Temple hosts Next Mayor Debate

Democrat Jim Kenney and Republican Melissa Murray Baileyfinally mixed it up at their third mayoral debate” Monday evening at the Temple Performing Arts Center, according to Ryan Briggs of The Next Mayor project.

The Next Mayor is  a partnership designed to support high-quality reporting and “provide voters with fresh and critical content on the race” for the Philadelphia’s next mayor, with a sharp focus on the major issues facing the city.

Additional reports were filed from the debate by Chris Brennan of The Philadelphia Inquirer, Brian Hickey of thephillyvoice.com and Justin Udo of CBS Philly.

The Center for Public Interest Journalism and the Next Mayor project partners also hosted a primary debate among Philadelphia Democratic mayoral candidates last spring.

The Next Mayor: Five Questions the Candidates Should Face

The remaining Philadelphia mayoral candidates are going to be hard pressed with tough questions from voters this election. With the systematic issues Philadelphia faces in areas like education and government accountability to the public, the two candidates are going to have to pitch solid solutions to get voters on their side. Whoever is taking over for Mayor Michael Nutter will inherit a wide range of frustrations from Philadelphia’s citizens.ManionKinneyFall15SchoolDistrict1

What are we going to do to make our schools better?

Philadelphia’s public school system has faced multiple problems in recent years. The two key points that cause the public’s frustration when it comes to the Philadelphia Public School District are school closures and funding, which go hand in hand.

Without the proper budget, schools are unable to operate normally and provide for their students, leading to another school closing in the Philadelphia Public School District. More school closings will have parents looking into other options, like charter schools, that offer their children a solid education and are not totally dependent on city funds.

Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell said, “The city needs to decide how charter schools can be funded. The system fights charters.”

After a recent victory in Commonwealth Court in September that ruled that the Philadelphia Public School District cannot bypass the state law and set an enrollment limit for charter schools, funding for these schools is going to be absolutely necessary as enrollment is expected to rise. While the problems with Philadelphia’s schools go way beyond funding, it is the key to solving the district’s problems.

ManionKinneyFall15Dollar1Where are my tax dollars going?

As Philadelphia’s schools struggle to get funding, another flood of issues arise.

Back in March, Mayor Nutter announced a 1.47 percent rise in real estate tax in order to allocate more money for public schools. While schools need funding, Philadelphia faces other problems, both physically and politically, that could benefit from tax dollars.

Raising taxes pushes citizens away from the city and towards the suburbs where they would still pay similar tax rates, but would be able to reap the benefits.

How are we going to improve the relationship between the local government and the small businesses?

Philadelphia’s local government has a strained relationship with its local businesses. Most recently, the 2015 Papal visit has businesses asking themselves if it’s worth it stay open or lose profits for the day and close down. Without the city assisting businesses in planning around the Pope’s visit, Philadelphia’s Independence Visitor Center decided to take to social media to start a hashtag #OpenInPHL to spread the word about businesses that will be open during the Pope’s visit. While this is one example of how Philadelphia’s government has lacked support for its small businesses, it shows where small businesses lie on their list.

After the Pope’s visit, Philadelphia will still need to foster and keep building the relationship between its government and small business. In some of Philadelphia’s districts, their city council representatives are already working on these relationships.

Philadelphia Councilman Bobby Henon’s director of communications, Eric Horvath,  said, Whether it’s with 15  – and counting – storefronts that have taken advantage of the Storefront Improvement Program through the Department of Commerce, or the Business Improvement District along Frankford, that will bring an extra layer of services to the avenue.”

ManionKinneyFall15ConstructionWhat is the government doing to fix our sidewalks and streets?

If you take a look at most of Philadelphia’s side streets, you can easily spot the potholes and other road repair problems. A trip down a Philadelphia sidewalk will have you dodging debris from unmaintained sidewalks. The next mayoral candidate will single-handedly be able to fix this during their term in office, they can most certainly get the ball rolling.

Councilwoman Blackwell said, “The condition of the sidewalks and streets is an issue, as well as retaining walls and other structural issues.”

She also noted that these street and sidewalk repairs are under the many maintenance issues Philadelphia and other large cities face and is something that the local government will have to reach out to the state government for, in order to receive funding and approval.

ManionKinneyFall15ATM1What is my government doing for me?

Underlying all of Philadelphia’s issues is its government’s lack of accountability to their people. Raising taxes without citizens seeing results in their schools and communities is a major issue with Philadelphia’s government.

Councilwoman Blackwell said, “People are tired of paying taxes and not knowing where it’s going.”

As Philadelphia switches over its leadership, it seems as though the best place to start is in the everyday operations of the city itself.  From sidewalk renovations to following up on vacant buildings, the state of the city’s appearance may be the first stop for showing the public what they are paying for.

Eric Horvath said, “Philadelphia’s government is the one that picks up your trash, plows the snow from the streets, inspects building construction and demolition, gives residents a say in what gets built in their neighborhoods and how. It’s the first stop in accountability. The next mayor must work to ensure all of those services run well, efficiently and honestly – and with each member of Council to do so.”

As tax dollars are a way of funding public institutions, it sounds like Philadelphia’s mayoral candidates are going to have to be open to the idea of creating a public forum to quell voters’ wariness when it comes to government spending.

– Text and photos by Kaitlin Marie Manion and Lena Kinney.

Meet the nominees contending to become #NextMayorPHL

The Center for Public Interest Journalism at Temple University’s School of Media and Communication will be hosting the Next Mayor Debate at the Temple Performing Arts Center on October 19th, in partnership with Philadelphia Media Network (The Philadelphia InquirerDaily News and Philly.com) and The Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce‘s Roadmap for Growth campaign.

murraybaileyKenney_panel2Democratic nominee Jim Kenney and Republican Melissa Murray Bailey will address issues that matter to you during this final debate, with a focus on business and economic development.

The event will be moderated by The Philadelphia Inquirer’s City Desk Editor, Chris Hepp, and business reporter, Diane Mastrull.

When: 7:30-8:30 p.m., October 19, 2015

Where: Temple Performing Arts Center, 1837 N. Broad St., Philadelphia, Pa. 19122

Visit philly.com/nextmayordebate to reserve your free seat now.

Additional event partners include WHYY, Committee of Seventy, WURD Radio, Young Involved Philadelphia, and Technically Philly.

Follow the Next Mayor project online now at: nextmayor.philly.com.

And watch for election reporting from Temple University students this fall here at: nextmayorphl.org

Primary election reports:

Roxborough: Young Voters Absent From Primary Polls May 20, 2015
Chinatown: Low Voter Turnout Despite Good Weather May 20, 2015
Fox Chase: Residents See Kenney as the Clear Choice May 20, 2015
Logan: Education and Crime Top Issues For Voters May 20, 2015
Primary Election Day 2015: Don’t Count Those Millennials Out Yet May 20, 2015
Who’s Got The Buck$? May 19, 2015
Public Schools Versus Charter Schools May 19, 2015
The Race to City Hall May 18, 2015
Changing landscapes: Looking to Philadelphia’s Promise Zone and University City for a way out of gentrification May 14, 2015
Students break down “The Philadelphia Budget” May 14, 2015
Millennials: Looking to the Northeast for clues about civic engagement May 13, 2015
African-American activists discuss mayoral election May 13, 2015
Small business owner struggles to keep up May 7, 2015
Zoning: How the Next Mayor Can Help Enforce the New Code May 7, 2015
Grays Ferry Wants Change From New Mayor May 7, 2015
Voters discuss poverty at Temple University April 23, 2015
Arts & Entertainment: The Next Mayor’s Impact on the Arts Community? April 22, 2015
Government: What Philadelphia’s Tax Code Means for Business April 9, 2015
Mantua: Residents, Business Owners Hope for More Progress With New Mayor April 6, 2015
Arts & Entertainment: The Race for Mayor and The Potential Impact on the Arts in Schools April 3, 2015
Germantown: Residents Want City Hall to Bring Education Back To The Neighborhood March 30, 2015
Northeast Philadelphia residents discuss education reform March 26, 2015
Kensington: What Do You Want From The Next Mayor? March 25, 2015
Philadelphia CeaseFire offers support March 24, 2015
Amateur Sports: Parks and Recreation Looking to Make the City a Better Place March 16, 2015
Strawberry Mansion: Residents Discuss Issues They Want Next Mayor to Address March 13, 2015
Politics: The Man Leading Philly’s Young Generation March 13, 2015
Northeast Philadelphia: With a New Mayor, Comes Hope for Change in Northeast Philadelphia March 12, 2015
Walnut Hill: Community Association Encourages Residents to Stand Up and Be Heard by Voting March 11, 2015
After School Program Founder Says Next Mayor Needs To Fix School Environment March 11, 2015
Next Mayor To Face Education Struggles March 11, 2015
Frankford: Residents Hope New Mayor Brings SEPTA and PPD Together March 10, 2015
Far Northeast: Residents Want a Mayor Who Cares, and Better City Services March 10, 2015
Port Richmond: A River Ward With Potential Looks Toward Mayoral Election March 9, 2015
Mantua: Residents Speak Out on Priorities for Next Mayor of Philadelphia March 9, 2015
Strawberry Mansion residents voice concerns for Next Mayor March 9, 2015
Future teacher thinks education should be top priority for Next Mayor March 9, 2015
Residents share their key issues for Next Mayor March 9, 2015
Center City professionals want Next Mayor to address education March 9, 2015
Northwest: School Funding a Major Issue in Mayor Race March 6, 2015
Hunting Park: Latino Community Sees Viable Mayor in Diaz March 5, 2015
Mantua: Residents Seek Stronger Communication with City Hall March 4, 2015
Ludlow: Ramonita de Rodriguez Library Hopes the Next Mayor Will Fight for Education March 3, 2015
Politics: Philadelphia’s Republican Party Is Determined To Make A Change March 2, 2015
Bicyclists Seek Leader to Promote Safety, Harmony on the Roads February 27, 2015
Chestnut Hill: Lynne Abraham Stresses Education as Campaign’s Top Issue February 16, 2015
Politics: Meet Philly’s Future Leaders February 16, 2015
Doug Oliver: “I Know I’m an Underdog. I Just Don’t Care.” February 10, 2015
City Hall: Al Schmidt Says, “You Don’t Have an Excuse Not to Vote.” February 9, 2015

Roxborough: Young Voters Absent From Primary Polls

It was a quiet and unusually empty afternoon in the auditorium of the polling station at Ridge Avenue and Rector Street. Located right next to the Roxborough Memorial Hospital, volunteers and poll workers were stationed outdoors and indoors, anxiously awaiting a crowd to come in and place their votes for the 2015 primary election.

Throughout the last decade, voter turnout in Philadelphia has been in steady decline. Many poll workers have noticed this recent decline and feel that young voters need to realize the importance of their opinions and come out to vote.

“I think it’s horrible because the young people don’t realize without their vote, we will get nowhere,” said Robert Fahringer, a local poll worker and voter. “We need younger people to vote for mayors who are going to change things. The only way we are going to do that is if younger people get out there and vote.”

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Although the right to vote is something not to be taken for granted, local poll workers have theories as to why people, specifically young adults, feel their vote does not matter. Sylvia Myers, who will be turning 91 next month, has been working as the judge of elections for numerous elections and has seen the decline firsthand.

Myers said their busiest time at the polls was after the workday, but she still was not encouraged by the voter turnout so far.

“I have about 470 people in my division and only 32 people have come in to vote so far,” Myers said around midday. “I think people are discouraged just by the city itself. What is there has not been good. They figure, ‘I am not going to bother. ‘”

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Besides the political corruption that has tainted the city’s past, there are other elements that recently discouraged people from voting. The restrictions on when a person can vote and the lack of education provided about politics are two more reasons voters opted out of voting.

“A lot of people say ‘I can’t vote because I have work,’” said Donna Howley, a poll worker at the auditorium. “I went down to New Orleans after Katrina to gut houses in the lower 9th ward and there they voted on a Saturday. “

Chris McGuigan, a poll watcher from the 26th division, stood outside the auditorium promoting the Democratic Party.

“I don’t know if younger people understand how local elections work,” McGuigan said. “I think that is something that could be given as course in school or something.”

Keith Myers, another poll watcher from the 26th division, agreed with McGuigan but thinks there is no excuse for young people not to be at the polls.

“If they want to have a say in their future, they should get here right now,” Keith Myers said.

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Colleen Roberts, a volunteer for the Republican Party, thinks this problem could be solved if young people get more involved in the voting process.

“I am not very political so I can’t even say I know half the topics, but now that I’m getting into it, it’s really fascinating,” Roberts said. “It is worth it to know what’s going on.”

Many local residents of the Roxborough neighborhood, including Annie Lawlor, also agreed that young people in the area do not realize the importance of their vote.

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“People don’t understand the importance of how hard it was to get a vote and what people had to go through and still have to go through in other countries,” Lawlor said. “Your rights are so important to you, and they can be taken away so easily. No matter what, if you get to vote, it’s a very precious thing.”

“They are fighting for this privilege in Europe, and here we have it, and our people are very apathetic,” Sylvia Myers said.

– Text and Images by Chelsey Hamilton and Patrick Paul.

Chinatown: Low Voter Turnout Despite Good Weather

NextMayorLogo2015With the sun shining down and a light cool breeze blowing by, it was the perfect weather condition for people to come out and vote.

Despite the good weather, voter turnout was not so good in Chinatown. There are two poll sites for Chinatown residents: the Chinese Christian Church and Center at 225 N. 10th St. and Folk Arts-Cultural Treasures Charter School at 1023 Callowhill St.

By noon, there were minimal voters coming out of the first poll site and at the second site, there were even fewer.

Samuel Yeck, a registered Democrat, walked out of the Chinese Christian Church and Center in his yellow sweatshirt and off-black jeans, proudly wearing his “I voted” sticker. He stood with his cane, leaning against the brick wall and explained how there is low voter turnout due to language barriers and people’s apathy to vote.

He stressed on the importance of not telling people who to vote for, but to show them names and pictures.

Even though the turnout was low, people in the Chinatown community have already begun to recognize the importance of voting.IMG_8681

– Text, images and video by Yuxuan Jia and Shan Chang.

Fox Chase: Residents See Kenney as the Clear Choice

Across Fox Chase, voters were out and about before the polls opened for the 2015 mayoral primary on Tuesday at 8:00 a.m.

While Republican city council candidates such as Matt Wolfe (pictured below in suit, with Jim Kimenour, a Democratic vice chairman in the 63rd Ward) could be found making their rounds and asking whether any registered Republicans had dropped by, the answer was nearly always a negative shake of the head.

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In Philadelphia, where the overwhelming majority of voters are registered Democrats, the primary is virtually more important than the general election. The winner will, in all likelihood, become the next mayor of the city.

Given that a group of community leaders, elected officials and unions in the Northeast have openly endorsed Jim Kenney for mayor, it was no surprise to learn that he was the clear favorite to win in Fox Chase.

Indeed, while there were posters and signs advertising every candidate in front of polling places, only Kenney’s name appeared on the t-shirts of virtually every volunteer stationed outside.

“He’s a tough cookie,” said Kimenour. “I wouldn’t want to go up against him in a ring.”

Time and again, voters spoke of Kenney as though he were a trusted family friend rather than a candidate. Multiple people referred to him as “Jimmy,” and expressed hope that as mayor, his chief concern would be the day-to-day lives of the people living within the city.

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“We’re all in this together,” said Kimenour, in response to the occasionally held belief that the Northeast is somehow separate from the remainder of the city, simply because the Fox Chase area is more quiet and suburban.

All individuals surveyed spoke of education as something that concerned them, but it was always secondary to issues like job creation and crime prevention, implying that what residents really desire is a mayor who will allow them to maintain a certain standard of living.

“I think they’re specific to the United States,” Kimenour replied when asked whether the problems that the Northeast is currently facing were specific to that area.

Kenney’s experience as a member of city council was a major advantage among people in Fox Chase, who view his experience on the council as an indicator that he is closer to an everyman than a politician, and will act accordingly.

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Fred Mari (pictured in green, above), a Democratic chairman in the 63rd Ward, did not want to complain about the current members of Philadelphia government, but did express a desire for change.

“I think there are people out there, from the city, within our ranks, who would do a better job,” Mari said.

Voters were primarily concerned with crime in Fox Chase, although the crimes they spoke of were more related to vandalism than violence.

“Some parts of the city can feel like no man’s land when you drive through them,” Mari said of the current lack of police activity. “The place where I live, one side of the street is Philadelphia county and the other is Montgomery, and some mornings I come outside and just have to clean up trash off of my street before I can go anywhere.”

That sentiment was echoed by others, who feel that because the Northeast does not have the same reputation for violent crime that other parts of the city might carry and that they are sometimes ignored when it comes time to decide where police officers should go.

“I don’t want to feel like just because I know you, or don’t know you, that I’m going to get better or worse treatment,” said Kimenour.

Jeannine Roach, a volunteer in front of Memorial Presbyterian Church on Oxford Avenue, said that her primary concerns included raising the minimum wage in the city and creating more jobs. She also mentioned a crime problem.

Although she did not mention seeing any violent crime, both Roach and other volunteers at the church were quick to rattle off a list of places in Fox Chase that were common sites for drug deals, none of which, they claim, were ever addressed by police.

Roach also expressed a desire for Kenney to be the next mayor of Philadelphia.

“He’s an Irishman” said Kimenour of Kenney. “Plus, he has the support of fireman, teachers, police, and they’re all unions who are going to need to support their mayor.”

As one of the current favorites to win the primary, Kenney may be in a position to repay that support soon.

– Text and images by Alyssa Luchette and Casey Kallen.