The Case for Nelson Diaz

Federico Peña: “I witnessed Nelson move the levers of power at the federal level.”

Nelson Diaz. | Photo by Jeff Fusco.

(Editor’s note: This week on Citified we’re featuring op-eds from supporters of the mayoral candidates. Monday, Ken Trujillo endorsed Jim Kenney. Tuesday, Ajay Raju made the case for Anthony Williams. Today, former U.S. Energy and Transportation Secretary Federico Peña argues that Nelson Diaz is the best choice for Philadelphia.)

As a former Mayor of Denver, I know the challenges facing cities in transition. A mayor can shape the way a city sees itself and how it is seen by the world. The tenor of a mayor’s leadership, the ability to manage government effectively, and the courage to imagine its future will propel Philadelphia forward.

I have known Nelson Diaz for 40 years. We met when I was a young civil rights attorney and he was a White House Fellow working for President Jimmy Carter. We worked together to pass legislation to expand bilingual education in America, and we’ve been working together to make America a better place ever since. That shared experience of fighting together for justice is why I know he is the perfect choice to be Philadelphia’s next Mayor. Judge Diaz has laid out a comprehensive vision for Philadelphia that sets the tone for a more vibrant, inclusive and exciting city for years to come. He has the skills to implement his vision and a strategy to achieve it. Nelson has done this his entire career. He is a proven leader.

Some say that Philadelphia is a city of contradictions. It is a city that is booming but also a city with deep poverty. The Pope and the Democratic National Committee have chosen to spotlight Philadelphia.  Yet outside of the spotlight, too many low-income children, particularly in the African American and Latino communities, don’t have access to a quality education.  Too many residents lack meaningful opportunities to move into the middle class. Philadelphia is a city poised for a bright future but only with Nelson Diaz as its visionary leader.

Nelson knows that the opportunities and challenges that face Philadelphia’s citizens are inherently connected. Fixing schools, creating good jobs, and promoting the environment are each interdependent.  He knows that people have to do this together.

What I most appreciate about Nelson is that he sees the big, broad picture with each of his proposals. It is clear that he understands that access to capital, access to transit, access to a quality education, and access to healthy neighborhoods are all related to one another. His thoughtful and comprehensive plan is exactly what Philadelphia needs to move forward.

Often politicians pay lip service to these ideals while their policies are contradictory.  For example, proposing to be environmentally conscious while dramatically expanding carbon emissions doesn’t add up. Arguing for stronger ethics laws while failing to personally abide by those same high standards is hypocritical.

Nelson has always seen what is possible from a unique perspective. He grew up poor and worked his way up into the middle class.  During his life he has faced doubters but he never listened to them. With his “can-do” attitude he has achieved success at every stage of his extraordinary career.  Always respectful of the past, Nelson Diaz has embraced the future with new and creative ideas.

I served in President Clinton’s cabinet as Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Energy when Nelson was General Counsel to the Department of Housing and Urban Development. Our offices were across the street from one another. During that time he helped lead a revolution in public housing across America. I witnessed Nelson move the levers of power at the federal level to reshape our nation’s approach to affordable housing and lessen poverty. Nelson accomplished this by working with both political parties. I am confident he will bring that same non-partisan approach in working with the Pennsylvania legislature. He has done this as a lawyer and as a businessman.

Nelson has served Philadelphia as both its City Solicitor, the top lawyer in City government, and Chief Administrative Judge, the head of the City courts system. As Chief Administrative Judge, he overhauled the courts and made them more effective and efficient in spite of vehement opposition. He knows how to govern and is prepared to assume the role of Mayor day one. Nelson alone has the business acumen and experience to implement his plan to grow the economy, attract good jobs, improve education and lead Philadelphia into the future.

This election is about educating our children, reducing poverty, and creating an economy that benefits all Philadelphians. It is not politics as usual.

This great city needs a bold Mayor who knows how to overcome adversity. Philadelphia deserves a Mayor whose sole priority is improving the lives of its citizens.

Nelson Diaz will be that Mayor. Nelson is passionate about addressing the challenges facing Philadelphia. He alone has courageously put forth a detailed and comprehensive plan to meet those challenges.

I am proud to support Nelson Diaz for Mayor of Philadelphia. You should be too.

Federico Peña is a former mayor of Denver and the former Secretary of Transportation and Secretary of Energy under President Bill Clinton.