by Jim Harris

Republican City Councilman and Chestnut Hill resident Frank Rizzo is seen here during a recent Channel 29 interview attempting to defend the indefensible. Rizzo is set to collect $194,517 on Dec. 30 from the taxpayer ripoff DROP program in addition to his very generous city pension, but unlike those DROP Council members who were shamed into retirement, Rizzo says he will run for re-election.

“Giving money and power to government is like giving whiskey and car keys to teenage boys.”-P. J. O’Rourke

I can hardly walk down the street these days without someone coming up to me and saying, “Jim, you should run for the 8th City Council District seat (which is currently being vacated by our esteemed Councilperson, Donna Reed Miller).” While I am very flattered, I have given the idea much careful thought, and decided that it’s not the right thing for me to do at the present time. As a courtesy to the voters, I feel I should explain the reasons for my decision not to run.

First, and perhaps most importantly, I have no idea what an “8th Council District seat” is. I did a Google search, but after 10 minutes of rigorous “surfing,” I became exhausted and fell asleep in my non-political seat in the living room.

I’m assuming that the job involves doing good things like rooting out corruption and giving tax dollars to my friends (I could always ask State Rep. Dwight Evans for advice) and stuff like that, but frankly, I can’t take on any more responsibilities for the foreseeable future. Even an abbreviated list of my present long-term commitments includes mammoth tasks like the following:

• I intend to start spending more time with my children, just as soon as I find out who and where they are.

• I’m growing a beard, and it’s coming in slower than I expected. Since it requires constant pruning and monitoring, I’m giving it one full year of my undivided attention.

• I plan to start jogging soon. I will gradually increase from a few feet a day to probably hundreds of miles per week. I believe that this will somehow make the world a better place, although I haven’t completely thought it through yet.

• I’m turning nocturnal. Since this means that I will no longer be awake during normal business hours, I’ll be unable to return phone calls or perform any of the interactive duties required of a typical Philadelphia public servant.

Donna Reed Miller, City Councilperson for Mt. Airy and Chestnut Hill, is one of the DROP beneficiaries ($195,782) who were shamed into retirement. The DROP ordinance states very clearly, “Employees who elect to participate in the DROP make an irrevocable commitment to separate from city service and retire…” Some Council members (Rizzo and Marian Tasco) apparently cannot understand this language, however.

• In addition, if I ran for office, I would probably need to buy new clothes. At present, I only own one suit, and the pants and jacket don’t quite match. I also own a blue blazer with fancy buttons and an embroidered anchor on the breast pocket, but it’s got some rather large moth holes. And my brown wing-tip shoes don’t go with anything. As an unassuming, modest man, I have not shopped for new clothes in years. Come to think of it, I’ve NEVER shopped for new clothes, and I certainly don’t intend to start now.

But most importantly, my family has a long, proud tradition of not running for public office. My great-great-great-grandfather, Jebediah Harris, is best known for his 1776 “midnight ride” through Germantown, shouting, “I’m not running for Governor.” Unfortunately, someone shot him before he completed his ride. And in 1892, my grandfather,  “Little Willie” Harris,famously declared that he was giving up his run for city dogcatcher “to be with the woman I love,” even though he was only 11 years old at the time.

As long as I’ve got your attention, I might as well let you know that, in addition to myself, my half-brother, Delbert, will also not be running, and Edward Everett Horton, the actor, who is dead, likewise will not be running, although he will be voting in South Philadelphia.

At some point in the future, I may consider briefly running for office, then withdrawing from the race and issuing a 20-page press release explaining why I withdrew (and asking for a DROP payment of a few hundred thousand dollars, like Frank Rizzo), but I’m not quite ready for that level of involvement yet.

In the meantime, when you see my volunteers standing outside area supermarkets, be sure to sign their petition declaring your support for my non-candidacy. I pledge to you that I will continue to not run until every man woman and child in the district is excruciatingly aware of my total commitment to not running.

I would encourage all of you folks who are also not running for the council seat — I’m sure there are a still a few of you out there — to notify the media of your reasons. I firmly believe that a well-informed public is vitally important to a free society, even when the information being disseminated is totally ridiculous. Thank you all for your rapt attention, and may God bless the 8th Councilmanic District.