On Tuesday voters re-elected Mayor Jim Kenney and elected a new sheriff, register of wills and several others to City Council, city commission and state and local courts.
We congratulate all the winners in Tuesday’s general election and wish them well.
But most of all we wish they work together to improve Philadelphia by improving public safety, education, housing and jobs and reducing poverty and gun violence.
Kenney deserved to win a second four-year term because of his achievements in local education and criminal justice reform. He should be commended for returning the public schools to local control and expanding funding for pre-K through his sugary beverage tax, more commonly known as the soda tax.
Kenney and District Attorney Larry Krasner have taken a different approach to criminal justice reform and have reduced the number of people in city jails for minor offenses.
Congratulations also to Rochelle Bilal and Tracey Gordon, who became the first African-American women elected sheriff and register of wills, respectively. Both unseated long-serving incumbents in their primaries and ran unopposed in the general election.
Bilal and Gordon are political newcomers and represent a symbolic departure from Philadelphia’s old-boy political network. Bilal takes over an office that has been marred for years by scandal. Gordon takes over an office stagnated by those who have been in office decades too long. Gordon’s predecessor, Ronald Donatucci, had been register of wills for 40 years.
In council, there will be several fresh faces as well, including Jamie Gauthier, a political newcomer who built a grassroots campaign that upset longtime Councilwoman Jannie Blackwell in the May primary, ending a 45-year reign of representation by Blackwell’s family in West Philadelphia.
Also, Working Families Party candidate Kendra Brooks won an unprecedented victory for a City Council at-large seat reserved for non-Democrats, becoming the first candidate from outside the two major parties to win a seat in a century.
Hopefully, Kenney and the new city council can work together to improve the city.
They must ensure that a local school board translates to better schools and better-prepared students.
Our local elected officials must work together to improve public safety, especially reducing the number of homicides and tackling the city’s opioid crisis.
While the city is growing in new buildings and luxury apartments, it is leaving too many of its residents economically behind because of poor schools and low-paying jobs.
The Pew “State of the City” report shows that Philadelphia has some thriving neighborhoods and construction is booming but beyond Center City and some gentrified neighborhoods other sections of the city are not doing well. Despite a drop last year in the number of impoverished residents, Philadelphia remains the poorest of the 10 most populated cities in America.
“On a citywide basis, Philadelphia’s population has been rising steadily for more than a decade, a strong sign of civic well-being. But the growth has been concentrated in the center of the city and in pockets of the Northeast where immigrants have settled. In large swaths of North, Northwest and West Philadelphia, the population has been declining or has stayed about the same,” the report said.
“Home sale prices have risen 63 percent since 2010, creating wealth in some parts of the city but not in others. Center City has seen the most substantial increases. In much of the Northeast, Northwest and Southwest, however, the gains have been far more modest.”
The mayor and City Council need to do more to ensure that the city is more inclusive by increasing the number of city contracts awarded to Black and Latino firms and making the city’s trade unions train and hire more African Americans and Hispanics in the building trades.
While the mayor should also be credited for keeping his campaign promise of raising the minimum wage for city contractors and employees to $15 an hour, more needs to be done to prepare the city’s workforce for jobs that exist and more needs to be done to attract higher-paying jobs to the city.
Now that they have been elected, local officials must work together to improve the city.