The Brief: Doug Oliver Doubles Down on Being Vague

At a Citified Q&A, the mayoral candidate was unapologetic about his lack of big ideas.

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.

“I don’t know what it is. And when I say I don’t know, I don’t mean to say I don’t care. What I’m saying is, I’m not the only one with ideas. … If the mayor is the smartest person in the room, he needs to find another room. There’s too many ideas coming from too many different places and if there’s pride of ownership, we’ll never get to them,” said Oliver. “So when I say I don’t have the answers, I don’t mean to say that I’m not going to find them. I’m meaning to say that I will find them, but I’ll get there by inviting as many people as possible into the conversation.”

For more, you can read Citified’s live tweets from the event or watch the entire interview on YouTube.

Our next Q&A in the Candidate Conversations series will be with mayoral contender Nelson Diaz. Please RSVP here. Get more information about our upcoming interviews with the other candidates here.

Don’t Miss …
  • On Last Week Tonight, John Oliver slammed the practice of electing judges, using none other than former Philadelphia Traffic Court judge Willie Singletary as a prime example of why we ought not do it. “Think about it: Giving money to judges wouldn’t be acceptable in a state fair squash growing competition!” Oliver said. Truth. Citified’s Patrick Kerkstra wrote his own take-down of the practice earlier this year, pointing out that there be tons of judicial candidates on the city’s May 19th ballot and “most voters will have no clue who most of these people are.”
  • As part of a series on the mayoral candidates, PlanPhilly interviewed former City Councilman Jim Kenney about just about everything in the website’s wheelhouse: bike safety, pedestrian safety, Mayor Michael Nutter‘s planning legacy, zoning remapping, City Council President Darrell Clarke‘s proposal to reorganize local government, Zoning Board of Adjustment appointees and, of course, the beautiful madness that is South Philly. “You can’t organize it too much. South Philly is like organized chaos,” said Kenney. ‘Things work because they’ve worked all these years. I mean, you can never explain to a person why people park in the middle of Broad Street. And I’m not going to be about changing that. That’s not on my agenda.”
  • Next week, Nutter will present his final budget (can you believe it’s already that time again?). KYW reports that Nutter isn’t yet saying how he’ll respond to the cash-strapped school district’s request for an additional $103 million from the city.
  • As expected, the School Reform Commission and the school district have appealed a ruling by a Commonwealth Court panel saying that the SRC cannot impose contract terms on the teachers union. In a statement, the district said that when the SRC canceled the teachers’ contract, it “was exercising the precise function for which it was created: achieving financial stability for the district in a crisis of underfunding that has prevented our schools from providing basic resources and services to students.”
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