Clout is something you feel, not something you measure. It’s highly subjective. And yet by any gauge, our idea of power players — and what power even looks like — has forever changed this year. When a pandemic keeps us off campuses and out of restaurants and arenas, just how influential are university presidents, chefs and athletes? With lives on the line, doctors and innovators suddenly feel much more vital than developers and financiers. In the midst of ongoing protests over racism and inequity, we desperately need the moral compasses of activists and connectors. And at a time when we’ve never been more physically disconnected, the people who unite us through art, through culture, through social media are lifelines. All of which is to say that there’s never been a year like 2020. This ranked snapshot of Philly’s 76 most influential people proves it.
Leader Under Fire
NEMESES: All those working-class South Philly types who happily voted the white Irish Catholic guy into the mayor’s office the first time around, only to see him ditch the Frank Rizzo and Christopher Columbus statues and side with Black Lives Matter. Oh, and you can add to that list of foes Marc Vetri. (See number 75.)
LATEST TRIUMPH: Though restaurateurs, bar owners and retail operators hate him for it, Kenney has handled COVID better than many of his peers across the country. He’s taken a realistic, pragmatic approach and relied on science (number 17) — not public opinion — to guide his hand.
NEXT UP: 2020 has been brutal on the Mayor — well, on most American mayors — but he still has three years on his term, if you can believe that. He needs to clear his head and figure out what the hell he’s going to do with them.
MIDAS TOUCH: In August, he and wife Aileen unloaded a North Palm Beach condo they bought for $3.2 mil in 2004 for nearly $6 mil. NOT-SO-MIDAS TOUCH: As of July, stock in Comcast, where he’s chairman and CEO, was down about four percent over a year ago in a market that saw the S&P 500 rise by 20.5 percent. ROOM FOR GROWTH: Comcast’s 2018 acquisition (over rival bidder Disney) of Europe’s Sky Studios gave it markets there that represent half the world’s broadband and video revenues. ON THE LOCAL FRONT: Roberts promised shareholders Comcast would be part of the movement to “reimagine all forms of society” in the wake of George Floyd’s killing. And he backed that up with $5 million to pay for Chromebooks for kids in Philly schools. CHERRY ON TOP: In September, the Four Seasons hotel crowning the new Comcast tower got a five-star rating from Forbes — the first Philly hotel ever to earn that honor.
Progressive Wonder Woman
Since the establishment-bucking 2017 victory that made her the first woman ever elected City Controller, Rhynhart has continued to push the boundaries for progressives in Philadelphia. A former staffer for mayors Nutter and Kenney, she has become the current officeholder’s toughest watchdog. Her bold alternative to Kenney’s proposed post-COVID budget in May was her way of showing “that you could balance the budget without raising taxes and by making strategic and less-severe cuts to departments,” she says. ¶ She’s made it a mission to prove that COVID need not be a cap on ambition. “It’s possible to manage the city’s finances better. It’s just hard — and I’m not afraid of hard,” says Rhynhart, once a managing director at Bear Stearns. “I’m also not afraid to use the power of the pulpit to try and bring about change.” ¶ To that end, she’s had her office take on projects with social as well as financial impact: From auditing the city’s sexual harassment misconduct policies and payouts to launching the Community Advisory and Accountability Council that works with neighborhood activists, Rhynhart is finding ever more impactful ways to serve the public. Which is why it should come as no shock that some are forecasting an even bigger job title for her in the future: mayor. —Ernest Owens
Criminal Justice Reformer (Or Pariah, Depending Whom You Ask)
CROWNING ACHIEVEMENTS: As district attorney, Krasner has eliminated cash bail for the majority of crimes that end up in the criminal justice system and reduced the city’s jail population from 8,100 in 2015 to less than 4,000. NEMESIS: Trump-appointed U.S. Attorney Bill McSwain has attacked Krasner repeatedly, once calling a murder the “direct result” of his policies. KRASNER’S RESPONSE: “I think it’s pretty obvious that he is trying to have a political future.” (McSwain did recently spend $75,000 in taxpayer money on an anti-gun-violence billboard campaign that happened to include a massive headshot.)
IF THE WORDS “resilient,” “reflective” and “rebellious” should be etched on the ledger of any elected official currently in City Hall, it would be that of Maria Quiñones-Sánchez. After becoming the first Latinx woman ever elected to City Council, in 2007, she’s grown her power and is now, together with Curtis Jones Jr., the body’s third most senior member. And she’s done it without ever receiving the Democratic Party’s endorsement, which means that unlike many of her district colleagues, she faces a formidable primary challenge every cycle.
“What makes her a standout leader is that she doesn’t focus on big speeches and rhetoric for the sake of a press conference,” says Rafael Álvarez Febo, a staffer for Quiñones-Sánchez for six years before becoming executive director of the Pennsylvania Commission on LGBTQ Affairs. “She makes it her priority to master all the intricacies of our city government to problem-solve not just as a legislator, but with the executive experience to visualize how legislation is implemented.”
As co-chair of the Special Committee on Poverty, Quiñones-Sánchez held hearings, collaborated with more than 100 experts, and, 10 days before the city’s COVID lockdown began, released a Poverty Action Plan to move 100,000 Philadelphians out of poverty. “As appropriations chair, I say every budget season that the budget reflects our values,” she says. “This year, in the most difficult budget I have navigated, we saw unprecedented community engagement — and I hope folks stay engaged.”
But what has made her one of the most buzzed-about elected officials citywide is her unflinching ability to stand by her convictions, even when controversial. Quiñones-Sánchez voted against the soda tax; called for the resignation of her indicted colleague, Councilmember Bobby Henon; and opposed supervised safe-injection sites in Kensington, an epicenter of the opioid crisis in her district.
“City Councilmembers truly do represent the constituencies that elect them,” she says. “I don’t align with my colleagues on every issue, but we are able to engage in a deliberative process because we are able to find shared values, a commitment to a fair process, and a deep respect for the public trust.” —Ernest Owens
The People’s Champion
THE YEAR 2020 has changed a lot of people’s thinking and priorities. Not those of Helen Gym, the hard-charging Councilmember at-large who rode a rep as a firebrand schools activist into Council in 2015, then in 2019 got more votes in the primary than any other Council candidate since 1987. ¶ “I came in with a vision for a human rights agenda centered on quality schools, housing and health care for residents of the City of Philadelphia,” says Gym. “And I would say that 2020 has, more than at any other time, crystallized them in a way that might have previously seemed relatively abstract or high-minded. For me, a crisis should not alter your priorities; it should distill them.” In other words, the world has met Helen Gym where she stands. ¶ To the question of how she might leverage this sea change, Gym (whose fans waffle between hoping she’ll run for mayor and hoping she’ll run for Congress) predictably demurs: “I’ve always believed that power lies not in city halls and state legislatures, but in the hands of people who are mobilizing for systemic change.” ¶ However, right now, within the confines of this City Hall, Gym says, “We need to be a much more policy-oriented body, to look at legislative work that lifts us, that cares for the city overall.” —Brian Howard
WILLIAM R. HITE JR.
CHALLENGE: Entering his ninth year as superintendent of a district with a huge budget deficit, Hite faces schools plagued by hazardous materials, systems rife with racial inequity, and the need to educate students remotely while correcting for the district’s massive digital divide. NEW THIS YEAR: The Equity Coalition, a committee tasked with “uprooting policies, deconstructing processes, and eradicating practices that create systems of privilege and power.” UNDER FIRE: A searing report from the district’s Office of the Inspector General on the botched handling of a construction project and asbestos hazards was just one reason the city’s principals union listed in declaring in September that it had no confidence in Hite.
THE FRESHMAN FOUR
Kendra Brooks, Jamie Gauthier, Katherine Gilmore Richardson & Isaiah Thomas
NEW ENERGY: City Council has been in flux for a few cycles but hasn’t seen quite so much all-at-once change in ages. From left, Thomas, Gilmore Richardson (millennials both), Gauthier (a political newcomer who unseated a 27-year incumbent) and Brooks (an actual third-party politician!), all elected in 2019, have quickly formed an unlikely progressive-minded bloc — unlikely because they come from traditionally rival political sectors. SQUAD GOALS: Tackling long-overlooked city issues: holding immediate hearings to address housing insecurity, demanding that Mayor Kenney declare a gun violence state of emergency, and butting heads with colleagues on ending or restructuring the tax abatement.
PHILLY’S NEW UNION MUSCLE
Ryan Boyer, Jerry Jordan & Chris Woods
CAN YOU BELIEVE IT? A group of influential labor leaders not including a certain Irish-surnamed electrician? These are topsy-turvy times indeed.
Hear us out, though. It’s not as if there’s only one powerful labor leader in Philadelphia. And these three — Jerry Jordan of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, Chris Woods of AFSCME 1199C, and Ryan Boyer of the Laborers District Council — maintain the traditional trappings of power, too. Just run the numbers: Each has a membership roll in the thousands. Jordan’s PFT spent north of $340,000 on political campaign contributions last year; Boyer’s Laborers spent more than $2 million. AFSCME 1199C, which represents health-care workers across Philadelphia, was the first major union to back Larry Krasner in 2017 and Jim Kenney way back in 2015.
More evidence: When the pandemic hit and hospital workers at Temple demanded hazard pay, Woods promptly called all of his political allies — the very people who help determine Temple’s state funding — to let them know about his membership’s plight. Hazard pay arrived shortly thereafter. That is influence.
None of this is really different from what John Dougherty has been doing for decades. Here’s what distinguishes Jordan, Boyer and Woods, though: All three are Black labor leaders, running unions whose rolls are much more diverse than the building trades, which have long been white and inclined to stay that way.
A diverse union demands diverse priorities, beyond the bread-and-butter issues of wages and benefits. “We’re forced to be much more than a labor organization,” says Boyer, whose Laborers union is the only predominately Black union that’s part of the construction trades. (Boyer is also second in command to Dougherty in the Philadelphia Building Trades Council, the umbrella group that represents a number of construction unions.)
The same logic holds for Jordan and Woods. That’s why you saw the PFT assembling in front of the Comcast Tower in August, demanding free internet so students whose families couldn’t afford access could still attend virtual school. And it’s why, after the George Floyd protests, AFSCME 1199C reemphasized its campaign for social justice. “We want to be in conversations not just as relates to police, but to the whole criminal justice system,” says Woods. “Because these are issues that affect our members.” —David Murrell
City Council Know-It-All
BIGGEST SKILL: State Representative Jordan Harris calls the City Council president a “quiet consensus builder.” CORRESPONDING CHALLENGE: Building consensus in a City Council filled with more new, progressive lawmakers. RULEBOOK WIZARD: Clarke seems to know Council’s every arcane rule. “He’s got a PhD in how City Council works,” says political consultant Mustafa Rashed. MAIN FOCUS: Before the pandemic and protests usurped the legislative agenda, Clarke sought to lower gun violence and, through Council’s Special Committee on Poverty, lift 100,000 Philadelphians out of poverty by 2024.
HEAVY IS THE HEAD: The Governor’s moves in response to COVID have seen him praised as a lifesaver—and demonized as a tyrant. NEMESIS: U.S. District Judge William S. Stickman IV, who ruled some of Wolf’s shutdown orders unconstitutional. (An appeals court later granted a stay). MANAGEMENT TIPS: “He is the most positive and caring person I’ve met,” says Richard Vague (number 35), the state’s acting Secretary of Banking and Securities. “He takes the time to call frontline Commonwealth employees to thank them for their hard work. He starts every meeting—no matter how dire the subject—with thanks and appreciation.”
CURRENT CHALLENGE: “I’m in court seemingly daily protecting our democracy in the upcoming election,” Attorney General Shapiro says of the gauntlet of suits he’s either fighting or has filed. ALSO KEEPING HIM BUSY: Protecting citizens from COVID-related scams (he’s gotten $2 million back for consumers during the pandemic), illegal guns (he’s gotten 1,638 off the streets) and opioids (he sued Purdue Pharma). ON HIS REELECTION BID: “To be candid, I don’t spend a whole lot of time on the politics. I’ve found that if you do a good job in public service, the politics usually takes care of itself.”
CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT: When coronavirus began spreading in Philly, Stanford—a surgeon with her own medical practice—founded Black Doctors COVID-19 Consortium, working out of a rented van to establish the city’s first mobile COVID-19 testing site, ensuring that the city’s Black residents, who are disproportionately affected, have access to testing. LATEST WIN: Securing a $1 million grant from the city to provide free COVID-19 testing to anyone who needs it. Since April, the BDCC has tested nearly 11,000 people, one percent of whom identified as Asian, three percent as Latinx, 10 percent as white, and 86 percent as Black. LEADING THE WAY: “When Ala recognized the all-too-common inequity in access to health care, she conceived a plan to address this,” says Alliric Willis, associate professor of surgery at Thomas Jefferson University. Now, her solution “has become a model nationally recognized for its success.”
The What the Hell Did I Get Myself Into? Police Commissioner
IT MUST HAVE SEEMED like a great idea at the time. After a series of scandals—from multiple sexual assault and harassment complaints to scores of white cops posting racist messages on Facebook—Philadelphia found itself in need of a new police commissioner, preferably a woman of color. And Outlaw was ready for a change after spending a couple of unremarkable—if not entirely uncontroversial—years at the helm of the Portland, Oregon, police department. A match made in heaven. But, well, 2020. ¶ Outlaw’s first day on the job in Philadelphia was February 10th. Then came COVID. Then came civil unrest in the wake of the George Floyd killing—unrest that Outlaw’s officers met, in some cases, with brute force and tear gas, leading to a major New York Times investigation and an ensuing public relations and legal nightmare for the city. And all of that would be followed by the city’s most murderous summer in recent history. ¶ But where is Outlaw? When she makes the occasional TV appearance, she’s a broken record: We need the community’s support. It’s true. She does. But what she also needs is to step up as a real leader, one in search of justice and genuine answers. She’s got a chance, and a public mandate, to make significant change. To date, she hasn’t done that. —Victor Fiorillo
Deandra Jefferson, Megan Malachi & Anthony Smith
TO GRASP JUST HOW much progress Philly’s radical activists have made, look no further than the lead organizers of the Philadelphia Coalition for Racial Economic and Legal Justice (Philly for REAL Justice). Anthony Smith, Deandra Jefferson and Megan Malachi, three Black millennials, have been growing their group’s influence since 2015 and are now seeing many of their once-widely criticized demands become reality. Case in point: Before Councilmember Helen Gym and other progressives demanded the removal of the controversial Frank Rizzo statue from Thomas Paine Plaza in the wake of Charlottesville, this trio of Philly natives initiated the largest public campaign to do so, in 2016.
“We had been working on that for years, before politicians thought it was popular or possible,” Jefferson says of the statue’s takedown following the George Floyd protests. “The fact that it has been removed is a testament to the work we put in to organize the mass frustration against Rizzo and the policies that are part of his legacy.”
The group’s coalition-building with other social justice organizations has further amplified its sway. “During the rebellion in May, we came together to form the Black Philly Radical Collective, a coalition of radical Black groups fighting against police terrorism and other forms of racist oppression,” says Malachi. “We have made 13 demands of the city that we believe will improve conditions for Black Philadelphians.”
Many of those demands, such as calls to defund the police, have already resonated with officials, who are reevaluating how law enforcement is prioritized in the budget. These activists are proving that protests are more than noise. “We have shown the city that mistreatment will be met with resistance,” says Smith. “I am glad to see gender-oppressed people wage resistance; I am glad to see housing-insecure people wage resistance; I am glad to see students and educators wage resistance.” —Ernest Owens
THE SOCIAL MEDIA INFLUENCERS
Feminista Jones, Conrad Benner and Rasheed Ajamu
IN A YEAR featuring a pandemic that forced many of us inside, that saw massive community mobilization around racial justice, and that brings another goddamned presidential election, social media became even more potent. These Philly voices led the way. KEEP READING HERE.
TOM FARLEY & RACHEL LEVINE
CURRENT TASK: Well, this goes without saying. Pre-COVID, Farley and Levine, Philly’s health commissioner and the state secretary of health, respectively, talked health policy every two weeks by phone; by the spring, they had a standing appointment seven days a week. BIGGEST DECISIONS: Levine helped devise the red-yellow-green statewide reopening progression; Farley set the even stricter metrics for Philly. QUOTABLE: “I would say I have more influence than I had before,” Farley says, “which is not something that is necessarily welcome.”
JORDAN HARRIS & JOANNA MCCLINTON
CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT: These millennials continue to make history and break barriers. Harris (36, State Rep for PA’s 186th District) is the youngest Black person ever elected Pennsylvania’s minority whip. McClinton (38, PA 191st) is the first Black person and woman ever selected to chair the Pennsylvania House Democratic Caucus. IT’S ABOUT CLOUT: Both have used their leadership positions to galvanize the city’s delegation on core issues (such as protecting voting rights and COVID-19 safety) and recently won bipartisan support for criminal justice reform in the notoriously Republican-controlled legislative body.
Big (Ivy) Leaguer
POINT OF PRIDE: Fulfilling her dream of becoming the first in her family to go to college. CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT: As president of the University of Pennsylvania, paying it forward by tripling financial aid since 2004 and more than doubling the number of students from low-income, middle-income, and first-generation-college families, more than two-thirds of whom now graduate debt-free. THORN IN HER SIDE: The never-ending saga of Donald Trump’s Penn connection. The latest chapter saw Gutmann’s office inundated with questions about allegations that Trump cheated on the SATs that got him into Wharton. THORN, PART II: Amid COVID budget shortfalls in the city, longtime advocates pushing for Penn to make payments in lieu of taxes (PILOTs) to the city have been turning up the heat. That $14.9 billion endowment and tax-free real estate worth $3.2 billion make for a pretty big target.
The Best Defense
ANY CONVERSATION ABOUT criminal justice reform in this city goes through Keir Bradford-Grey. As chief defender of the Defender Association of Philadelphia, she has maximized the influence of her office to address legal system disparities that impact the city’s most vulnerable. ¶ One project she’s undertaken, for example, is launching the city’s first defense hubs to help participants navigate the system and hold the courts and public defenders more accountable. “Creating an avenue to give our community more agency in the justice system is a recent achievement I’m most proud of,” she says. “Philly’s citizens are too often left out of the conversations around solutions and decisions made by the justice system.” Such unconventional approaches inspired her unexpected decision to become co-counsel for Michael White in the high-profile Rittenhouse stabbing case in which the young Black poet was eventually cleared of manslaughter. ¶ “I strive to use my access to important information about a massive and extremely costly justice system that often takes more from individuals than it will ever give back to society,” she says. “We are beginning to see a huge impact using practices that address behaviors that are social in nature”—that is, not criminal—“and so should have social-service solutions.” —Ernest Owens.
SEPTA’s Hopeful Savior
POWER MOVES: In 2019, Richards resigned as state transportation secretary to become SEPTA’s GM. What some saw as a step down, Richards views as a chance to modernize SEPTA: “Diversity, inclusion, equity, accessibility, affordability have always been issues that I care deeply about.” BY THE NUMBERS: The nation’s fifth-largest transit system carries more than 1.3 million passengers a day. EARLY HURDLES: COVID has hit the bottom line. And even before that, critics have said management has ignored residents who ride the most. “Significant change is needed,” says Nat Lownes, of Philly’s nascent Transit Riders Union. “It’s unclear if Richards wants to do it.”
CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT: Establishing Jefferson Health, where he’s CEO, as one of the most technologically limber and fastest-growing academic health institutions in the country, expanding from three hospitals to 14 since 2013 and growing Thomas Jefferson University, of which he’s president, to encompass 10 colleges and three schools spanning medicine, architecture, fashion, business, textiles and more. HEY PENN! Jefferson is now Philly’s second largest employer. AMBITIOUS AIM: To make Jefferson the model for digital transformation in health care … while ensuring this new frontier doesn’t leave out people who are poor. QUOTABLE: “When the space aliens visit Greater Philadelphia in 2030 and ask where Jefferson is,” Klasko says, “people will say, ‘Right here on my phone.’”
Children’s Heath Giant
CROWNING ACHIEVEMENTS: Under president and CEO Bell, Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia developed of one of the country’s largest pediatric ambulatory care networks, expanded the hospital’s four-million-square-foot campus, and helped develop the first FDA-approved gene therapy for a rare form of blindness. Plus: Seven years running as U.S. News & World Report’s number one pediatrics department. ON THE HORIZON: In 2021, a new hospital in King of Prussia and a new Center for Health Equity to improve access to quality health care for all Philly kids. PUBLIC SPEAKING: Bell, a vocal critic of separation of immigrant families at the border, “uses her platform to not only inspire change within the organization, but to publicly advocate for those who do not have a voice,” says Patrick Harker, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia, where Bell is deputy chief of the board of directors.
The Health Honcho
BY THE NUMBERS: Between Penn’s medical school and Penn Med’s six hospitals, 10 outpatient centers, and 530 outpatient clinics, 43,907 people work for the University of Pennsylvania Health System, where Mahoney is CEO; it took in $8.6 billion in operating SIZE MATTERS: “When you combine research at Penn with research at Children’s Hospital”—home to Penn’s pediatrics department—“we rank first in NIH-funded research in the country,” Mahoney says, with more than $657 million in fiscal 2019. NEXT UP: Next year, Penn Med is opening the largest inpatient hospital in Philly across from HUP.
ON THE HOT SEAT: When managing director Brian Abernathy resigned in the wake of the city’s disastrous tear-gassing of peaceful protesters, City Hall vet Alexander was tapped as acting managing director. BIG-PICTURE STUFF: Alexander penned an op-ed in the Metro imploring us to complete the census so the city gets maximum federal funding when it’s most needed. THE RIGHT STUFF: “He fixes things,” says former managing director Michael DiBerardinis, now a prof at Penn’s Fels Institute of Government. “He gets inside them, but quietly and smoothly, and sort of clears up the dispute, advances the objective, or moves a project to resolution. He does it with a very light touch.”
The VC Guru
BIG DEALS: First Round Capital co-founder Kopelman’s eye for disruptive potential is the stuff of legend. Oh, and he’s the chairman of the board of the Inquirer. SPEAKING OF DISRUPTION: First Round Review—the firm’s industry blog—just published “The Founder’s Field Guide for Navigating This Crisis,” advice geared toward founders managing through their first downturn. SECRET SAUCE: “He’s one of the investors that actually will allow you to do your work: He’ll put in the investment and trust the people that are behind it,” host Liz Brown said in a July episode of Philly innovation podcast Parallax.
GREGORY HOLSTON & MARK TYLER
Ministers On a Mission
AHEAD OF THE CURVE: Before it became trendy to speak out against racial injustice, Holston, the former executive director of Philadelphians Organized to Witness, Empower and Rebuild (POWER), and Tyler, a member, were holding massive rallies outside the Philadelphia police headquarters and beyond. CONSOLIDATING POWER: Holston, of Janes Memorial United Methodist Church in Germantown, now serves as the senior adviser on advocacy and policy for the Philadelphia district attorney’s office, while Tyler, of Mother Bethel AME Church, now organizes with the Clergy Coalition of the Unheard, a 17-strong group of interfaith religious leaders advocating for racial justice.
THE HAAS FAMILY
WHO DAT? Their William Penn Foundation, founded in 1945 by Otto and Phoebe Haas (of chemical giant Rohm and Haas), may not be as self-promoting as some, but hey, it’s named for a Quaker, not a Kardashian. BY THE NUMBERS: The family’s steady, quiet funding of local education, environmental causes and the arts—$115 million-plus last year alone—makes a difference in the life of the city every day. STEPPING UP: “COVID-19 has required us to be even more flexible—both in what local nonprofits we fund and how—to ensure that organizations have resources to help people in need immediately,” says physician Janet Haas, the current board chair. “Fast, collective action coupled with flexibility is essential to a recovery that includes all Philadelphians.”
The Connector Who Inspires
Unapologetically Black creative Tayyib Smith dreams big. But more importantly, he has a reputation for making his dreams reality. Name any super-dope entrepreneurial project that’s taken off in Philly in the past decade, and the Philly native has either been a part of it—or knows the people who are. ¶ When co-working spaces emerged, he became a founding partner in Pipeline Philly in Center City. Before social impact collaborations were a trend, Smith launched innovative projects as senior principal of Little Giant Creative. As more people champion diversity in film, he’s taking on the issue as a board member of the BlackStar Film Fest. He co-founded, with Meegan Denenberg, the Institute of Hip-Hop Entrepreneurship, dedicated to non-traditional business training. And he’s on the boards of Prizm Art Fair and the Memphis Slim House, two Black women-led organizations he wants everyone to support. ¶ But his latest endeavor, which involves developing a five-story entrepreneurship hub at 52nd and Arch streets in West Philly through his firm, Smith & Roller, may be his biggest move yet. “I believe I am one of the people who are changing the narrative and perception on Black entrepreneurship, social impact, equity and restorative justice,” Smith says. “I’m pushing the idea that we should all be ‘walking it like we talk it’ vs. the rhetorical gymnastics about diversity and inclusion.” —Ernest Owens
Health Heavy Hitter
BIG DEAL: Helping enact the Affordable Care Act while serving as a health adviser to then-president Barack Obama. POINTS OF PRIDE: As vice provost of global initiatives and co-director of the Healthcare Transformation Institute at Penn, founding two departments of bioethics, one at the National Institutes of Health and one at the University of Pennsylvania. Also, “raising three wonderful daughters who are intelligent, compassionate, caring, and morally committed to doing good in the world,” he says. BLOOD TIES: Emanuel, an oncologist and bioethicist, is the oldest of the three overachieving Emanuel brothers: Rahm was Obama’s chief of staff and mayor of Chicago, and Ari, a Hollywood agent, inspired the character Ari on Entourage. BIG YEAR: Besides publishing two books, in 2020, Emanuel offered a sage voice in the COVID chaos and served on Joe Biden’s coronavirus task force … possibly setting the stage for a role in a new administration.
Guardian of the Flame
CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT: Super Bowl LII, duh. SECOND CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT: Convincing insular Philadelphians (“But he’s from Boston!”) that he’s one of us. He’s one of the few Eagles owners who hasn’t been a native Philadelphian, but “He’s become as Philadelphian as a cheesesteak,” says sports guru Ray Didinger. “He’s totally assimilated. He’s part of the community.” ADDED BONUS: His activism re Black Lives Matter. “Jeff has always been at the forefront of this,” says Didinger. “In the fraternity of NFL owners, he’s a different kind of guy.”
SARAH GLOVER & MANUEL MCDONNELL SMITH
AHEAD OF THE CURVE: While newsrooms across the country scramble to diversify, Smith (prez of the Philadelphia Association of Black Journalists and managing editor at CBS Philly/KYW-TV) and Glover (manager of social media strategy for NBC-owned TV stations and the former prez of the National Association of Black Journalists) have walked the walk for years. POWER MOVES: Glover made headlines when the AP Stylebook finally capitalized the “B” in Black, an effort she had long championed. “I’m honored to be counted among those who made the case,” she says. “Words matter.” Smith, in his first year leading PABJ, oversaw an unprecedented $100,000 fund-raising effort. QUOTABLE: “Diversity, equity and inclusion shouldn’t be the only goal,” says Smith. “We firmly believe that Black communities are best served when we own the stories told for and about us.”
LATEST TRIUMPH: Raising $79K (and counting!) online to give Honeysuckle, his roving pop-up dinner series amplifying Black American foodways and culture, a permanent home in West Philly. BIG PLANS: A new community center/cafe/market, hopefully in Mantua. QUOTABLE: “A recipe is just a recipe. But if you look close at it, there’s a story between the lines. The story of how I got here is the food I want to make.”
CRISTINA MARTINEZ & BEN MILLER
Activists First, Chefs Second
STOCK: Holding steady. Martinez and Miller have been on the scene since their taco-cart days of 2014. Their South Philly restaurants—Barbacoa, Casa Mexico and El Compadre—double as hubs of local activism. LATEST TRIUMPH: Turning El Compadre into the People’s Kitchen, a partnership with equity-focused 215 People’s Alliance (funded by celeb chef José Andrés’s international nonprofit World Central Kitchen) that saw the city’s chefs cooking tens of thousands of meals for people in need during the COVID-19 pandemic.
The Angel Bureaucrat
SERENDIPITY: Vague—a banking whiz, an angel investor, a civic dynamo, and the author of 2019’s A Brief History of Doom, about economic collapses—became the state’s acting Secretary of Banking and Securities in February, providing his expertise right when we needed it. QUOTABLE: “There has been so much for businesses to digest that getting additional guidance or clarity quickly is one of the big things the regulatory community has been able to do.” MIX AND MATCH: “He’s the best crossover between a Texan and an East Coaster,” says Carl June (number 39), whose work Vague funded. UP NEXT: A new book, The Illustrated Business History of the United States.
POWER PORTFOLIO: Imasogie’s journey from lawyer to serial entrepreneur and venture capitalist spans 30 years, the last 17 of which he’s spent as co-founder and senior managing partner at PIPV Capital, investing in promising companies in Philadelphia’s biotech, pharmaceutical, and life sciences industries and attracting capital to the city’s start-up ecosystem. PIPV has raised and distributed more than $1 billion for Philly-area companies. BIG GIVER: Imasogie and his wife, Losenge, recently pledged $3 million to Penn Law for the Imasogie Professorship in Law and Technology. QUOTABLE: “Osagie is a brilliant entrepreneur,” says David L. Cohen (number 63), outgoing senior executive vice president of Comcast and a fellow Penn Law grad. “He also takes the time and makes the effort to mentor the next generation of entrepreneurs.”
They Made It Okay to Laugh Again
WHEN THE PANDEMIC put the NHL on pause in March, Gritty, officially the mascot of the Flyers, was put on pause as well. But because Gritty is unofficially the mascot of the entire city, Gritty wasn’t about to stay paused. It started, naturally, with a tweet — “I rightfully assume my duty to be the orange light of hope in this COVID-19-covered world.”
“It was a pledge to maintain his stance as someone who brings good into the world,” says Lauren Capone, manager of marketing communications for the Flyers and Gritty’s writing collaborator.
It continued with a “talk” show, Gritty’s ¼ Hour of Power, in which the fuzzy one, using props and cue cards, got Flyers and other celebs to engage in ridiculous virtual parlor games. The show was shot daily in Gritty’s apartment, which, replete with succulents, tasteful pendant lamps and a cat tower, revealed the mascot’s … human side.
“In 2020, everyone gets to see everyone’s homes,” says Christine Mina, senior manager of digital media and ¼ Hour’s executive producer. Team Gritty had to decide: “How much are we going to peel back the curtain? To Gritty’s credit, he disassembled his dining room every single day to film this content for everybody.”
Eventually, Gritty got back into the community: socially distanced hospital visits to salute front-liners, a fire-truck parade in Delco, a traveling pep rally in Wildwood, a Community Caravan. “People couldn’t stop thanking us,” recalls Capone. “It was overwhelming.”
Of course, Gritty took it all in stride.
“The whole idea behind Gritty has been to encourage people to laugh. Obviously, there’s so much going on in the world, so we needed a way to bring that into this new world,” says a source very close to Gritty. “This group has always been adapting on the fly, and COVID hasn’t stopped us.”
But challenges remain, particularly in a world desperate for contact, plushy or otherwise. “Social distancing was tough, is still tough, because everyone’s reaction to a big fluffy mascot is to go up and hug them,” says our source extremely close to Gritty. “Everyone wants to hug someone, and of course you want to hug a mascot. We’re still dealing with that issue.” —Brian Howard
Face of the Franchise
AFTER THE SEASON the Phillies just finished, you might wonder why anyone in red pinstripes would make this list. But there’s a case to be made. ¶ Upon signing a guaranteed 13-year contract with a much-ballyhooed no-trade clause in 2019, Harper, a bona fide superstar, endeared himself to this city as few transplanted athletes ever have. Then his team stumbled to consecutive also-ran seasons thanks largely to front-office ineptitude. ¶ It’s more than fair to wonder how many seasons Bryce will remain happy here in his baseball forever home without a legitimate post-season run. It’s also fair to wonder who might bear the brunt of fan disgust should Harper start suggesting he might maybe sorta like to play for a winner elsewhere. My guess is that nobody, not even principal owner John Middleton, is more pissed about the state of Phillies baseball than is Bryce Harper. It’s also my guess that should Harper flex his muscle and ask for a trade, it’ll be Middleton, not Harper, that fans will pillory. ¶ The franchise will make significant changes this off-season. They’ve already fired, er, reassigned their GM. They may very well overspend to keep J.T. Realmuto around. Whether or not Harper says so publicly, these changes are because of him. —Brian Howard
BIG DEAL: In 2017, the FDA approved the revolutionary T-cell immunotherapy developed by Penn Medicine’s June for treating an aggressive type of leukemia. BIGGER DEAL: In 2018, it was approved to treat lymphoma; it has since been approved in Europe, Japan and Australia. SETBACK: COVID brought June’s cancer trials to a halt, though his lab work is finally back up to speed. PHILLY as HEALTH-TECH HUB: “It used to be there was no industry here. My assistants had to stay in academics or move on. Now, there are tons of jobs.”
BY THE NUMBERS (DONOR EDITION): Philadelphia 3.0, where Perelman is executive director, was a big donor in the 2019 City Council race; the PAC received a combined nearly $500,000 from Richard Vague (number 35) and Josh Kopelman (number 26). NEW AGENDA: This year, Perelman has shifted focus from politicians to policy — specifically, local election reform and the business income tax. QUOTABLE: “We have to plant the flag somewhere to start the debate around the question,” she says of tax reform. “Our role in the next few months is going to be starting that conversation.”
Misused, Maligned Sporting Star (and New Dad!)
BY THE NUMBERS: 24 points per game, 12 rebounds, three assists, and, most important, zero trade demands (that we know of), despite his Sixers bowing out in the first round of the bubble playoffs. NEMESIS: Organizational ineptitude, what with blown draft picks, coaching failures and contract malfeasance. OFF THE COURT: In September, Embiid and Anne de Paula welcomed to the world Arthur Elijah de Paula Embiid, named for Joel’s late brother.
Teacher of Teachers
BIG VISION: El-Mekki, a former public-school principal, founded the Center for Black Educator Development last year with the goal of training a new generation of Black teachers. BY THE NUMBERS: 96 percent of teachers in Pennsylvania are white, and according to one study, Black boys are 40 percent less likely to drop out if they have just one Black teacher in elementary school. “You talk about data and decision-making — that’s about as compelling as it comes,” says El-Mekki. NOTABLE BENEFACTOR: Sixers forward Tobias Harris has donated $300,000 to support the mission.
WHEN DAVID CABELLO began trekking through his North Philadelphia neighborhood at the age of 16, offering shoveling and landscaping services in hopes of making a little extra cash, he never imagined that 10 years later, he’d be the proud owner of a thriving food delivery company, or that his specific commitment to helping businesses in the Black community would land him and his twin brother and partner, Aaron, a cameo in a music video with Jay-Z. In his teen years, he spent more time dreaming of making it to the NFL.
When academic setbacks left him ineligible for college sports, Cabello, 25, began imagining other paths. Noting the dearth of Black-owned businesses in his neighborhood, he asked himself a question that stuck with him: “How can we build things that matter in our own community?”
Channeling the entrepreneurial spirit of his youth, Cabello launched a food delivery service and app in 2017 that he’d later formalize as Black and Mobile. Unlike its popular competitors, Black and Mobile provides food delivery exclusively for Black-owned restaurants, with the goal of helping them connect with new customers. Over the past three years, the company’s partner establishments have grown from a single Philadelphia restaurant to more than 80 in Philly, Atlanta and Detroit, with earnings and interest in the company soaring as social unrest shone a spotlight on Black entrepreneurs like Cabello.
Still, he hopes the limelight doesn’t blind people to the struggles he’s endured while trying to establish his business.
“It probably seems like it all happened overnight — building a successful business, being featured by Jay-Z and all — but I’ve been through so many things to get to this point,” Cabello says, noting a car accident that left him unable to walk for weeks and lamenting early struggles to raise capital. “Like a lot of people, I’ve been grinding for years.”
Cabello says he’s just getting started. In 2021, he hopes to expand Black and Mobile’s services to at least six new cities. “I don’t even feel like I’ve really blown up yet,” he says. “I still have a lot more work to do.” —Queen Muse
BIG DEAL: Thanks to 2018’s Championships album, the city’s bona fide superstar rapper can now boast another number one album, his highest-charting Billboard single, and a Grammy nomination. VIRAL MOMENTS: When not making headlines for social justice partnerships with Van Jones (REFORM Alliance) and Jay-Z (with the NFL’s “Inspire Change” initiative), he trends for his romantic entanglements — like the time he announced he broke up with Philly fashion designer Milan Harris on Twitter.
CHANGE AGENT: After years of holding Gayborhood institutions accountable as co-founder of the Black and Brown Workers Cooperative, Muhammad is set to confront citywide issues like gentrification and policing — having already influenced a City Council race. (Hat-tip for making Councilmanic prerogative a trending issue.) POWER MOVE: Led a successful campaign to remove the crania of enslaved people from the Penn Museum. UP NEXT: Muhammad is moving beyond direct action to do more close-up work as a newly appointed member of the City Controller’s Community Advisory and Accountability Council.
Elizabeth Fiedler, Rick Krajewski & Nikil Saval
THE FIVE-YEAR PLAN for Reclaim Philadelphia, the progressive political group assembled by activists after Bernie Sanders’s presidential campaign in 2016, didn’t involve its members becoming politicians. Yet here we are: Nikil Saval, a co-founder of Reclaim, and Rick Krajewski, an organizer who joined the group within its first year, will be sworn into office in Harrisburg — as a State Senator and State Representative, respectively — in January. ¶ Their arrival means reinforcements for Elizabeth Fiedler, the former reporter (and fellow unexpected politician) Reclaim helped get elected in 2018. If there were a five-year plan for democratic socialists to storm Harrisburg, it would seem to be running to perfection. ¶ Getting elected is one thing. Legislating — in hyper-partisan Harrisburg, no less — is another. Fiedler learned this the hard way. The bill she was most passionate about in her first term — one that would have funded schools for asbestos remediation — never even got a vote. “Is that frustrating?” she asks. “Yes.” ¶ But political influence works in multiple ways. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez became one of the most visible politicians in the country in large part because of her colossally ambitious unsigned legislation. The Reclaim-ites plan to propose similarly aspirational bills concerning climate change and housing. Even if those never see a vote, don’t write off this group. The proof of their influence lies in the fact that they’re in the room in the first place. —David Murrell
RAFAEL ILISHAYEV & YAKIR GOLA
BY THE NUMBERS: When the stores got scary last March, Ilishayev and Gola’s on-demand delivery service, GoPuff, was here for us. In March, the number of customers ordering at least once per week increased 90 percent over last year. SHARING THE WEALTH: GoPuff is developing an initiative to support Black- and minority-founded start-ups. And since Drexel is an important part of the duo’s success, they funded a scholarship to its Close School of Entrepreneurship. GO-TO ORDERS: Ilishayev: Dunkaroos and Sour Patch Kids. Gola: organic eggs, oatmeal, and pretzels with Nutella.
MEET THE NEW BOSS: Buckley took over as CEO of Malvern-based Vanguard Group in 2018; in 2019, when the company’s iconic founder, Jack Bogle, died, Buckley — Bogle’s onetime assistant — became the undisputed face of the low-fee mutual fund behemoth. BIG IDEA: The launch of robotic investment advice aimed at younger investors. QUOTABLE: “What shape is the recovery, a V, W or U?” Buckley asked during a July roundtable. “The shape of the recovery will have the shape of the virus. That’s the only shape that matters.”
Hoagie Mad Scientist
HOAGIEVOLUTION: With more than 902 Wawas in six states (and Washington, D.C.), you might expect CEO Gheysens to repeat the successful equation (hoagies + cult following = profit) ad infinitum. Instead, he’s debuted new menu items (pasta, burgers) and new store concepts (tiny Wawa, drive-thru Wawa). EXCEPTION: Wawa closed its Broad and Walnut location in August. WHAT THE ENEMY SAYS: “He certainly garners a ton of respect,” says Sheetz CEO Joe Sheetz. “He’s just one of those people that others gravitate to.”
AMBITIOUS AIM: Last spring, the World Health Organization tapped the DNA COVID-19 vaccine being developed by Plymouth Meeting-based Inovio Pharmaceuticals, where Kim is president and CEO, as one of three leaders being tested in humans. Kim wants to manufacture at least 100 million doses in 2021. MONEY MOVES: Secured a $9 million grant to develop said vaccine; has also received funding from the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. OOPS: Claims Kim made about the company’s pending vaccine during a highly publicized meeting with fellow Wharton School alum Donald Trump have been characterized as “overly optimistic” by some legal observers and resulted in a class-action lawsuit by Inovio shareholders. HOLD UP: In September, regulators placed a partial hold on a planned trial of Inovio’s vaccine, sending its stock tumbling.
The Music Man
TWENTY-EIGHT YEARS AGO, this British-born multi-instrumentalist was sharing an apartment in London with Questlove, Black Thought and other Roots members who had temporarily relocated to increase their European fan base while they awaited a record deal. That deal came, the band moved back to Philly, and Tidd traveled back and forth, producing and performing on some of their early albums. The band left and achieved full-blown nationwide stardom on The Tonight Show. Tidd stayed and now lives and works out of Brewerytown. ¶ Tidd has since divided his time among producing albums for other musicians, educating and curating at the Kimmel Center, co-writing a Broadway musical with Black Thought (Black No More was supposed to debut in September), and lots of touring. The pandemic brought touring to a halt, so with his sudden downtime, Tidd created ACT4Music, a nonprofit dedicated to giving musicians a virtual platform. Its first project was an eight-week music festival this summer featuring 260 performances. Now, he’s commissioning trios to create new music to be performed live in his studio and broadcast to the world. ¶ Tidd also finds time to write quite a bit on Facebook about social justice and inequality, particularly in the music business. “People who are marginalized need someone to speak up for them in a way which doesn’t just sound like people yelling at each other,” Tidd says. “And so I try to do that with my posts. There are enough people already yelling.” —Victor Fiorillo
RADICAL MISSION: Golderer, president and CEO of the United Way here and lead pastor for vision at Arch Street Presbyterian, is undeterred by naysayers who think his plan to eradicate Philadelphia’s systemic poverty — “the crisis of our time” — is quixotic. THE PLAN: Working tirelessly to bring ever-more parties on board: “That’s all I work on, that’s all I care about, is finding ways for the magical chemistry of bringing folks, odd fellows, together, because I think that’s part of our issue.” QUOTABLE: “My mentor in ministry, pastor James Forbes, said, ‘Ain’t nobody in this room gonna get into heaven without a personal letter of recommendation written by a poor person on your behalf.’ I’m going to try and earn that letter.”
BIG DEAL: As owner of 12 ShopRite and Fresh Grocer stores in the region, he’s earned major respect in the community for building full-service supermarkets in food deserts across the city. SECOND CHANCES: Even more impressive: Brown’s made it a point to hire formerly incarcerated residents and partner with neighborhood advocacy groups year-round. THEY’VE GOT HIS BACK: When rioters looted two of his locations during the George Floyd protests, community members jumped into action to help repair the damage, ensuring speedy reopenings.
JEANNINE COOK & MARC LAMONT HILL
Black Bookstore Revolutionaries
ZEITGEIST MOMENT: In the wake of the summer protests over racial injustice, Philadelphians turned to reading books on antiracism and Black culture, and primary sources were their radical literary hubs: Hill’s Uncle Bobbie’s Coffee & Books in Germantown, and Cook’s Harriett’s Bookshop in Fishtown. PROOF OF PERSEVERANCE: As national headlines praised these two outspoken Black business owners, racist emails (and in some cases, property damage) came their way — which only strengthened the support from their communities.
BIG AMBITION: Fry’s Drexel is a partner in the ongoing Schuylkill Yards project, which has been dubbed “a second downtown.” HEALTHY EXPANSION: When Hahnemann, the teaching hospital for Drexel’s College of Medicine, shuttered last year, Drexel had to find a new partner in a hurry. A new deal with Reading-based Tower Health will give it a satellite campus in that city. UP NEXT: Fry’s plans for the former site of University City High School include new homes for two Drexel-supported public schools opening in 2021. CRITIQUES: Neighbors fear that Drexel’s development plans will intensify gentrification.
Republicans’ Best Hope
BIG DEAL: Harrisburg Republicans may be the biggest impediment to Philly’s progressive goals, and White, a State Rep from Northeast Philly — one of the city’s GOP strongholds — is their point person here. STOCK: Rising. Last year, White was elected chair of the city’s Republican Party. Regardless of how you feel about her politics (anti-sanctuary-city, pro-cop), the young (32), high-energy pol provides a stark contrast to Bob Brady, the current (and forever??) head of the city’s Dems. MAGA MOVES: Post-2016, White wouldn’t say if she voted for Trump. But when he came to Philly in September, she and FOP pres John McNesby (number 76) greeted him at the airport.
WHITE WHALE: “Unraveling the mystery of human behavior change” before she dies. So far, the Penn prof and founder/CEO of the nonprofit Character Lab gives herself a C-minus. CONVERSATION STARTER: The 2013 MacArthur Fellow who wrote Grit: The Power of Passion and Perseverance wants to be a louder voice for equitable resources in public schools and to ensure that the idea of “grit” doesn’t crowd that out. Her approach? Dialogue. When author/academic Bettina Love wrote that teaching grit was anti-Black, Duckworth asked her to speak to her class: “Anytime you’re invited to reflect critically on your work,” Duckworth says, “it’s a gift.” SUPERPOWER: According to Stephen Dubner, Freakonomics co-author and her co-host on the No Stupid Questions podcast, “She’s deliriously driven to keep getting better.”
DANIEL J. HILFERTY & GREGORY E. DEAVENS
CHANGING OF THE GUARD: At year’s end, Independence Health Group CEO Hilferty (left), who helped double the company’s revenue and navigated changes brought by the Affordable Care Act, will hand the reins to CFO Deavens. PHILLY PHANS: They’re no strangers to civic duty. Hilferty raised funds for Pope Francis’s 2015 visit and the 2016 DNC. Deavens sits on the board of the African American Museum. And IHG supports everything from Project HOME to the Broad Street Run. UP NEXT: Deavens will be the first Black CEO of IHG and will lead the company through whatever health-care decisions are handed down by an increasingly conservative U.S. Supreme Court.
LARGE NUMBER: $550,000 — the wildly impressive amount she raised for under-represented start-up leaders after calling out social inequities in tech in a viral tweet. NEXT MOVE: The former Philly Startup Leaders (PSL) executive director now runs Bloc Delivery, a new ebike-powered delivery service. TRANSITIONS: She’ll be leveraging her sway (and making sure that half-million she raised gets into the right hands), having transitioned from staffer to board member of PSL.
STOCK: Trending down. First, Harris wanted to develop a championship-caliber basketball team. Then he wanted to develop a plot at Penn’s Landing for a new 76ers stadium. As of this writing, both efforts have flopped. SILVER LINING: Per Forbes, Harris is still worth $4.7 billion. UP NEXT: The Inquirer reports plans for more stadium-searching, including a possible site at 8th and Market (a.k.a. where big plans go to die).
LATEST TRIUMPH: The Inquirer metro columnist is the inaugural winner this year of the Sally Kalson award for “fearless journalism.” NOTABLE ACHIEVEMENT: Once bought an AR-15 semi-automatic rifle just to see how long it would take. (Seven minutes.) MADE FOR THIS MOMENT: The National Society of Newspaper Columnist judges describe her as “a powerful voice that takes issues of race and politics head on” in everything from society’s response to the heroin epidemic to self-righteous white women with biracial grandkids.
BIG DEAL: As CEO and executive director of the Lenfest Institute for Journalism, which owns the Philadelphia Inquirer and supports many other local news organizations and journalists, he’s arguably the city’s biggest funder of innovative journalism. BIG NUMBER: $2.5 million — the sum his organization helped raise, in partnership with the Independence Public Media Foundation, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, and the Knight-Lenfest Local News Transformation Fund, to create the Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund, which provided much-needed grants to newsrooms in hardship and to independent journalists covering important stories during the pandemic.
DAVID L. COHEN
Power Broker Who Keeps Chugging
RETIREMENT REALITY: Cohen announced last year that he’ll be stepping down at year’s end from his role as Comcast’s senior executive vice president after 18 years with the company. But don’t expect his influence to evaporate. TO WIT: Despite reports of Cohen’s declining influence in Philly politics, when Joe Biden announced his bid for president, his first fund-raising stop was David Cohen’s house. UP NEXT (ED RENDELL PROGNOSTICATION EDITION): “I think if David wants it, he would get a fairly significant position in a Biden administration.”
Your Best Friend on TV
BIG DEAL: She’s been here six years, and the ratings prove we’re more in love than ever with the bubbly Good Day Philadelphia co-anchor. Her star continues to climb, and her social media fan base — bigger than those of Mayor Jim Kenney and co-host Mike Jerrick combined — proves it. VIRAL MOMENT: With an Instagram following of 250,000-plus, she’s gone majorly viral sharing on-air moments. In August, when she dressed as Beyoncé in Black Is King, blogs, including the massively popular Shade Room, couldn’t praise it enough.
Sultan of the Schuylkill
WATCH OUT, BOSTON: Sweeney’s Brandywine Realty Trust has shifted its vision for Schuylkill Yards, the $3.5 billion mixed-use development project west of 30th Street Station: Seeing it as key to strengthening University City’s life sciences ecosystem, BRT is now aggressively recruiting such tenants up and down the Northeast Corridor. WHITE WHALE: Philly tax reform. “We lost the initial battle, but the war goes on,” Sweeney says of his unsuccessful years-long fight to implement the “Levy-Sweeney plan” he drafted with Center City District’s Paul Levy. “And at some point, I think we’ll get ultimate victory.”
CARMEN MARIA MACHADO, KILEY REID & JENNIFER WEINER
MAYBE YOU’VE READ IT? It’s been a good year for these Philly authors. Reid’s NYT best-seller, Such a Fun Age, was long-listed for the 2020 Booker Prize; Weiner’s Big Summer, her 17th novel, also joined the Times’s best-seller list; and National Book Award finalist Machado was named the Abrams Artist-in-Residence at Penn. ON THE BIG SCREEN: Like we said, a good year. Sister Picures production company purchased TV rights to Weiner’s Mrs. Everything, while Machado’s Her Body and Other Parties is being turned into an FX series. Reid, meantime, is an executive producer for the film adaptation of Such a Fun Age by Lena Waithe’s Hillman Grad Productions and Sight Unseen Pictures. QUOTABLE: “It’s interesting because many books, especially by Black artists, are deemed ‘timely’ when for many readers, it’s the first time they’ve had to grapple with these very old issues,” Reid says. “I would not say my book” — it’s about race and class power dynamics — “is any more timely now than it would have been in the 1950s.”
VIRGINIA MAN-YEE LEE
CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT: In 2006, Lee, director of Penn’s Center for Neurodegenerative Disease Research and an endowed professor of Alzheimer’s research at Penn, discovered the proteins that lead to progression in Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, and other dementias and movement disorders like ALS — paving the way for better treatments for some five million afflicted people … and that’s just in America. LATEST WIN: Landing the $3 million 2020 Breakthrough Prize, known as “The Oscar Award of Science.” QUOTABLE: “She gives us hope, and her insights and discoveries bring us closer to a cure,” says Jonathan Epstein, executive vice dean, chief scientific officer, and professor of cardiovascular research at Penn.
The People’s Philanthropist
MONEY MAN: As executive director of venture philanthropy org GreenLight Fund Philadelphia, he’s changed the culture around giving, getting some of the most influential and deep-pocketed Philadelphians, including Josh Kopelman and Comcast, to repeatedly invest — as they might in a start-up — in scalable, collaborative social-impact solutions to our city’s most dire needs. QUOTABLE: “I get to support, from the ground up, the launch of a new model in the city every single year,” Woodard told Philly’s Parallax podcast in July. BIG NUMBER: $3.5 million — the investment he helped secure to combat systemic poverty in the city through the launch of the GreenLight Philadelphia Fund III — to be spent through 2023.
HERE, THERE AND EVERYWHERE: One of Philly’s most prolific public artists, Livingston, 32, has created more than 30 Philly murals. Her latest projects? Beautifying 52nd Street post-riots and creating space pads for social distancing in public places. QUOTABLE: “I want people who live around the murals to see themselves in them.” PROUDEST ACCOMPLISHMENT: Her graphic design agency, Creative Repute — clients range from the NFL to the Pew Center for Arts & Heritage — is a “self-sustaining firm to bring businesses’ ideas to life.” Client Farrah Parkes, executive director of the Gender Justice Fund, says: “It felt like this was part of her vocation, using art to achieve justice.” GOALS: “I’d like to have a safe space to come up with bad work and experiment, and for that to be okay,” Livingston says. “And to learn from that process.”
GAME CHANGER: At a time when LGBTQ representation is sorely needed within municipal leadership, Morrison became the first openly transgender person to head any city office or department when appointed executive director of the Office of LGBT Affairs in January. PROOF OF PERSEVERANCE: As violence against Black transgender women continues to grab headlines, she has marshaled city resources toward seeking justice and ensuring the public doesn’t forget their names.
GREGORY REAVES & LESLIE SMALLWOOD-LEWIS
CROWNING ACHIEVEMENT: The 2016 conversion of the Eastern Lofts in Strawberry Mansion into affordable housing with offices and a daycare center won Mosaic Development Partners, the firm they founded, an award from the Preservation Alliance. Now, property owners seek them out for projects that respond to community needs. POWER MOVES: Using their leverage to bring lots of non-whites into union construction jobs. UP NEXT: Finishing the residential component of their Wayne Junction redevelopment project; starting on the first-ever major residential project at the Navy Yard.
News’s New Face
BIG DEAL: As a Philly-based editor at large for The 19th, the buzzy new national news org focused on intersectional women’s issues, she’s part of an all-star all-women leadership team focused on empowering women to be equal participants in American democracy. “We are creating the newsroom we want for our industry,” Haines said upon The 19th’s launch. POWER MOVES: Snagged the first interview with Kamala Harris after she was announced as Joe Biden’s running mate. MULTIMEDIA: Catch her on MSNBC, where she’s signed on as an on-air contributor — or just join her 55K-plus Twitter followers.
CASSIE HAYNES & JEAN FRIEDMAN-RUDOVSKY
BIG DEAL: As co-executive directors of Resolve Philadelphia run the Broke in Philly collaborative that brings together more than 20 Philadelphia-area news organizations (including most of the biggest) to cover stories on poverty and economic mobility in the nation’s poorest big city. The result: more impactful, solutions-oriented reporting on these core issues in the past two years than we can ever remember. CASH INFUSION: $1 million — the grant they received to expand their staffing and reporting capacity from the Philadelphia COVID-19 Community Information Fund.
Mr. Avenue of the Arts
GREATEST TRIUMPH: South Broad Street. “The Avenue of the Arts was a great concept Ed Rendell had invented, but he never was able to attract residential housing,” Dranoff says. His answer? 2007’s Symphony House, which Inky architecture critic Inga Saffron called a “sequined and over-rouged strumpet.” Undaunted, Dranoff built two more apartment buildings on the avenue and is currently at work on a 47-story exclamation point called Arthaus. NEXT UP: A building at Broad and Pine, details yet to be released.
Chef Who Won’t STFU
QUOTABLE: “Glad you’re enjoying indoor dining with no social distancing or mask wearing in Maryland tonight while restaurants here in Philly close, suffer and fight for every nickel just to survive,” Vetri, of Vetri Cucina and Fiorella, wrote to Mayor Kenney after a photo of the Mayor dining indoors out-of-state went viral — one of the chef’s many jabs at city leaders who kept indoor dining shut down during COVID. LATEST TRIUMPH: Opening an offshoot of Fiorella in Las Vegas — in the middle of a global pandemic. SQUEAKY WHEEL: No chef has been more polarizing, what with his strident let-them-open stance. And yet in September, Mayor Kenney (number 1) and Health Commissioner Farley (number 17) gritted their teeth and let indoor dining resume.
One-Man Anti-Police-Reform Machine
BY THE NUMBERS: Per the Inquirer, the head of Philly’s police union manages to reduce or totally overturn discipline handed out to bad (or allegedly bad) cops almost three-quarters of the time when those officers contest their cases. FRIENDS IN HIGH PLACES: McNesby is the rare Philly leader who got a personal invitation to visit Donald Trump at the White House. Twice, no less. SUPERPOWER: Like Trump, McNesby has a Teflon coating. He speaks out against police reform, calls BLM protesters “rabid animals,” and then goes on his merry business. If we’re ever going to have real police reform, somebody’s gotta get McNesby — and perhaps the entire union — out of the way.
EDITED BY Brian Howard, Christine Speer Lejeune and Ernest Owens
CONTRIBUTORS Caroline Cunningham | Victor Fiorillo | Sandy Hingston | David Murrell | Queen Muse | Kristen Schott | Carla Shackleford | Sandy Smith | Samantha Spengler | Alex Tewfik
PHOTOGRAPHERS Stuart Goldenberg | Colin Lenton | Matt Zugale