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City Council Candidates’ Views on Education: Matthew Wolfe

City Council Candidates’ Views on Education: Matthew Wolfe

Originally Posted By The Notebook on March 16, 2015. Please click here to view the article on the publication’s website.

On May 19, Philadelphians will hit the polls to winnow the field of City Council at-large candidates. Out of 28 declared candidates, only seven will be elected in November (including at least two from a minority party). Each party can run five candidates in the general election. The Notebook reached out to the candidates, asking their opinions on the election’s most gripping issue: education. Read More

City GOP Picks Wolfe as Council Candidate

City GOP Picks Wolfe as Council Candidate

This article was published by Philly.com on March 19, 2014. Click here to read the article on the publisher’s website.

Philadelphia Republicans chose lawyer J. Matthew Wolfe, a former deputy state attorney general, as their candidate Wednesday night for a vacant at-large City Council seat to be filled in a May 20 special election.

Wolfe, 57, a GOP ward leader from West Philadelphia, will run against State Rep. Ed Neilson, the Democratic nominee. The seat became vacant last month when Gov. Corbett appointed Bill Green, a Democrat, chairman of the School Reform Commission.

Wolfe served as chief counsel of the state Department of Labor and Industry under Gov. Tom Ridge and as a lawyer in the Department of Transportation. He is an advocate for cuts in the city’s business and wage taxes. He is married to Denise Furey, a financial services professional, and has two adult sons. – Robert Moran

New Blood: Matt Wolfe is Mad As Hell and Not Going To Take It Anymore

New Blood: Matt Wolfe is Mad As Hell and Not Going To Take It Anymore

This article was published by The Philadelphia Citizen on April 6, 2015. Click here to read the article on the publisher’s website.

The longtime Republican gadfly has been tweaking the establishment of both parties for years. As an at-large candidate for City Council, he has declared war on the status quo.

by Larry Platt

Matt Wolfe, the 58-year-old West Philly lawyer and Republican ward leader, had given up on the idea that he’d ever run for public office in Philadelphia. For one, there’s the insurmountable voter registration differential: Democrats outnumber Republicans roughly 7 to 1. For another, in a corrupt one-party town, his outspokenness had often run him afoul of our bipartisan  permanent establishment, as when he penned an Inquirer op-ed quibbling with the conventional wisdom that it was an example of good government in action when Mayor Nutter dismissed 16 part-time rec center employees last year who were “double-dipping” because they were also employed by the School District. (The charter forbids city workers from holding more than one city job at a time.) Not so fast, Wolfe wrote, pointing out that Nutter gave a handful of his own deputy mayors two titles—essentially, two jobs—in order to get around Charter limits on pay. “It was the height of arrogance and hypocrisy,” Wolfe says now and wrote then —much to the chagrin of the let’s-not-rock-the-boat crowd, which includes stalwarts of both parties.

So Wolfe figured his public service would be relegated to his community activism in West Philly, where he lives with his wife, Denise Furey, and where they’ve raised two grown sons. But then Republican Governor Corbett nominated Bill Green to chair the School Reform Commission. Wolfe had had enough of his party settling for the crumbs of patronage; it was time to compete. “There’s a political aspect to this,” he says now. “Green is a good guy, but if you’re trying to build a stronger party, that’s a seat where a Republican could make some positive changes for people. It infuriated me, because it was an opportunity for the Governor to set up a Republican as an important civic leader.”

“A Democrat in Philadelphia is more likely to leave office by dying or getting indicted than by getting beaten at the polls,” says Wolfe. “That’s why we’ve gotten the Marge Tartagliones and Mark Cohens decade after decade.”

And then, with the help of Republican Councilmen David Oh and Dennis O’Brien, City Council refused to even hold hearings on the sale of the Philadelphia Gas Works to Connecticut-based UIL, standing in the way of a $1.8 billion windfall. “That was a colossal failure of leadership,” Wolfe says. “It was indefensible for any Councilman to stand in the way of selling PGW, but it’s particularly indefensible for a Republican to do so.”

Wolfe hammered this point at his February announcement of his at-large bid.He chose to announce outside the Center City offices of PGW. And, boy, did those optics work out for him. Turns out, that office is closed on Wednesdays. So he announced his candidacy in front of locked doors that bore a sign detailing the office’s operating times—closed Wednesdays, and no weekend or evening hours. “Does anything scream out that government shouldn’t be running a business more than that?” Wolfe asks today, still incredulous.

So, when the Democratic machine nominated the underwhelming Ed Neilson— the electricians’ hand-picked candidate —to replace Green’s vacated Council seat a year ago, Wolfe decided to run against him; he lost, of course, garnering only 15 percent of the vote But it was a chance to lay the groundwork for this at-large bid. Wolfe says that, under new party leaders State Rep. John Taylor and executive director Joe DeFelice, the Republicans are finally getting some swagger back—witness 26-year-old Martina White’s upset in the special election last month to fill the state representative seat vacated by Brendan Boyle, who was elected to Congress. But that new fighting spirit has yet to find its way onto Council.

“I get that compromise is part of the legislative process,” says Wolfe, who grew up in Elkins Park, the son of a Democrat-voting executive at TV manufacturer Philco; Wolfe attended Penn and got involved in Republican ward politics there. “But look at how many 17-0 votes this Council passes. It’s because most people on Council will never get a job that pays as much as this one, and they’re desperate not to lose it. So they vote to keep Darrell happy.”

That’s why Wolfe favors term limits for Council—and will impose one on himself. “If I win, I will serve one term,” he says. “I will not seek reelection. I’ll compromise, but in the interest of the city. Not in order to get reelected.”

Wolfe is the most Republican of this year’s candidates. With his balding pate and his pinstriped suits that scream banker more than ward leader, he can project that “get off my lawn” grumpiness so often associated with the leaders of his national party. He doesn’t spend his time expounding on the new wave of data-driven growth policies; that’s more the province of young Republican upstart Terry Tracy, who was just endorsed by the Philly 3.0 Pac. No, Wolfe is a throwback Republican in a city that hasn’t had many of them. Like a Reagan era devotee of supply-side economics, his policy panaceas all come back to the same thing: Cutting taxes. “We have the perfect tax structure for 19th Century Philadelphia,” he says. “Back then, you could afford to tax jobs and businesses, because they weren’t going to move to the suburbs.”

Now, Wolfe says, the city needs to get back to basics, and that includes rightsizing city government. He doesn’t believe government can stimulate economic growth; at best, government’s contribution ought to be to get out of the way. “The best economic development program is lowering taxes,” he says.

Wolfe favors term limits for Council—and will impose one on himself. “If I win, I will not seek reelection,” he says. “I’ll compromise, but in the interest of the city. Not in order to get reelected.”

Wolfe wants to hold all of city government up to inspection—something Nutter passed on doing when the Great Recession hit. “There are core municipal responsibilities,” he says. “Public education, police, fire. But Council wants to be all things to all people, and panders to special interest groups that don’t fall into those core categories. Does City Council really need a Director of Civic Engagement? I like [consumer advocate] Lance Haver, but do we need him on the public payroll to send out emails to people telling them what Darrell Clarke is doing? Really?”

Wolfe spent much of Nutter’s tenure as one of the lone canaries in our political coal mine. If he’s a supply-sider, Nutter has proven to be a prototypical tax and spend big city liberal. “He didn’t just reverse the modest wage tax cuts of Mayors Street and Rendell, he increased taxes every year in office,” Wolfe says. “He needs a history lesson. Like Council, Nutter wouldn’t show the political nerve to cut spending. The city is not an employment agency. It’s a provider of services. I’m not saying we should privatize trash collection—but it should be on the table. If we did it, it’s not like we’d use non-union labor. I’m sure the Teamsters would love to provide that. We need to study that.”

No matter what party you belong to, you have to concede that Philadelphia would be better off with a two-party system. A real competition of ideas. Instead, we get what we’ve gotten, and we act like our politics are the natural state of things. Wolfe begs to differ. “We could not have done worse if there had been an earthquake,” Wolfe says.

Wolfe’s a partisan Republican, but his argument for a robust, competitive Republican party extends well beyond the GOP’s local self-interest. As he sees it, it’s endemic to the health of local democracy—in a very practical way. “If Democrats don’t think they’re going to face a strong Republican opponent in the general elections, it’s much easier for them to crush reformers in their own primaries,” he says. “That’s why we’ve gotten the Marge Tartagliones and Mark Cohens decade after decade. A Democrat in Philadelphia is more likely to leave office by dying or getting indicted than by getting beaten at the polls.”

When I ask Matt Wolfe if he really just isn’t headed for another clock-cleaning come election day, he doesn’t take the bait to talk political horserace strategy. Instead, he says what you wish more candidates would say. “I don’t know,” he says, “but someone’s got to stand up and say, ‘Enough is enough.’”

Supreme Court Clarifies Danger of Council Inaction on PGW By Matt Wolfe

Supreme Court Clarifies Danger of Council Inaction on PGW By Matt Wolfe

This article was authored by Republican candidate for Philadelphia City Council At Large Matt Wolfe. The article was originally published by The Weekly Press on November 7, 2014.

The state Supreme Court recently came down with an unsurprising ruling that the Municipal Tort Claims Act is constitutional. This is the statute that states that most municipalities are only liable for $500,000.00 for any negligent act. I worked with this statute often when I served as a Deputy Attorney General.

Why is this topical right now for Philadelphia? Not to beat a dead horse, but because of PGW. The city itself and PGW are covered by this law. This means that a catastrophe such as a gas main explosion, no matter how negligent PGW was and no matter how much damage is done, that PGW will only be liable for $500,000.00 in damages. Read More

Killing PGW Deal Bad for Philly By Matt Wolfe

Killing PGW Deal Bad for Philly By Matt Wolfe

This article was authored by Philadelphia Republican City Council At Large Candidate Matthew Wolfe. It was published by PaTownHall.com. Please click here to read the article on the publisher’s website.

City Council has announced that they are killing the proposed sale of PGW without holding a hearing and without taking a vote. The city is not selling PGW? This is the stupidest thing that City Council has done in recent years. Their doing it without hearings or votes is particularly spineless.

The city should not be in the business of selling gas. Period. There is a reason that few municipalities own gas utilities across the country. In addition to owning these unneeded capital assets, we have a ready need for the money that the sale would generate. Our ridiculously underfunded pension plans would have been recipients of the money. These are long-term commitments that we have an obligation to meet. Read More

Make My Republican Day

Make My Republican Day

This article was published by TribLive Total Media on May 3, 2014. Click here to read the article on the publisher’s website.

By Eric Heyl

Pittsburgh native J. Matthew Wolfe, 58, is an attorney running for an at-large seat on Philadelphia City Council in a May 20 special election. He spoke to the Trib regarding his attempt to play a significant role in a Republican resurgence in the city.

Q: It’s been 25 years since a Republican defeated a Democrat in a citywide race in Philadelphia. What makes you think you can buck that trend?

A: The reality is that we have come close in some elections. Sam Katz ran two really hard-fought races against (former Mayor) John Street, and frankly likely would have won had it not been for something that should have helped him — the discovering of a bug in the mayor’s office due to a federal investigation that was going on into corruption at City Hall.

Unfortunately, it was spun in a way that the Republicans from Washington were trying to team up to unfairly pick on the black Democratic mayor, which was ludicrous — and (Street supporters) admitted it was ludicrous after the election — but it certainly had some traction.

Q: But Democrats in Philadelphia outnumber Republicans by more than 6-to-1. Won’t that margin be tough to overcome?

A: I understand I have a high mountain to climb here. But this election is going to be a low-turnout election to begin with, because it is a primary. In addition to that, there is the special election I’m running in, which is way off to the side away from everything else.

So most people are going to come in and vote in the Democratic or Republican primary for governor and maybe not be concerned about the races lower on the ticket. That plays to my advantage in that there will be fewer Democrats voting in the special election.

Q: Do you feel a Republican resurgence can occur in Philadelphia by pushing a traditional Republican-style platform?

A: I don’t see any incompatibility with the broad things that the Republican Party stands for and improving the quality of life for Philadelphia citizens. Philadelphia is by many counts the poorest big city in America, and it didn’t happen by accident. There isn’t a policy that Philadelphia has implemented in the past 60 years that has been implemented by Republicans.

It’s real simple: Philadelphia can’t spend money it doesn’t have. Philadelphia can’t raise taxes to a level that chases businesses and taxpayers and jobs out of the city (or) have a tax structure that discourages businesses from opening up in the city.

Philadelphia needs to (spend its money) on police and fire, keeping our city clean, educating our children and maintaining our municipal infrastructure. We shouldn’t be spending money on anything else until we at least get that done properly. I think that lines up pretty closely with core Republican values.

Q: Although your family moved when you were young, you spent your early years in Pittsburgh. Do you have any fond memories of the city?

A: I remember going to the Dormont Pool — that was a big deal for me. (Even after moving) Pittsburgh always was a center for us because we had significant family there.

In another life, I headed up the legal department for the Department of Labor and Industry in Tom Ridge’s administration, and we had several offices in Pittsburgh that really reconnected me with Downtown.

Pittsburgh is a great town. I enjoy it.

Nutter the Nanny By Matt Wolfe

Nutter the Nanny By Matt Wolfe

This article was published by PATownHall.com. Click here to read the article on the publisher’s website.

Some of City Council’s worst ideas pass unanimously. I think we’ve seen that again.

City Council has passed an ordinance that adds e-cigarettes to its existing ban on smoking real cigarettes in public places. For those unfamiliar with the concept of e-cigarettes, they look kind of like regular cigarettes, but they are battery-powered devices that use a heating element to vaporize a liquid solution with flavoring and normally, but not necessarily, nicotine. Mayor Nutter proudly signed this bill into law.

The jury is still out as to how harmful these e-cigarettes may be to our health, or whether they are harmful at all. Even Mayor Nutter admitted that at the ceremony where he signed the ordinance into law. Common sense would indicate that if they do carry health risks that such risks will be far less than the cocktail of cancers that come with regular cigarettes. Conversely, there are those who swear that e-cigarettes were a big help in getting them to stop smoking regular cigarettes.

Against this background, with the health risks of e-cigarettes uncertain but almost certainly not as bad as regular cigarettes, Philadelphia’s City Council lumps them together with regular cigarettes. This would seem premature, to say the least. How many Philadelphians will die because City Council made it more difficult for them to use e-cigarettes and quit smoking regular cigarettes? Well, that’s probably an exaggeration, but not necessarily a question that should not be considered.

I hate being around smoking. That being said, there is no reason I have to patronize a restaurant that allows smoking or does not have a non-smoking area. And most people that I know in the restaurant industry would rather work where smoking is permitted because they think that they receive better tips. Why is the city making the decisions for us? That being said, I certainly understand the very real health risks of smoking and the risk of second-hand smoke. I see the other side of the coin. But e-cigarettes? Different situation altogether.

Thomas Jefferson is attributed as having said “That government is best which governs least.” Philadelphia’s City Council certainly could not be considered the intellectual successor to our Founding Father. What ever happened to people taking personal responsibility for what they do? Why should the City of Philadelphia take on the role of nanny to its citizens?

In this case, the ban is probably just wrong, and by wrong I mean that it will create more health problems than it solves because some smokers will be less likely to quit because of restricted availability of e-cigarettes. But even if the city is “right” that something is a health hazard, they should not be the ones making the decisions. If the federal government has not concluded that something is such a great hazard that access should be restricted, why does Philadelphia think it knows better? Who do you trust to make decisions restricting your freedom to act? It is simply over-regulation.

Looking beyond this particular law, whenever Philadelphia makes a law that interferes with commerce ONLY in Philadelphia, we do more to chase businesses, taxpayers and residents out of the city. Eight percent sales tax. Slavery Disclosure Law. Philadelphia 21st Century Minimum Wage and Benefits Standard. Wage Tax. It goes on and on. Philadelphia is the poorest big city in America. And it didn’t happen by accident. It is the result of deliberate actions taken by Philadelphia’s City Council, normally with the complicity of the Mayor, to pander to special interest groups that keep them in office.

Matt Wolfe is a candidate in the special election on May 20 for the City Council at Large position left vacant because of Bill Green’s resignation to take over as Chairman of the School Reform Commission.

 

 

Wolfe Announces Candidacy for At-Large Council Seat

Wolfe Announces Candidacy for At-Large Council Seat

This article was published by The Philadelphia Daily News on March 14, 2014. Click here to read the article on the publisher’s website.

BY JENNY DeHUFF, Daily News Staff Writer dehuffj@phillynews.com, 215-854-5218 POSTED: March 14, 2014

MATT WOLFE, a Republican ward leader in West Philadelphia, announced his candidacy yesterday for the at-large City Council seat vacated by Bill Green.

Wolfe made the announcement with about 100 supporters at the Millcreek Tavern in West Philly.

Wolfe, a lawyer, is seeking his party’s nomination for the special election May 20.

“Philadelphia’s government needs to change, and I would bring a different perspective to City Council than what’s there,” he said.

Wolfe has a long history of community involvement, including serving as director of the Spruce Hill Community Association, serving on the board of the Friends of Clark Park and the old West Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. He’s also been active with the Boy Scouts.

Among Wolfe’s biggest goals, he said, is to restructure the city’s tax policy.

“Let’s look at our tax structure: Even if we don’t lower our tax rates and do everything in a revenue-neutral way, we need to restructure our taxes, and City Council has no inclination to do that,” he said.

“Every time someone on City Council has a bright idea on how to spend your money, we can’t just enact it because it seems like a nice idea.

“Philadelphia needs to focus on core municipal responsibilities – public safety; public education; it may not be sexy, but sanitation; maintenance of our transportation and utility infrastructure. These are the things a municipal government needs to do and really, frankly, not a lot else.

“We need to spend more money on those, and that means we need to cut. Where do we cut? Pretty much anything that doesn’t fall into those categories should be on the chopping block.”

Wolfe would be up against the Democratic ward leaders’ pick, state Rep. Ed Neilson, nominated unanimously on Tuesday.

 

Wolfe Seen As Likely GOP Nominee For Special City Council At-Large Election

Wolfe Seen As Likely GOP Nominee For Special City Council At-Large Election

This article was published by CBSPhilly.Com on March 13, 2014. Click here to read the article on the publisher’s website.

By John McDevitt

PHILADELPHIA (CBS) — A GOP ward leader in Philadelphia says he is ready to run against the Democrats’ pick in the May special election for an at-large City Council seat.

Earlier this week the Democratic ward leaders selected state representative Ed Neilson to run as their candidate in the May 20th special election to fill the vacant City Council seat (see related story).

The Republian ward leaders will formally pick their party representative on March 19th.  At a formal announcement this afternoon in University City, GOP ward leader Matthew Wolfe said he’s ready to run if he gets his party’s nomination — which is expected.

“We need to support the changes to strengthen Philadelphia, now and for our children,” he said.  “I’ll bring a different perspective to City Council.   I need your support.”

Pennsylvania state representative John Taylor, chairman of the Republican Party in Philadelphia, sees Wolfe’s nomination as likely.

“Matt has a lot of respect within the party and I think he will prevail.  I don’t expect any conflict with that,” Taylor told KYW Newsradio this afternoon.

The City Coucil at-large seat became vacant when Bill Green left to chair Philadelphia’s School Reform Commission.

City Council Asks Voters to Vote Blind on Bond Issue Republicans Recommend a “NO” Vote By Matt Wolfe

City Council Asks Voters to Vote Blind on Bond Issue Republicans Recommend a “NO” Vote By Matt Wolfe

This article was published by The Independent Voice. Click here to read the article on the publisher’s website.

The Philadelphia Republican City Committee has voted unanimously to recommend to the voters that they vote NO on the question on the General Election ballot asking approval of a bond issue.  We make this recommendation because of the shameful failure of City Council to give the citizens of Philadelphia any transparency or assurance that the funds will be used properly and for projects that advance the city’s mission. Read More