The Case for Lynne Abraham
(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. Wednesday, Federico Peña argued for Nelson Diaz. Today, real estate attorney and Lynne Abraham campaign chairman Michael Sklaroff contends she is the best choice.)
In Lynne Abraham, the voters in the Philadelphia Democratic Primary have a unique opportunity to elect a great mayor and fundamentally change the way the City does business. Lynne will restore the strong mayor form of government envisioned in the Philadelphia Home Rule Charter and change the pay-to-play culture that corrodes our politics. From the get-go, Lynne rejected the outside money that marginalizes Philadelphia’s campaign finance laws.
I’ve known Lynne since the early 1970’s when she was appointed Executive Director of the Redevelopment Authority. I served as her deputy. At the time the Authority had 575 employees and an annual budget of millions in federal, state and local funding. The agency had been a hotbed of corruption and favoritism. Lynne took the reins of the agency and turned it around. She brought in new blood and empowered people of talent in the ranks. As a result, she created an esprit de corps and a culture of competence. Projects that she originated or nurtured in those days remain a source of economic energy and jobs to this very day: Market East, University City Science Center, Franklin Town, Eastwick and many more.
When Lynne was elected District Attorney — the first woman to serve in that role — she faced numerous challenges. Perhaps the greatest was the prospect of investigating abuse in the clergy. Politicians and others beseeched — really, warned her — to turn a blind eye. But her commitment was to the children, not to a career in politics. Lynne is uncorrupted and incorruptible. Never even a whiff of scandal or favoritism. She served for almost 19 years without fear or favor.
Lynne’s commitment to education is founded in actions, not in political rhetoric. What other candidate has funded an entire library for a public school in need; initiated a program to offer women shut out of college opportunities a pathway to a college degree; or founded a school for children and adults who had left the school system and wanted to return to finish high school?
In this mayoral campaign Lynne has advocated programs and positions that would actually make a difference.
Schools: Lynne endorses Superintendent Hite’s Action Plan 3.0 to break down the School District bureaucracy and offer children access to four networks designed to address the needs of each student. Dr. Hite would take failing schools and assure that those schools get the principals and teachers they need to rise above past performance. Lynne’s commitment to full, fair funding of our schools includes support of the pending PILCOP litigation in state court, as well as a pledge to take the Commonwealth to federal court if necessary.
Jobs: Lynne will appoint a Commerce Director to devote full time to keeping business, growing business and attracting new employers to the city. Importantly, she has committed to convening a working group of stakeholders on day one to help rationalize business and other taxes so that we can grow employment and attract new business from the region, the nation and the world. Lynne was the only candidate to focus on expediting the Airport’s $7 Billion Capacity Enhancement Project, which holds the promise of creating thousands of construction and permanent jobs for the city and the region.
Criminal Justice and Public Safety: No other candidate has Lynne’s track record in keeping the city safe. Lynne is a firm supporter of Police Commissioner Ramsey and his work to enhance police/community relations, especially his efforts to address problems in the use-of-deadly force. She advocates the immediate implementation of the recommendations of the recently published report “Collaborative Reform Initiative: An Assessment of Deadly Force in the Philadelphia Police Department.”
Ethics: Lynne joins Bar Chancellor Albert Dandridge in supporting merit selection of judges. The current system — electing judges from a list of unknown candidates anointed by political bosses — is unacceptable, and a stain on the criminal justice system and the civil system as well. The integrity of the judicial system is fundamental to our society. No other candidate has made mention of the urgent need to stop electing judges by the whim of ballot position picked from a coffee can and the shame of having to pay thousands of dollars to election-day operatives.
At her core Lynne Abraham has a true moral compass and the courage to speak truth to power. Her record, her devotion to her native city and, most important, her commitment to no more business as usual, make Lynne the most qualified and compelling choice to be our next Mayor.
Michael Sklaroff is a partner at Ballard Spahr and the chairman of Lynne Abraham’s campaign.