The Case for Jim Kenney

Ken Trujillo: Kenney is "candid, intelligent, caring and as a true Philadelphian, shows his humanity."

He's a talker. | Photo by Jeff Fusco.

Photo by Jeff Fusco.

(Editor’s note: This week on Citified we’re featuring op-eds from supporters of the mayoral candidates. Up first is Ken Trujillo, who is endorsing Jim Kenney. Tomorrow, Ajay Raju makes the case for Tony Williams.)

I became a candidate for mayor because Philadelphia is at an inflection point in its history. We have a painfully high 26 percent poverty rate and over 500,000 adult Philadelphians are functionally illiterate. At the same time, we are witnessing revitalization and growth many thought impossible. We are at a moment where so much progress is possible, but only if our next mayor has visionary ideas and the ability to get things done.

The Philadelphia Inquirer’s recent “endorsement” in the mayoral election compels me to weigh in at this time. I use quotes because if a recent report by Dave Davies, one of the most respected journalists in the region, is accurate, it appears that the editorial board of the Inquirer actually reached the same conclusion I did after I had to withdraw from the race. Jim Kenney is the best choice for mayor.

Absent a self-funding candidate, there has never been a doubt that independent expenditure committees would have an outsized influence in this race. If the Inquirer is seriously using independent support as the litmus test for its endorsement, it needs to ask where the candidates would be without it. The information currently available clearly demonstrates that the amount of money spent by IE’s supporting Williams have far outspent those supporting Kenney. Far from being a one trick pony, Kenney’s broad range of endorsements from unions is but one piece of his support from organizations and community leaders representing Philadelphians of different neighborhoods, socioeconomic groups, sexual orientations, and racial and ethnic backgrounds. It is difficult not to come away impressed by the broad coalitions Kenney has brought together. If Kenney did not have the union support of which the Inquirer is so suspicious, he would still be a viable contender.

The same cannot be said about Williams.

I put a lot of thought into who among the current slate of candidates would be best fit to lead the City since I ended my campaign. Governor Rendell simply and elegantly says that he looks for candidates with a good head and a good heart. Since each candidate passes that test, in my view, I look at the candidates’ personal qualities and personal history. When viewed through that lens, a clear choice emerges: Jim Kenney.

While we come from very different backgrounds, Jim and I have similar goals and similar motivations. His personal history strongly suggests that he will be a fine mayor. He has been an outspoken advocate for schools, children, people of color, immigrants, our LGBT community, and working men and women. He has taken tough votes to enhance revenues for our schools, and championed campaign finance and ethics reform. Because of Jim Kenney’s partnership with Mayor Nutter in the early 2000s, our city’s ethics laws are stronger than ever before. Kenney championed a bill to ban pay-to-play, supported legislation to create some of the strictest campaign finance limits in the country, and worked alongside Nutter to create the Board of Ethics.

This is a credit to Jim Kenney’s leadership and his record of making Philadelphia a more inclusive city. As early as 2002, he proposed creating an Office of New Philadelphians, which would encourage immigration, provide ESL, and translation services for city documents. He also sponsored a municipal ID bill before it became legal in New York, and lead the public outcry that ultimately caused Mayor Nutter to end cooperation with ICE.

What compels me to support Jim, however, is the combination of his history and his personal qualities. I have observed him when I was City Solicitor in the early 2000’s and seen a man who is passionate, candid, intelligent, caring and as a true Philadelphian, shows his humanity. Jim craves smart people and listens to them. I also have come to know Jim as someone who understands that leadership requires humility in order to move the city forward. I’ve seen someone who cannot tolerate injustice and someone who will outwork anyone for his beloved Philadelphia.

Tony Williams is a good man. However, when asked the most fundamental question, “Why do you want to be mayor,” Williams cites a desire to be a chief executive. Wow. Really? His reliance on his father’s legacy is less a tribute then reflective of a troubling sense of entitlement. And touting new ways to tax Philadelphians as a qualification to be mayor is not a history that compels me.

Recent events in Ferguson, New York and Baltimore are grim reminders that we need someone who can bring communities together. Jim Kenney’s history and campaign demonstrate that he is the best candidate to do just that. I will be voting for Jim Kenney for Mayor.

(Ken Trujillo was 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.)