The Brief: A Very Weird Night for Philly Politics
1. Lynne Abraham collapsed to the floor 10 minutes into the first televised mayoral debate, and didn’t return until it was over. She seems to have recovered.
The gist: The newspapers and Twitter are full of leading questions about what Abraham’s collapse will mean for her campaign (and so is our coverage). The Daily News headline: “After the fall: Is this the end for Lynne Abraham?” The Inquirer’s Metro front is dominated by a screenshot of Abraham crumpled on the floor. The paper’s story quotes a bevy of political consultants (including some with sympathies with other candidates) on what it means for her campaign, and all but one suggests the episode is politically damaging int he extreme.
Why it matters: Read Citified’s full analysis here.
2. At a different debate the same night, Ori Feibush and Kenyatta Johnson got personal.
The gist: In stark contrast to their last debate, which was moderated by Citified’s Holly Otterbein and was largely cordial, Feibush and Johnson were at odds throughout the night, writes the Inquirer’s Tricia Nadolny. Here’s one particularly sharp exchange Nadolny recounts:
“My opponent always says I’m a nice person. So why in Philadelphia magazine did you refer to me as a poverty pimp and a terrible human being?” Johnson responded, referring to a May 2013 article as the fired-up crowd in South Philadelphia’s Vare Recreation Center erupted.
“I’d want to know,” Johnson continued, “how did I go from being a poverty pimp and a terrible human being to, at the last debate, being a nice guy?
Feibush was quoted calling Johnson a “poverty pimp” back in 2013, in a profile of Feibush written by former Philly mag staff writer and current writer-at-large Simon Van Zuylen-Wood. We’re quite confident Feibush was not misquoted.
Why it matters: The tone of last night’s debate seems like a truer reflection of the tension this contest is creating in the second council district. For some voters, Johnson has come to represent an unacceptable status quo. For other voters, Feibush is a walking manifestation of gentrification. It’s a fraught race, and this debate seems to have made that plain.
3. Sam Katz, who is not (yet) a mayoral candidate, once again released a big policy paper on how to fix the city. His target this time is the beleaguered Department of Licenses and Inspections.
The gist: Katz’s paper suggests some signifiant management reorganization. He also proposes taking away zoning approvals from L&I and giving that function to the Planning Department to inoculate L&I from political pressures. Katz says the city should also look into contracting with private firms to conduct inspections, “thereby converting the L&I function to one of contract oversight, compliance and administration.”
Why it matters: There’s been precious little focus on L&I in this mayoral race, which is a little surprising given the agency’s many high-profile problems. Katz’s paper could change that. Just as notable is the fact that Katz continues to act like a proto-candidate. He’s not producing these detailed papers and accompanying videos simply to, uh, inform the debate. Katz is very clearly still giving serious thought to a potential mayoral run as an independent candidate this Fall.