Rendell’s Candid Remarks Wide-Ranging

July 2011Articles Philadelphia Bar Reporter
Former Pennsylvania Gov. Edward G. Rendell discussed everything from the NFL lockout to the upcoming presidential race during his keynote remarks at the June 10 Federal Bench-Bar Conference at the Rittenhouse Hotel.

Gov. Rendell spoke candidly about whom he would nominate to run for president in the upcoming election if he were running the Republican Party – the safe ticket. Although he acknowledged President Obama has done well considering the problems he inherited, Gov. Rendell believes a race between President Obama and Mitt Romney or Tim Pawlenty would be tough. Such an election, Gov. Rendell opined, would be a referendum on President Obama’s time in office, which may prove difficult when unemployment is at 9 percent and the economy continues to struggle. Gov. Rendell suggested that President Obama might prevail in an election against Sarah Palin or Michele Bachman.

Gov. Rendell also spoke regarding the problems with the confirmation of U.S. Supreme Court justices. When asked how he would end the problems surrounding the confirmation hearings, Gov. Rendell stated he would place a time limit on the hearings and give the Senate 90 days to vote; otherwise, the nominee would be deemed confirmed.

With respect to more local matters, Gov. Rendell fielded questions from attendees about the Philadelphia school district’s budget crisis and Philadelphia’s controversial pension program known as DROP. He said that the quality of the educational system in Philadelphia is the key to the continuing vitality of the city. Recognizing that the city has made dramatic progress in the last decade, including the establishment of the School Reform System, and that Pennsylvania leads the nation in student achievement he stated that the fiscal crisis creates a serious question mark as to whether the city can continue such progress. If he were mayor, Gov. Rendell said that to solve the school district’s budget crisis he would raise property taxes. However, he would attach a sunset clause that would roll the tax increase back to the current level in three years or when revenue growth exceeds 3.5 percent in the city. “Some things are worth paying for,” he said.

Sharing his thoughts on the DROP program, Gov. Rendell said the program was a significant mistake. He never believed elected officials would use the program and said the purpose of DROP is to replace older employees no longer functioning effectively to retire and replace them with younger employees who the city could train and promote for the future at a lower salary level. The use of the program by elected officials, he noted, is a true perversion of the program. Although the program could have worked, he believes it has been perverted so badly that it needs to be eliminated.

On a lighter note, Gov. Rendell predicted that the NFL lockout will end and the football season will start on time. In addition, Gov. Rendell told attendees that he would gladly accept a nomination to run for commissioner of Major League Baseball, and, if elected, would serve.