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It’s a relatively quiet year for political elections but the race for Philadelphia’s fiscal watchdog is generating some excitement, most notably among Democrats. Four candidates, three of them Democrats, are vying for the position of City Controller. The primary election will take place May 21. Test your perceptions of the candidates with our city controller candidate quiz based on answers they gave.

For a complete backgrounder on this race and the four candidates running, check the Committee of Seventy’s roundup. For a quick breakdown, continue reading:

Key issues

Actual Value Initiative: The administration’s reassessment of every property in the city has already resulted in much controversy and critique. Numerous media reports have questioned the accuracy of the assessments and whether they’d result in a disparity in real estate taxes even among residents of the same neighborhood.

City pensions: City employee fringe benefits continue to rise, eating away at the city budget. As AxisPhilly reported earlier, employee benefits will cost the city nearly $1.2 billion next year.

Municipal union contracts: Surely no one will forget union members drowning out Mayor Michael Nutter during his budget address this year. Municipal employees have gone four years without a contract. Nutter says the city can’t afford the contract the employees want.

Open data: Last August, Mayor Michael Nutter signed an executive order to establish an Open Data Policy. The order also created a first-time position for the city, a Chief Data Officer, and an open data portal.

Public schools: The district is facing a $304 million budget shortfall this upcoming year and petitioning City Council for $60 million to help fill the hole.

Democrat candidates

ButkovitzAlan Butkovitz (incumbent):  First elected in 2005, Butkovitz is running for his third term as City Controller. A central point of his campaign is his strong opposition to AVI, most notably saying it will increase tax burdens on small businesses. Butkovitz frequently points to the auditing of the Sheriff John Green’s office, which resulted in a federal investigation, as his most notable achievement. His other top priorities include finding savings within the city’s financially strapped budget and improving the city’s business climate to facilitate job creation. Butkovit’z campaign website

mandelBrett Mandel: Mandel, who previously worked in the controller’s office under Jonathan Saidel, was most recently executive director of the National Education Technology Funding Corporation, which seeks to improve education-technology infrastructure. He waged an energized campaign against Butkovitz in 2009 but ended up in third place. Mandel has been a long time advocate of tax reform, and recently created the bulldog budget, an interactive tool that allows you to navigate through the multiple layers of the fiscal year 2012 city budget. If elected, Mandel says he will post all city expenses online in a database available to the public. He’s also pledged to audit city departments more regularly. Mandel’s campaign website

zeccaMark Zecca: A former attorney with the city Law Department, Zecca resigned to run for controller. Zecca says he is the most experienced candidate in city government (20-plus years) to ever run for the position.  He also says he has the most federal experience. His top priorities are going after tax deadbeats and putting a stop to illegal practices like violations of the City Charter. Zecca has promised to serve only one term. The Office of City Controller is not subject to term limits.  Zecca’s campaign website

Republican candidate

tracyTerrence Tracy: A retail business manager, Tracy says he has the experience to bring more jobs to the city. His other top priorities include fighting against corruption, bringing efficiency to government and promoting equal access when it comes to education.  Tracy’s campaign website

The winner of the Democrat primary will face Tracy, the lone Republican candidate, in the fall.


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Additional coverage:

Daily News: City controller race heats up with TV ad

NewsWorks: Philadelphia City Controller debate is substantive smackdown

Dave Davies: Bending the truth about going broke

Daily News: City Controller Alan Butkovitz and Brett Mandel trade jabs on ethics

City Paper: Union, Developers Fight Proxy War in City Controller Race