Philly’s Mayoral Candidates Pretty Much Cool With Wolf’s Ouster of Green

Candidate Conversations

From L to R: Democratic mayoral candidates Nelson Diaz, Doug Oliver, Lynne Abraham, Anthony Williams and Jim Kenney.

[Updated at 6 p.m. to include Lynne Abraham’s comments.]

Most of Philadelphia’s Democratic mayoral candidates either agree with Gov. Tom Wolf‘s shocking decision this week to remove Bill Green as chairman of the city’s School Reform Commission, or believe that it was his choice to make. After Green defied Wolf’s call to approve no new charter schools, Wolf tapped Marjorie Neff, a former school principal, to be the new head of the SRC.

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Nelson Diaz: “I’m Not Just Latino. I’m Broader Than That.”

Nelson Diaz | Photo from Diaz's Facebook page.

Nelson Diaz | Photo from Diaz’s Facebook page.

[Editor’s Note: Meet Nelson Diaz this Wednesday at 6 p.m. He’s featured next in Philadelphia magazine’s Candidate Conversations series. Citified editor Patrick Kerkstra will interview Diaz live, and the candidate will take questions from the audience. Hosted by Venturef0rth, this event will feature free snacks, drinks, good company and a little civic enlightenment. We really do feel this format is an excellent way to take the measure of the mayoral candidates. Register HERE.]

Mayoral candidate Nelson Diaz has been a trailblazing figure in Philadelphia for decades. He was among the first Latinos to earn a law degree from Temple University. He says he was the first Latino elected judge in Pennsylvania (and perhaps the youngest in the city’s judiciary to boot). He’s also worked in the White House, served as General Counsel of federal Department of Housing and Urban Development, and as Philadelphia’s City Solicitor.

And yet, despite that pedigree, Diaz has been dismissed in some circles as a second tier candidate. “That is something that people make up … so they can marginalize you. And I think that’s what happened. The folks keep saying, ‘hey, he’s just Latino.’ I’m not just Latino. I think I’m broader than that.”

Diaz is a progressive, and he’s made city schools the centerpiece of his campaign. But he also has longstanding ties to big business and an impressive reform record as a judicial administrator. Read on to learn more about a lesser-known candidate with a first-tier resume. Read more »

Philly, These Three Questions Could Be on Your May Ballot

Philadelphia City Council  | Photo Credit: City Council's Flickr page

Philadelphia City Council | Photo Credit: City Council’s Flickr page

The Philadelphia City Council passed legislation this week that would put three questions on the ballot in the May 19th primary. These are the pesky little queries that you may or may not have heard a damn thing about in past years until the moment you stepped into the voting booth on Election Day.

Here are the questions Council approved this week in separate measures. They all seek to amend the city charter:

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Heavy Hitters on Jim Kenney’s New Policy Team

Photo Credit | Matt Rourke, AP

[Updated at 2:15 p.m. It seems there was some sort of miscommunication between the Kenney camp and Sister Mary Scullion, because Project HOME tells us she is NOT on any Kenney policy committee and would offer the same advice and guidance to any candidate who asked.]

Alba Martinez, a senior executive at Vanguard who flirted with running for mayor herself, will chair a new Jim Kenney campaign policy committee rife with big names. Read more »

The Mayoral Candidates Are Short on Ideas, so Citified Is Here to Help

Plans, people. We need to see some plans. With numbers and stuff. | Shutterstock.com

Plans, people. We need to see some plans. With numbers and stuff. | Shutterstock.com

There are just 82 days left before Philadelphia picks its mayoral nominees, and the race remains shockingly deficient in both original thinking and concrete plans.

Licenses and Inspections is a wreck. Where are the five-point plans to fix it? The pension fund is eating City Hall alive. Who has clearly articulated an agenda to address that?

Or take schools. That’s all the mayoral candidates will talk about, a dynamic that’s starting to annoy some people. But the problem isn’t the subject. It’s the candidates’ wishy-washy blather. Consider the conversation around school funding. What you hear, from almost all the candidates, is variations on: “I’ll build relationships in the state capital and use the bully pulpit to convince Harrisburg to do its part.” Which is, in a word, lame. I mean, does anyone really think Mayor Nutter and Council President Darrell Clarke have not been trying to do exactly that, with very limited results?

If education matters so much, the candidates should be offering up firm plans to fund the schools using local dollars. Or they should be honest enough to say, sorry, the city can’t afford it, and the schools are state-run, so I’m going to focus elsewhere.

Well, Citified is here to help. We’ve got five wildly different plans for funding city schools. Each has flaws—big ones—but all far more specific than anything the mayoral campaigns have suggested to date. Candidates, feel free to crib these notes. You’re welcome.

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The Brief: Who Will the Philly Teachers Union Support for Mayor?

Candidate Conversations

From L to R: Mayoral candidates Nelson Diaz, Doug Oliver, Lynne Abraham, Anthony Williams and Jim Kenney.

The Democratic candidates for mayor of Philadelphia each tried to make their strongest case Wednesday that the city’s teachers union ought to endorse them. At a meeting held by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers in South Philly, the candidates took questions from union members about education funding, charter schools and the School Reform Commission.

The union won’t make an endorsement until after the rank-and-file members’ votes are tallied in mid-March. But Jerry Jordan, president of the PFT, says, “Once we endorse someone, we will be totally in for that person.” That likely means a maxed-out check from the union, but perhaps more importantly, the American Federation of Teachers is expected to get behind whoever the city’s teachers support. That matters because the national group has thrown around big cash in municipal elections before.

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The Candidate Conversations Series: Meet Nelson Diaz, Latino Philadelphia’s Elder Statesman

Nelson Diaz at his campaign launch. | Credit: Diazs Facebook page.

Nelson Diaz at his campaign launch. | Credit: Diaz’s Facebook page.

Nelson Diaz is the elder statesmen of the Philadelphia’s huge and vital Puerto Rican Community and a man who’s had a trailblazing career that’s taken him from City Hall, to the White House to the executive offices of the federal Department of Housing and Urban Development. Diaz’s campaign claims he was the state’s first Latino judge, the first Puerto Rican to graduate from Temple Law, and the first Latino confirmed by the U.S. Senate as general counsel for a federal agency.

Now he wants to be mayor of Philadelphia.

Can his experiences translate to capable executive leadership? Does Diaz have the vision a changing city needs? Come meet Diaz and judge for yourself on Wednesday, March 4 at 6 p.m., at Venturef0rth’s coworking offices at 417 N. 8th Street. REGISTER HERE. Read more »

Trending: Mayoral Candidates Should Ignore Schools

It’s becoming trendy to declare that, since the mayor doesn’t directly control the School District of Philadelphia, education shouldn’t be the dominant theme of the 2015  campaign. Brett Mandel, echoing arguments I’m increasingly hearing online and in private conversations, contends that “if education is what mayoral candidates are going to talk about, they might as well offer their Philadelphia weather platform.” Tom Ferrick doesn’t go that far, but he suggests a mayor’s real role when it comes to schools is to provide the cash, and that’s pretty much it. Read more »

The Brief: Doug Oliver Doubles Down on Being Vague

Last night, I interviewed long-shot mayoral candidate Doug Oliver at Venturef0rth as part of Citified’s new Candidate Conversations series.

Going into the Q&A, my big question was: Does Oliver deserve to be in the major leagues?

He’s never held elected office before. His exploratory committee had only $1,085 in the bank at the end of 2014. And yet, former Gov. Ed Rendell has called him “enthusiastic,” “refreshing” and “charming.”

During the interview, I found Oliver to be energetic and honest and passionate about the city. But he was also stunningly vague at times, and perhaps more surprisingly, unapologetic about his lack of specific proposals to fix the city’s problems. Toward the end of the Q&A, I told Oliver I thought the mayor’s race in general has suffered from a dearth of ideas. (You can watch the full exchange above.)

As a candidate who has pitched himself as someone with “fresh eyes,” I asked him what his big idea is for the city. He doubled down on being vague.

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