Desperately Seeking Leadership: Philadelphia’s Next Mayor

The next mayor’s race is still two years away, but the field is shaping up to be a depressing array of hacks and usual suspects. Maybe it’s time to call Philadelphia’s civic leadership exactly what it is: Cowardly and pathetic.

What’s needed—somehow, some way—is disruption, a candidacy or three from outside the ranks of the usual suspects. The city is so desperate for new voices that Dana Spain, a socialite with a thin résumé, generates big waves when she mentions the possibility of a run. Think of the buzz that a more accomplished female executive, like Rosemary Turner at UPS or Renée Cardwell Hughes at the American Red Cross, would instantly generate. Imagine what education activist Helen Gym could do at a mayoral debate. Or consider the reverential press that Comcast’s David L. Cohen or Center City District’s Paul Levy would enjoy. And then there are veterans of government—but not politics—who would enter the race with serious credibility, if less instant name recognition, like current managing director Richard Negrin or former managing director Loree Jones, or accomplished deputy mayor for environmental and community resources Michael DiBerardinis.

They all have reasons not to run. For some, the odds of victory are low. For others, the pay cut is prohibitive. At least a few fear retribution from the professional political class they’re being prodded to challenge. And many seem truly convinced they can achieve more from where they are now than from the second floor of City Hall.

Talk to some of them, and you get it. It’s easy to understand why they would choose to stay out of the fray. But that decision, taken over and over again, is nothing less than a tacit capitulation of the city’s best and brightest to a parochial political class.


Which raises a few questions for the capable, charismatic and accomplished leaders in this city: Do you see a candidate in the current field worthy of leading Philadelphia? Can that candidate win? If the answer to either query is “no,” then I have one other question to ask: What are you doing about it?

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  • Stephanie Cohen

    I want to run for Mayor of Philadelphia. How and where do I sign up?

  • Joe Clark

    Like Ms Cohen I also want the job. I even have the first and last name and am related to one of the best Mayors this City or any City ever had, Joseph S.Clark Jr. who was elected in 1951 and served from 1952-1956.

    I would attempt to solve the horrors at the intersection of Roosevelt Blvd & Cottman Ave by having a LRV route run the length of Cottman Ave and try to have a subway underneath the Roosevelt Blvd.

    I would appoint former Mayor Bill Green as Managing Director.
    I would appoint Jerome “Jerry” Howard who runs a very successful education program through Horizon House and the Center For Literacy to the School Reform Commission.