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The Choice For Mayor: A Referendum On the Establishment

Philadelphia’s mayoral election is unique in that the votes of Philadelphians do not matter, at least after May’s primary election. A collection of Democratic candidates represents the only effective choice this city’s voters have. The only impediment to the tired, tested, and failed model of Philly’s Democratic politics is Melissa Murray Bailey, who is running as a common-sense moderate vowing to run the city with an open mind and new ideas. After sixty years of Democratic leadership and nothing to show for it, maybe it is about time Philly took a chance at a breath of fresh air.

Whether that chance should be taken on someone who was a Democrat a few months ago, and who only recently became a Philadelphian, is a different story.

Given Bailey’s slim chances of winning as a Republican in Philadelphia, the interviews she has been involved in usually begin with a straightforward question: “Why run?” To this, Bailey says, “Because I was taught that a strong community was built on a two party system,” and that “we haven’t had accountability” throughout decades of Democratic leadership.

Asking an opposition candidate why they are running is an affront to the notion of Democratic government, as is the sense of entitlement shown by Nelson Diaz during the debate, when he said that, “A Republican won’t win this time either.” If anyone wants to know why Philadelphians are apathetic about politics, Diaz encapsulates the reason.

Battling with Diaz for the lead role in causing Philadelphia’s disinterest and distrust in politics is the notorious Milton Street. Philadelphia is one of few places in America where candidates for office can seriously argue that not paying taxes is “not an ethics violation,” but perhaps that is part of what makes our city unique. Street thinks so little of the voter that he expects the public to be convinced by his shallow rhetoric, as he noted that there are, “Six people [on the panel] who paid their taxes, but they can’t help you.”

If that is really the case, Philadelphia is in bigger trouble than I originally thought.

Street is a walking contradiction, skirting his taxes and ethics at large while complaining of “Two Philadelphias” divided by wealth, claiming that subscribing to tax law is the, “Value system of the elites.”

Interestingly, no one in the Democratic field, including Mayor Nutter’s ex-spokesman, Doug Oliver, defended the Mayor’s policy of stop and frisk. In spite of the fact that the homicide rate has declined since implementation, no candidate seems eager to continue the controversial policy.Screen shot 2015-04-20 at 10.09.00 PM

Despite Oliver’s appeals to Philadelphia’s youth and his insistence that we help his campaign by using “The Gram [Instagram],” there was little from Oliver on actual policy beyond broad claims of “fairness.” While Philadelphians should try to be optimistic about the future, blanket promises simply are not good enough.  As Oliver said, “We have to find a way to fund [schools].” We do, and surely he is supposed to know how.

Jim Kenney, former City Councilman at-large, blends shady insider politics with leftism at its most illogical. Regarding the Council’s land bank, which should be used to put vacant or misused properties on the market and requires forty-seven people in three different bodies to approve a property transfer, Kenney commended the City Council and dismissed critics as those “throwing their hands in the air.”

More remarkably, Kenney said that Philadelphia should ignore immigration law and cease deportations. Whether a person is documented or undocumented “doesn’t matter” to him. We have had mayors ignore the law before; there is no reason to try it again.

Thankfully, two of the frontrunners on the Democrat side, Lynne Abraham and Anthony Williams, display a semblance of moderation and pragmatism.

Abraham, the former District Attorney and currently polling as the top contender, highlighted her personal experience in prosecuting corrupt officials, and called the City Council’s refusal to even vote on the sale of PGW “a disgrace.” At the very least, Abraham seems to have integrity, and that, in Philadelphia, is a commendable attribute.Screen shot 2015-04-20 at 10.08.23 PM

Anthony Williams, a Democrat State Representative, likewise, has an appreciation for the potentially damaging interference of government. While claiming that charter schools need better “governance” policies, he defended their existence as part of Philadelphia’s educational system. When he said that government “needs to get out of the way,” I could not help but think that Williams would make an excellent Republican.

This May, voters ought to match the pragmatism of Democrats like Abraham and Williams, regardless of party affiliation. While the choice is not perfect, it exists in its own unique, limited way.

As long as Philadelphians continue to support the same politicians as always, this is the limited choice we will have. Let us try to make the most of it, and choose the candidate furthest away from the city establishment and closest to the center.

Michael Moroz (275)
Op-Ed Editor

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