Insider: Why the Jim Kenney & Darrell Clarke Bromance Means Great Things for Philly

Jim Kenney and Darrell Clarke

Jim Kenney and Darrell Clarke. | Photo courtesy of City Council.

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.) 

Before the primary election on May 19, the previous 18 months of a lame duck mayor and no sure-fire favorite to win the Democratic nomination created a power vacuum at the top of city government. If you know the mayor isn’t aiming to be the next governor (see Rendell, Ed), then beyond the first term there’s no incentive to play nice when you can simply just wait him out. If you didn’t like Mayor Nutter or his policies, or you felt that working with Nutter put you at odds with council, the smart play was to see who had next and work on that.

But power abhors a vacuum. In times of uncertainty people seek and gravitate towards strong leadership, even when they don’t agree with the leader. Key players can’t operate on the sidelines for long without knowing who is going to be running the show. Businesses plan in 5-10 years cycles. Developers plan in 10-20 year cycles. Everyone likes to talk about change, but it is the other two C’s — continuity and contracts that keep a city humming.

The recent mayoral primary was not a referendum on policy or politics: 75+ forums, town halls and debates effectively eliminated any opportunity for candidates to truly distinguish themselves on policy. After the past eight years, what we were looking for was leadership style.

Much digital ink has been spilled in these pages about the burgeoning power and emerging prominence of City Council President Darrell Clarke. I think strong leadership in council is a good thing. During the past 18 months Council President Clarke has filled the power vacuum. He’s the prom king and he’s looking for a solid date and dance partner for the next eight years. Read more »

Jim Kenney, Brian Sims to Perform in Fringe Fest Zombie Play


Mayoral nominee Jim Kenney and State Representative Brian Sims will take a short break from politicking to venture into the world of acting next month when they make guest-star turns at the Philadelphia Fringe Festival.

The politicians have agreed to appear in Tribe of FoolsZombies … With Gunswhich writer and star Terry Brennan tells me offers a variety of takes on America’s gun culture. Here’s how TOF describes the show:

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Next Year’s Starting City Hall Budget: $0

"I know that pension fund is in here somewhere." |

“I know that pension fund is in here somewhere.” |

Government budgets are a lot like basements: there’s really vital stuff in there, but plenty of crap as well. As the years grind on, the basement gets ever messier, ever more jammed and ever more unwieldy. What’s all that stuff for? Do we really need all of it? After a while, nobody really knows.

But who wants to sort it out? What a nightmare.

And yet, that’s exactly what Democratic mayoral nominee says he Jim Kenney intends to do if elected mayor in November. And if he’s upset by ultra-underdog GOP nominee Melissa Murray Bailey, well she plans to do the same.

Both are advocates of what’s called zero-based budgeting. It works like this: instead of creating a budget based on last year’s spending plan, as is the norm, city departments would have to start from scratch. With a zero-based budget, departments and agencies would be asked to articulate their mission and priorities, then justify every dollar they request based on how effectively a given program advances the mission.

Zero-based budgeting is not a particularly new idea, and it’s not a panacea for financially strained governments. It costs a lot of money to run a big city, and a new budget system can’t change that reality. But when done well — which is a big qualifier — zero-based budgeting can reduce wasteful spending, make government a bit more more efficient and help departments shed work they shouldn’t be doing, and focus more clearly on the stuff that matters most.

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PHOTOS: Brian Sims Throws a Happy Hour at Tavern on Camac

Last evening, State Representative Brian Sims hosted a group of his supporters at Tavern on Camac for a “Summer Cocktails with Brian Sims” happy hour to benefit his political campaign. There were plenty of familiar faces on hand, including the fabulous Dena Underwood, Chris Bartlett, Senator Larry Farnese, Jr., Paul Steinke, Jim Kenney, and more. We were there to capture the crowd at this Gayborhood hotspot.

NBC10 Calls Off Mayoral Debate Because of Jim Kenney’s “Unreasonable Demands”

Jim Kenney | Photo by Jeff Fusco

Jim Kenney | Photo by Jeff Fusco

The outcome of Philadelphia’s 2015 mayoral general election is virtually predetermined, as it is in most years. With the Democratic Party enjoying a 7-to-1 voter registration edge over the GOP, Democratic nominee Jim Kenney is expected to trounce Republican Melissa Murray-Bailey in November. And so it barely seems like an election is happening right now.

But one of the very few times in which mayoral general elections in Philly actually feel like elections is during the televised debates. There will be one fewer of those this year, though, thanks to the Kenney campaign’s “unreasonable demands,” according to NBC10.

The station said it has called off its debate because the Kenney campaign submitted a list of requests that would have threatened its journalistic standards. As’s Ryan Briggs reports: Read more »

Jim Kenney Was Once a Client of Missing Political Consultant

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

A political consultant with close ties to Allentown Mayor Ed Pawlowski is apparently missing after the FBI searched Allentown’s City Hall earlier this month. Michael Fleck was the campaign manager for Pawlowski, who suspended his bid for the U.S. Senate after federal investigators began questioning city officials.

What does that have to do with Philadelphia? Well, it turns out that Jim Kenney, Philadelphia’s Democratic mayoral nominee, has a connection to Fleck, too, though it looks like a tenuous one. Read more »

Job-Seekers Already Hounding Kenney


They say that to the victor goes the spoils. Jim Kenney hasn’t technically won anything yet, but the Democratic nominee for mayor is already hearing from lot of folks spoilin’ to get a government job.

For now, he’s still ostensibly preoccupied with winning the November general election against Republican opponent Melissa Murray Bailey.

“I’m not obviously not elected yet, that’s really presumptuous to be talking about positions, but you’re almost forced to because the press asks you questions,” Kenney told NewsWorks. “But I’m not prepared to announce anything at this point.” Read more »

Jim Kenney Would Hire a New Boss for L&I

Clockwise: Jim Kenney, Carlton Williams and Melissa Murray Bailey.

Clockwise from the top: Jim Kenney, Carlton Williams and Melissa Murray Bailey.

No matter what the outcome of the mayoral race this fall, it looks like Philadelphia will be getting a new Licenses & Inspections chief in 2016.

At about 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, GOP mayoral nominee Melissa Murray Bailey called on L&I Commissioner Carlton Williams to resign in a press release. Hours later, Democrat Jim Kenney’s campaign told Citified that Williams would not be commissioner if he is elected this November. Read more »

The Jim Kenney Forecast: Cloudy, With a Chance of Greatness

Kenney and supporters on election night. Photograph by Matt Slocum, Associated Press

Kenney and supporters on election night. Photograph by Matt Slocum, Associated Press

When Jim Kenney took the stage to accept the Democratic nomination for mayor about two hours after polls closed on May 19th, he was cheered by just about every bloc in contemporary Philadelphia politics. Labor was there, of course. So were veteran African-American politicians Dwight Evans and Marian Tasco, who helped the white guy from South Philly defy racial history and win big in black neighborhoods like Strawberry Mansion and West Oak Lane. In the crowd, lifelong white rowhome voters mingled a little awkwardly with young-ish progressives and transplants. There weren’t a lot of big-business interests in the room, but Kenney had a quick private word with George Norcross, the insurance executive and South Jersey political boss who has turned his hungry eyes toward Philadelphia. Read more »

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