The challenger to incumbent City Controller Alan Butkovitz, Rebecca Rhynhart has never run for political office. Rhynhart served as Mayor Jim Kenney’s chief administrative officer prior to running for this position. Additionally, her 15 years of financial experience includes positions as treasurer and budget director for the city.
PGN: Can you describe the positions and work you’ve been involved in that you feel makes you qualified to be city controller?
RR: I have 15 years of financial experience, which makes me — in recent history — the most-qualified to run for City Controller. I spent the last nine years working for the city in different capacities. In 2008, I became the city treasurer. Then I was the budget director for five years after that. Then, when Mayor Kenney took office, we had a good relationship from his time as a council-person and he kept me on as part of his cabinet to be the chief administrative officer and oversee the modernization of some of his support functions of government. I’ve had a variety of leadership positions, largely financial, in the city for the last nine years. I really wanted to have a greater impact and running for office is the way to do that. The city controller position is one that can be done better and I bring 15 years of financial experience to that.
PGN: What is your overall outlook on the city’s current financial position?
RR: The city is facing a lot of financial challenges. There’s a lot of positive momentum that is going on in the city but at the same time, there’s a lot of challenges. Financially, the city’s pension fund is a major problem. The city is always running on a pretty tight budget. I think it’s important more than ever to have the city run the best possible way it can. I think, as city controller, that I can find a minimum of $10 million a year and that’s money through moving the city toward modernization. Through moving the city forward, we can save money that can be put toward other uses for the city — schools, parks, rec centers, other needs that we have. I think the city could do a better job financially.
PGN: If elected, how would you increase transparency in the City Controller’s Office?
RR: Transparency is very important to me. One of the things I’m fully committed to, if elected, is to increase transparency throughout the city. On a financial basis, that means pushing to release the city’s expenditure data. Right now, the city doesn’t release what the money is actually spent on. It releases the budget but not the actual expense data and that’s something I think absolutely should be released. Whenever any information can be released, it should be. Openness and transparency are important in all decision-making and in hiring as well. We need to have an open transparent process.
PGN: Many people are concerned about the trickle-down effect of decisions by the Trump administration. What role do you see local governments, in particular the City Controller’s Office, playing in that process?
RR: I see the city controller being able to play a big role. The Trump administration, as well as the Republican-controlled state legislature here in Pennsylvania — both do not bode well for the city of Philadelphia. We’re facing significant cuts and I think now more than ever it’s important that we run the city well. I’ve never run for political office before. I think that as city controller, that will free me up to make tough decisions and to challenge those in power to save money in order to lessen the pain that these cuts might have on the city of Philadelphia. For example, the Parking Authority has not been audited since 2009 by the city controller and that’s something I would do right away. We’ve all heard about the things going on there [such as] sexual harassment. There needs to be much better oversight of the Parking Authority and that’s millions of dollars that should be going to the school district.
PGN: What actions have you taken to further equality for the LGBT community, either in a personal or professional setting?
RR: One of the things I worked on for Mayor Kenney was — as chief administrative officer — to establish best practices in hiring, to have the most diverse and inclusive workforce. Those best practices involve creating an inclusive environment in the workplace. That’s something that’s very important to me and as city controller. Some things that I would evaluate throughout the city and departments [is to] see how inclusive the city is being to all people, including the LGBT community. I think full equality, no matter who you are or who you love, is good for the community and is the right thing to do. I’m a strong advocate of LGBT rights. On a personal level, I’ve always grown up with the belief that everyone should be accepted and that a diverse and inclusive community in society makes for a stronger city.
PGN: If elected, what will you do to ensure funding equality for LGBT groups/citizens?
RR: Funding decisions are about priorities. LGBT groups are very important to the city. [I] was just in a meeting the other day with Malcolm Kenyatta about, “How do we move this city forward?” Budget decisions are about priorities and I would prioritize the LGBT community in any way I could.
PGN: Why should the LGBT community vote for you?
RR: I think I bring a fresh perspective and an independent, progressive voice to the role of city controller. I’ve never run for office before. I will make tough choices and be independent of the political establishment. I really believe in openness and transparency and I’ll bring a fresh, progressive voice to the office. That, coupled with my 15 years of financial experience, make me the best candidate and the best choice for city controller.
For more information about Rebecca Rhynhart, visit www.rebeccaforphiladelphia.com.