The Highs and Lows for Philly Public Figures During a Really Tough Year

A high: Jim Kenney landing $1.4 billion in federal COVID relief. A low: learning Tom Farley okayed the destruction of MOVE victims’ remains.

philadelphia public figures

A look at the highs and lows in these Philadelphia public figures’ past year.

The COVID stress test exposed so many flaws throughout our society and city. The most glaring were the ones revealed in our leaders and politicians, for whom the past year has been a crucible of cratering budgets and skyrocketing demand for services and leadership. None of these public servants escaped the past year unscathed. But let’s not forget that most of them also had moments, however fleeting, in which they rose to the occasion. This year, for Best of Philly, we examine the slings and arrows that came with public service during the past year.

philadelphia public officials

Tom Farley. Photograph by Getty Images

Tom Farley

Embattled Former Health Commissioner

Best moment: He was our pandemic pilot — until the Philly Fighting COVID debacle, anyway.

Worst moment: In May, we learned that in 2017, Farley had okayed destroying the remains of MOVE victims.

philadelphia public officials

Rebecca Rhynhart. Photograph by David Fields

Rebecca Rhynhart

Ascendant City Controller

Best moment: Her suggestion that some of the city’s federal windfall be used for a basic-income pilot plan.

Worst moment: Doesn’t really have one, unless — because of her series of administration-bucking reports — you want to count that she’s now unlikely to ever receive a holiday card from Kenney.

philadelphia public officials

Danielle Outlaw. Photograph by Getty Images

Danielle Outlaw

Embattled Police Commissioner

Best moment: Received a strong show of support from some very powerful Black women in the wake of calls for her resignation.

Worst moment: All those calls for her resignation were in response to police tear-gassing a Black neighborhood­ and protesters on 676.

philadelphia public officials

Larry Krasner. Photograph by Getty Images

Larry Krasner

Embattled District Attorney

Best moment: Handily winning the Democratic primary despite vocal opposition to his progressive policies and amid escalating gun violence.

Worst moment: Alienating activists who once supported him, prompting murmurs that
he’s using Philly as a stepping-stone.

philadelphia public officials

William Hite. Photograph by Adam Jones

William Hite

Embattled Schools Superintendent

Best moment: Using federal money to drastically expand this year’s summer offerings.

Worst moment: Toss-up: the wi-fi-in-parking-lots tempest or the box-fan fiasco.

philadelphia public officials

Jim Kenney. Photograph by Getty Images

Jim Kenney

Embattled Mayor

Best moment: Landed $1.4 billion in federal COVID relief. And his otherwise terrible, horrible, no-good, very-bad year reportedly hasn’t kept him from pondering a run for governor.

Worst moment: Hard to pick one, but his administration’s figurative shrug as gun
violence soared was especially disheartening

philadelphia public officials

Bill McSwain. Photograph by Matt Rourke/Associated Press

Bill McSwain

Rogue Former U.S. Attorney

Best moment: Winning his case against proposed supervised injection site Safehouse, further positioning him for a rumored run for governor.

Worst moment: His PAC got dinged for Trumpily pre-checking the “recurring donation” box on online fund-raising forms.

Published as “The High H­ighs and the Low Lows” in the August 2021 issue of Philadelphia magazine.