(Editor’s Note: This is an opinion column from a Citified insider.)
At 10 a.m. today, Jim Kenney will be sworn in as Philadelphia’s 99th mayor. Unlike the 2008 inauguration of Michael Nutter, which included citizens waiting in line for hours and a festive party at the Navy Yard, today’s events will be subdued and businesslike. It’s not that there isn’t much to celebrate — there’s just a lot of work to be done.
The 2015 mayoral campaign wasn’t about running against Nutter so much as it was about who could continue to do good for the city. There are key differences between Kenney and Nutter, though: For one thing, Kenney has acknowledged that he prefers a more traditional, strong-mayor form of government, as is laid out in the city charter.
Most, if not all, of Kenney’s key cabinet positions have been named: managing director, chief of staff, solicitor, treasurer, city representative, streets chief, and Licenses & Inspections head. There’s continuity at two extremely important positions — the police department and school district. Police Commissioner Richard Ross was a longtime deputy of our previous (and, by most accounts, successful) police chief. Superintendent William Hite will be on board through at least 2022, and provided he’s given the resources to get the job done, I fully expect to see continued progress there.
It doesn’t appear that there’s going to be a massive rollback of policies like occurred during the Street-to-Nutter transition. That’s good news, because undoing policies takes time, and time right now is at a premium. Kenney’s priorities — universal pre-K, decreasing poverty and creating better processes for reengaging returning citizens — are in dire need of immediate solutions. The appointments to newly-created positions, including the chief diversity and inclusion officer, a director of universal pre-K, and a deputy mayor for labor, signal the new administration’s cabinet-level-down approach to addressing some of the city’s more systemic challenges.
The million-dollar question, of course, is what does this all mean? How does this affect the life of the average Philadelphian, who’s faced with less-than-desirable school choices, disproportionately high taxes, and wages that are often inadequate to sustain a family? Read more »