Inside Take: Ken Trujillo’s Tough Questions for His Former Mayoral Opponents

Do you support term limits for council? Would you eliminate the row offices? How about council prerogative?

Photo by Jeff Fusco

Photo by Jeff Fusco

(Editor’s note: This is an opinion column from Citified insider Ken Trujillo, a former Democratic candidate for mayor.)

The “real” Philadelphia mayoral race, the Democratic Primary, is now less than 100 days away. Absent a monumental surprise, the field of Democratic candidates is settled, and one of them will be elected in November and become mayor in January. Of the five announced candidates, only Lynne Abraham, Jim Kenney and Tony Williams have realistic chances to win. Unfortunately, the reporting on the race has been mostly about the horse race. Very little has been said or asked about the issues the next mayor must face. Philadelphians deserve straight answers to key questions before we vote on May 19. These are the same questions I asked myself before I became a candidate:

  1. What local choices are you willing to make to provide more revenue for schools? Will you tax over-taxed residents further? Will you reduce City taxes and spending to increase the District’s? Do you want to increase revenue from other sources? If so, how much and what would be the consequences?
  2. Over 500,000 adult Philadelphians are functionally illiterate, meaning they read at an 8th grade level or below. How will you reduce that?
  3. What will you do to generate business growth in Philadelphia?
  4. What will you do to ensure that City Hall of 2020 is in step with the rest of 21st century rather than the 1950s? How will you ensure that it is responsive to the needs of all residents and businesses?
  5. What is your plan to make city government reflect the extraordinary diversity of the city?
  6. What is your view on the elimination of the Business Income Receipts Tax? If you are in favor of ending it, how would you accomplish it?
  7. Despite the City Charter’s creation of a “strong mayor” system of government, district council members have a long history of employing “councilmanic prerogative,” which effectively allows them to serve as quasi-mayors of their districts. Do you think such a prerogative should continue and if not, how will you change it? If yes, should we restructure the government to reflect that?
  8. Every mayor needs the support of city council to get anything big done. What will you do to ensure a productive working relationship with city council?
  9. The Mayor is subject to term limits but city council is not. What is your view on term limits for city council?
  10. The city’s underfunded pension fund continues to drain critical resources. What will you do to ensure the retirement benefits for city employees are funded and sustainable?
  11. What is your view on the police department’s stop-and-frisk policy and practices?
  12. What is your view on the city’s campaign finance limits?
  13. What is your view on existing campaign contribution limits for city contractors?
  14. PICA published a study indicating the city would save $15 million if certain row offices (e.g, Sheriff, City Commissioner, Register of Wills and Clerk of Quarter Sessions) were eliminated. Do you think they should be eliminated?
  15. What is the greatest change needed in city government and how will you accomplish that change?
  16. The City Charter seems to keep getting amended every election, without much public debate. Would you support a City Charter Commission charged with the responsibility of revamping the City Charter?
  17. You are asking voters to elect you as CEO of an organization that is large and more complex than most Fortune 500 companies with a daily direct impact on millions of people in the region and the Commonwealth. What management experience do you have that qualifies you for the CEO job?
  18. What personal quality do you have that will make you a great leader as mayor?

Well-practiced sound bites are unimportant. Consider instead the extent to which each candidate is really up to the doing the job that Philadelphia’s future demands.

(Ken Trujillo was, until recently, a Democratic candidate for mayor.  He is a partner at Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis LLP, a former City Solicitor of Philadelphia and the owner of WHAT 1340 AM.)