brave fight to rein in high-cost home mortgage lenders that were contributing to widespread foreclosures.

Tasco knows her district well, down to such nitty-gritty issues as residents' demands for more city help in repairing those "driveways" that flank the back of district homes.

Longtime social worker Cecil A. Hankins and a seldom-seen fourth candidate, Lamont Thomas, appear less ready than Jones to replace Tasco.

If accorded another term, the councilwoman will need to use it to reassure her constituents that she's still fully engaged and ready to continue as a voice for progressive policies.