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.”


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. ‘”


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.


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.


“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.


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.


“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.


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.

Logan: Education and Crime Top Issues For Voters

NextMayorLogo2015According to community activist Sheila Bellamy, the voting for the primaries is usually low in numbers because many people do not see the importance.

“In my district, there are 540-something registered voters, she said yesterday morning at the Birney Preparatory Academy, located at 9th Street and Lindley Avenue. “If we can get 200 today, we’re going to be really happy.“


The people of the Logan section of the city believe that the best candidate for this year’s mayoral election has to be someone who attends to the issues of the community.

Bellamy said that her main concern today is the youth being targeted by police.

“Some of these boys are being murdered unarmed,” said Bellamy.

Crime and education are what the people of Logan believe are important, unaddressed issues of the neighborhood.

Like many other neighborhoods, Logan schools have also suffered because of the Philadelphia School District’s budget cuts. Voter Terry Holloway, a home-care worker and Logan community member for 35 years, stressed the importance of the next mayor tackling the school district’s funding issue.

“They’re jamming up the schools and pushing too many students together,“ said Holloway. “They need more money so they have enough supplies for the kids.“

Improving the different community facilities and recreational centers are also on the list of concerns for Logan residents. Eighty-one-year-old Marion Johnson, a community leader at Barrett Playground at 8th and Duncannon streets, has been a resident of the community for 41 years. Every second Thursday of each month, Johnson and fellow members of community meet to discuss how to improve the social conditions of the neighborhood.


Johnson hopes that the next mayor will help upgrade and enhance the neighborhood recreation center for the youth.

“A lot of youth come there but they deserve better than what they’re getting,” said Johnson. “It is a saving grace in a way but the quality of it needs to be improved.“


Parent involvement is what Johnson believes is an essential piece missing from Philadelphia schools.

“You’d have forces behind the children and you’d be able to put forces on those agencies that need to be dealing with the situation,” Johnson said. “No Matter what, it’s the squeaky wheel that gets the oil.”

The members of the community believe that the way to persuade a mayor to make a change and tend to a community is to assemble and put pressure on whoever is running for office.

“Candidates can make speeches about what they want to do,” said Johnson, “but unless you stay behind them and put some pressure on them – it’s a proven fact – they might just slip right on through the holes.”

– Text and images by Clayton Hoffstein and Terence Oliver.

Primary Election Day 2015: Don’t Count Those Millennials Out Yet

NextMayorLogo2015Philadelphia has significant problem when it comes to voting, especially when the focus is on municipal elections rather than national. Of all folks who fall into the roughly 75 to 80 percent of registered voters who opt-out of voting, Generation-X and Millennials are by far the least likely to vote, according to statistics.

Knowing that this issue is nearly systemic in nature, it’s important to understand why young voters choose to not get involved.

More importantly, a variety of organizations around the city are working tirelessly to not just register voters but also educate them on the critical issues that could affect them. If the Millennials show up at the polls, rest assured that theses organizations played a significant role.

Nonpartisan Organizations

Young Involved Philadelphia, Unity in the Community and Influencing Action Movement came together with the nonpartisan national political action committee CROWDPAC to put together a Young Voter Education Week, just a week before the May municipal primary. The plan is to repeat these events prior to any election in Philadelphia.

Young Involved Philadelphia has been around for more than a decade and has worked diligently in this election cycle to raise voter engagement and education through a myriad of methods.

“Our overarching goal when we approach pretty much anything within YIP,” said Mike Thomas of YIP, “is to remove barriers for young adults in the city.”

In the past, YIP has run workshops to help explain the complicated ward and committee system in the city. That eventually lead to 40 young people running for positions and 11 to become elected.

“The goal was to say this is not a mystical person,” said Thomas, “but this an actual human being who probably lives down the street from you that you never knew before.”

This year YIP held The City Council Candidate Convention. In a partnership with WHYY and the Committee of Seventy, every city council member running for a contested seat was invited to set up a table and interact with young voters. The event brought together more than 400 young voters. They offered young voters a “cheat-sheet” that had over 100 questions voters could ask the candidates, even broken down by issue.

However YIP does more than just events. They coordinate phone banks and canvas neighborhoods in an effort to get voters to the polls.

“Since we’re nonpartisan, it makes for a pretty easy conversation” said Thomas. “We are just calling to say, ‘Hey you should really go vote! Are you going early? Are you going at night?’ Really, the overarching purpose is for people to know that this is something they should be involved in.”

For the purpose of canvasing, YIP has targeted down to the division level areas with the highest population of young voters with the lowest turnout. They also have spearheaded a program of distributing 2000 bar coasters to 20 local bars to drive a digital experience allowing those who interact with the program a method to calculate how much their drinking contributes to funding schools in Philadelphia.

Screen Shot 2015-05-19 at 12.39.42 AMBoth Unity in the Community and Influencing Action Movement are attempting to reach the young audience through both grassroots and digital means. The plan is to reach young voters where they already are: text, social media and at the bar.

Their digital strategy includes a Young Voter Education week text alert system, where by texting IAMvoting to a specific number allows that person to remain aware of the where and when an event is taking place. The alert then prompts the user to tweet why they’re voting and utilize #missingvotePHL.

“We’ve provided an opportunity for community groups, both large and small, to get into the communities and really target those people who are not voting,” said Felicia Harris, president and CEO of Influencing Action Movement.

One of the events held by Unity In The Community was a meet-the-candidate happy hour at 22nd Street Café. The purpose was to create an opportunity for those who may not typically interact with candidates to have a beer with them and talk about the issues that concerned them.

“There are a lot of tough issues facing the millennials,” said Anton Moore of Unity In The Community. “So, we need to have a say so in this election because the mayor and city council members we elect will most likely [serve] another term in four years.”

Philadelphia council members on average are the longest tenured municipal city officials in the United States, serving on average 15.5 years, according to the PEW Charitable trust.

The only non-Philly based member of this coalition might also be the most transformative when it comes to impacting elections: CROWDPAC.

“Philly is so old school politics,” said Elizabeth Jaff, Political Director at CROWDPAC. “I think this is going to be really interesting because the idea is to put the tools into the power of the people and it’s the youth who are accessing stuff on social media.”

CROWDPAC, based in California and co-founded by Stanford University professors Steve Hilton and Amam Bonica, along with tech-entrepreneur Gisel Kordestani, smashes crowd funding, data-analytics and politics together to turn out a nonpartisan method of ranking candidates along a liberal/conservative spatial model. The ranking of 10C (conservative) or 10L (liberal) are rating’s the candidate can be scored.

To oversimplify how the ranking algorithm works, it combines whom they took money from, the donor who gave the funds and how the candidate votes. The results proved that on a federal level, it was 96 percent accurate before voting was even added in.

“What’s very interesting with Philadelphia is it’s less about party and really about actively getting people resources,” said Jaff. “What are you upset about? Potholes, biking lanes, education funding. Things that we can fix.”

CROWDPAC makes voting a social experience by giving users the ability to build their own ballots on their site, donate directly to candidates and then share that ballot via social media or email.

CROWDPAC plans to expand into 10 major cities over the next year. Jaff sees the organization as a fully nonpartisan tool that really seeks to raise voter engagement.

“You can either keep talking to the same people voting, or you can try and talk to new people,” said Jaff.

Partisan Organizations

 They are a few organizations that specifically advocate for the needs of young voters in Philadelphia, Philadelphia 3.0 and Philly Set Go are at the top of that list. Both are political action committees that endorse candidates. However, Philly Set Go also donates to candidates who they believe best represent the interests of young residents of the city.

Philadelphia 3.0, which has been around for just six months and is a 501(c)(4) nonprofit, has being doing their fair share of street-level grassroots efforts to get voters registered. In fact, if you are a Philadelphian and wondered whom the people with the clipboards registering people to vote on your campus or in your neighborhood, it was probably them.

“What we have tried to do is simply engage new voices,” said T.J. Hurst, deputy director of Philadelphia 3.0. “We did a huge voter registration push in emerging neighborhoods and registered exactly 1,053 new voters in Philly, which is a substantial chunk when you are talking about the difference between last-winner and first-loser in an at-large city council race.”

Philadelphia 3.0’s website provides young voters a chance for a quick peek into city politics. One of the first aspects pointed out is the unusually long tenure that Philadelphia City Council members have. The organization is also much less focused on the mayor’s race than they are on the at-large city council seats that are up for grabs, endorsing candidates whom they feel align with their interest.

“This is another very thorough process that we feel very proud of,” said Hurst. “We put together an endorsement committee of people who really represented the community, a diverse group of strong leaders from around the city.”

The committee is made up five people: Brigitte Daniel, Cynthia Figueroa, Dr. Beatriz Garces, Christine Jacobs and Keith Leaphart. The selection process also includes this insight of executive director Alison Pealman and Hurst as well.

The committee then utilized Philly 3.0’s candidate questionnaire that was sent to every candidate for city council and an interview process with the candidates to provide the committee with the most information to make their endorsements. They received at total of 27 responses from all the candidates running for city council.

“We wanted to be effective and wanted to make a difference our first time out, so we thought it was best to be laser focused on city council,” said Hurst.

The list of Philadelphia 3.0’s endorsement’s as well as a copy of the questionnaire can be found on their website.

The other emerging PAC specifically for young voters in Philadelphia is Philly Set Go. The organization officially launched in January of 2015 and held their launch party the popular Center City bar Ladder 15.

“Philly Set Go is unlike most millennial civic or political groups in Philadelphia,” said Gabriela Guaracao, board member of Philly Set Go. “We are a PAC and so our primary focus is on raising funds so that we can use that to donate to candidates.”

Guaracao says that members of Philly Set Go felt the most impactful way to influence politics in Philadelphia was to go the route of forming a PAC based on the resources that they have.

Their mission is two part: voter registration and education, and to get the attention of elected officials with an emphasis on issues that relate directly to the Millennial arriving in the city.

“We wanted to educate the Millennial population on why it’s important vote for mayor, why it’s important to vote for city council,” said Guaracao. “Things like job growth and K-12 education are the reasons that Millennials will leave the city if they’re not addressed.”

Philly Set Go utilizes a mostly event-based agenda to engage voters because each board members involvement is essentially extracurricular. Currently, their strategy doubles as both a grassroots engagement method and a chance to fundraise for their PAC at every event.

Their website allows new voters to register by utilizing a built in Rock the Vote application. They plan to continue to organize events following the May primary to educate voters and continue to fundraise for their organization.

– Text and images by Zachary Rendin.

Who’s Got The Buck$?

Running for the mayor of the 5th largest city in the United States does not come without forking out a large sum of money. To run for mayor in Philadelphia you have to be ready to spend millions-either your own or money you receive through soliciting campaign donations. The latter is something that has become increasingly challenging since candidates running for city offices are limited by contribution caps set at $2,900 for individuals and $11,500 for organizations.

The Philadelphia campaign finance rules are being called some of the most restrictive in the country and the campaign has already lost a candidate because of the difficulty of raising money.

“The money was a big factor,” Gillen was quoted saying in an interview back in January when she announced she was dropping out of the race. She had manage to raise more than $225,000 from more than 500 donors at that time and still didn’t believe that it was enough to compete and have the kind of campaign she wanted.

No candidate in this 2015 election has yet to cross the half-million mark. Lynne Abrahams is leading the pack with approximately $488,000, followed by Anthony H. Williams with $466,000 and James Kenney with just over $116,000.

One candidate, T. Milton Street, has yet to raise $5,000. This is a stark contrast to the 2007 election-the last time an incumbent was not running- where three of the major candidates had passed the million dollar mark this far into the election. Thomas Knox, Michael Nutter and Dwight Evans had a combined total of $6 million by this time of the election process.

So where exactly are the candidates going to get money from to finance their campaign needs? All arrows point to Super PAC’s (Political Action Committees).

PAC’s are independent and therefore not beholden to the fundraising limits that the candidates face. As long as they don’t coordinate with campaigns, they can spend unlimited amounts of money to influence the mayor’s race.

The first TV ad to run for a candidate didn’t occur until March 11, and it was by political action committee Building a Better Pennsylvania-in support of James Kenney.
That was the first time in the history of the Philadelphia mayoral race that the opening TV ad was aired by an outside group instead of the candidate. Kenney left it up to the Super PAC, instead of his campaign, to introduce him to potential voters.

By the start of the New Year in 2007, candidate Tom Knox had already spent an additional $2million on early T.V. ads.

What’s to blame for the lack of money, week fundraising or waiting on “dark money” from these Super PACS? Whatever the reason, it does not seem like these candidates will be able to catch up to the earning power of the 2007 election. Hopefully, the lesson to be learned from this for future candidates is, money doesn’t always win elections.

– Text and visualization by Rochelle Brown