This Is What Black Voters in Philly Say They Want From the Next Mayor

As a radio host at WURD, a columnist for the Tribune and a TV host for PhillyCAM, I hear from a lot of Black voters. Here's what they've told me they care about in the mayoral primary. 

City Hall / Photograph by Stephanie Hohmann / EyeEm via Getty Images

I have a front-row seat to Black Philly. As a radio host at a Black radio station (Radio Courtroom on WURD), a columnist at a Black newspaper (the Philadelphia Tribune) and a TV host (Television Courtroom on PhillyCAM), I hear from voters both on the air and in response to my pieces. As a result, I’m in the perfect position to tell all the mayoral candidates in the upcoming May 16th primary what’s important to those all-important voters.

I’m talking primarily about the Democratic mayoral candidates because a Democrat will almost certainly be Philly’s mayor-elect in November since Democrats outnumber Republicans nearly 7-1 in the city, and according to a well-placed source — the state doesn’t require registrants to provide race but does ask — the percentage of registered Democrats in Philadelphia who are Black is around 65.

And I should point out that much, if not most, of Black Philadelphians’ problems have been caused by the Democratic Party, which has recreated and promoted systemic racism from City Hall to the Municipal Services Building to the police stations to the courthouses. In fact, since the current Home Rule Charter went into effect in 1951, each mayor from number 90 (Joseph S. Clark Jr. in 1952) through number 99 (James F. Kenney in 2016) has been a Democrat. 

Hence, the only conclusion is that the source of Philly’s systemic racism is the local Democratic Party. 

But don’t try to twist my words or my meaning and assume that I’m praising Republicans, whose national and statewide leadership I believe to be racist, fascist, misogynistic, Islamophobic, homophobic, anti-trans and anti-science. I simply concede that Democrats are the lesser of two evils.  

The following persons, listed in alphabetical order, remain candidates for mayor, and they’re all Dems save for one Republican. And Black voters have been raising these and similar questions with me about each of them:

  1. Warren Bloom Sr., committeeperson: Can a person who’s lost six previous runs for local elected office really be a legitimate contender for the city’s top job?
  2. Amen Brown, State Representative: Why is he even running? Isn’t he the same person who does the bidding of Republican State House members who are attempting to disenfranchise Black Philly voters by impeaching District Attorney Larry Krasner who overwhelmingly won two Philly elections primarily because of overwhelming support from, yes, Black Philly voters? 
  3. Jeff Brown, chairman and CEO of Brown’s Super Stores: Didn’t he tell Black people in the hood one thing about the need for police reform and then go to the Northeast and tell white people the exact opposite
  4. James DeLeon, former Municipal Court judge: Was he a Thurgood Marshall/Bruce Wright-type judge or a “go along to get along”-type judge? 
  5. Allan Domb, developer, former City Councilperson: What has this wealthy real estate developer ever said or done to stop gentrification? 
  6. Helen Gym, former City Councilperson: Does she know what racial hypocrisy means? Was her showing up at the Union League after standing shoulder-to-shoulder with Black activists to condemn the Union League’s racism a “mistake” or a racist insult?
  7. Cherelle Parker, former City Councilperson: Does she think that giving more money to cops is the solution to violent crime? After all, wasn’t Philly in 1979 the first city in America to have its police department sued by the Justice Department for brutality and isn’t the department still known as one of the most brutal in the country?
  8. Rebecca Rhynhart, former City Controller: Were her public battles with Mayor Kenney indicative of serious calls for reform by an enlightened progressive or of sideshows for media attention by a “grandstanding opportunist”?     
  9. David Oh, former City Councilperson (the only candidate in the Republican primary): Does he really believe that police reform increases crime?

If any of these candidates really want to win in Philly, he or she must get the Black vote. According to the 2022 edition of World Population Review, the city’s population is 41.36 percent Black and 39.33 percent white. And, as I mentioned, Black voters make up about 65 percent of the city’s registered Democrats.

Because Black Philadelphians are the demographic majority among registered Democrats in city elections — but have been politically ignored in Philadelphia for so long — we now demand to be heard. And I’ve been hearing a lot from Black folks through my various platforms. I’ve heard what many Black Philadelphians want — nay, demand — from a mayor. Here’s what most of them said:

  1. Reduce violent crime by:
    • funding youth-focused/youth-led projects;
    • expanding substantive educational programs; and
    • providing paid job-training opportunities.
  2. End police brutality by:
    • redirecting funds from the bloated police budget to mental health, drug rehab, and community intervention programs;
    • taking the lead in aggressively lobbying the state legislature to abolish Legislative Act 111 of 1968 which unjustly protects violently brutal cops even when Internal Affairs and the Police Board of Inquiry properly seek to fire them;
    • renegotiating the city’s relentlessly lopsided labor contracts with the FOP that always seem to acquiesce to all of the FOP’s unreasonable demands;
    • appointing a commissioner with a history of anti-brutality/anti-racist initiatives on his or her law enforcement resume; and
    • officially demanding and/or supporting a hiring process that promotes neighborhood policing by officers who live in those neighborhoods and interact with those residents.
  3. Vastly expand City contracts with Black-owned businesses. On Nov. 14, 2021, Tom MacDonald of The Philadelphia Tribune wrote that, based on the city’s own report, “less than a third of city contracts went to firms owned by women, people of color, and people with disabilities in 2020. The 30 percent rate of what is known as MWBE [Minority/Women-Owned Business Enterprises] contracting fell below the administration’s 35 percent goal.” But the real numbers are much worse than that in regard to Black-owned enterprises seeking city contracts. I mean no disrespect to the other groups, but among the four demographics in this discussion, only one has ancestors who were enslaved in Philadelphia. Also, only one has a history of both de jure and de facto discrimination in Philadelphia.
  4. Consistently pursue a complete overhaul of the school district’s policies and practices to include academic and vocational offerings and to infuse African and African-American history into every course from K-12 consistent with the curriculum created by Dr. Edward Robinson in 1971
  5. Consistently pursue an end to gentrification and private development that exploits poor Black and brown communities. Also, create affordable and safe public housing.
  6. Monitor and expose the Common Pleas Court and Municipal Court system, officially known as the First Judicial District, which in July 2019 was described in a report by the nationally renowned Center for Urban and Racial Equity (CURE) as immersed in “racial tension.” That report also discovered that some white judges do not believe that “institutional and structural racism [even] exists” and some “believe that [so-called] ‘reverse racism’ is as significant as” anti-Black racism.
  7. Consistently pursue an end to food deserts that the U.S. Department of Agriculture defines as “low-income tracts in which a substantial number or proportion of the population has low access to supermarkets.”
  8. Immediately implement a “clean streets” policy and practice that boards up vacant houses in a timely manner, installs trash cans on highly traveled street corners, clears out debris from illegal dump sites, removes abandoned vehicles, and increases trash truck pick-ups.
  9. Strengthen and expand the mission and authority of the Mayor’s Commission on African-American Males and create one on African-American Females.
  10. Promote environmental protection initiatives.

Please note that I’ll be presenting each of these 10 points in question form to each mayoral candidate. And I’ll publicly announce their responses or non-responses.

Black voters in Philly refuse to be taken for granted again despite being the primary voting constituency here. Treat us as the primary constituency in the May primary. Or lose. 

Michael Coard, Esq., can be followed on FacebookTwitter, and Instagram. His “Radio Courtroom” show can be heard on WURD 96.1FM. And his TV Courtroom show can be seen on PhillyCam/Verizon/Comcast.