Former two-term Mayor John Street has endorsed state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams in his bid to unseat incumbent Mayor Jim Kenney in the Democratic mayoral primary next month.
“My issue is what kind of mayor will [Williams] be in comparison to the mayor we currently have?” Street said. “In 2015, a lot of people agreed to give Jim Kenney a chance. I think he has proven over the years to be out of touch with neighborhoods.”
Street said Kenney has not been a “mayor for the people who helped elect him.”
Williams has worked in state government for decades — as a representative for the 191st state House District and then as a representative of the 8th state Senate District. Street said that makes him “better prepared than anyone in local government today to navigate Harrisburg for the benefit of Philadelphia.”
“He’s has been studying our issues, he learned from 2015, and I think he gets it,” Street said of Williams. “I know that he has an unequivocal commitment to the African-American community, to the Latino community, to our social service needs, our arts and cultural needs, our deteriorating streets and the rise in homicides and shootings that we have experienced under Mayor Kenney. We gave Mayor Kenney a chance and I don’t believe he has done a good enough job. It’s entirely appropriate that Senator Williams get the chance to do that job.”
Street, who served as mayor from 2000 to 2008, announced his support for Williams during a press conference Thursday afternoon at Venango Apartments in North Philadelphia.
Kenney’s campaign was not surprised by the endorsement. Street did not endorse Kenney in 2015.
“Mayor Street is entitled to support whoever he wants,” said Kenney campaign spokesman Harrison Morgan. “Mayor Kenney is going to stay focused on running his campaign and talking about the 4,000 kids who have benefited from free pre-K, the 20 Rebuild projects that are now underway, and the 40% reduction in our jail population.”
Street spoke with The Tribune prior to the press conference and detailed multiple concerns he had with Kenney, with whom Street served on City Council for portions of his 19-year tenure with that body.
Street said Kenney’s $5 billion budget was nearly $1 billion more than the last budget proposed by previous Mayor Michael Nutter in his last year in office. He questioned the “missing” $33 million in unaccounted for funds last spring that the administration and an outside firm said they had reconciled as “accounting errors.”
“I just find it to be disturbing that he seems to have an administration that seems to be incompetent when it comes to handling the finances of the city,” Street said.
Street directly tied the increase in city homicides — the 351 in 2018 marked the most Philadelphia has experienced in 11 years — to Kenney, echoing Williams’ proposal to declare a “state of emergency” over the number of African Americans dying as a result of violence. Part of Kenney’s budget calls for the hiring of 50 police officers in 2020.
“That’s ridiculous. Utterly ridiculous,” Street said. “Senator Williams will declare an emergency and put in place a pubic safety plan so that people are not afraid to go outside of their homes. He will find the resources we need in order to make people safe in this city.”
Street pointed to the shutting down of open-air drug markets and the removal of thousands of abandoned cars from the city streets during his two terms as things that improved the quality of life for “regular Philadelphians.”
Street also assailed Kenney for his support of a supervised injection site in Kensington, deteriorating street conditions and the performance of city schools.
“When you become mayor, you make commitments,” Street said. “I can tell you that the city that [former Mayor] Ed Rendell left was better than the city that he found. I can tell you that the city I left was better than the city I found, and the same thing is true for Michael Nutter.
“I don’t see that now under this mayor as his first term comes to a close,” Street continued. “I think you will see this with Williams. He will make an investment in the neighborhoods and get the city back on the right track again.”
One other Democrat is challenging Kenney in the primary: former City Controller and state Rep. Alan Butkovitz.
The Philadelphia Democratic Committee has endorsed Kenney and committee chairman Bob Brady said last week that he hopes Williams will withdraw from the race.
The primary election is May 21.