This article originally appeared on SpiritNewspapers.com and can be found in the Spirit’s Wednesday March 4th print edition. This is the fourth in a series on the 2015 Philly primary, a collaboration of the The Spirit and The Declaration.
Look for our coverage in the Spirit every Wednesday throughout the election – we’ll be posting those updates and other election-related items and media here in “Election 2015”
By Kenneth Lipp and Dustin Slaughter
Last week, five of the seven candidates for the Democratic nomination to be Philadelphia’s next mayor pitched their prospective administrations to a large crowd of (perhaps pointlessly) prized millennials at the Field House bar near Reading Terminal Market. The event was a “Petition Pitch Party” organized by the Pattison Leader Ball, which “celebrates young, politically minded people in Philadelphia,” according to its Twitter profile. Each candidate was given seven minutes to convince the crowd to sign his or her petition, then had to leave the bar before the next candidate spoke. Of the seven major Democratic players, only Rev. Keith Goodman and Milton Street were not present. Street mistakenly signed a petition to nominate opponent Jim Kenney later in the week.
Nothing groundbreaking or embarrassing was pitched at the Field House. Sen. Anthony Williams summed it up well in his pitch when he began, “We’re all gonna say the same things.” However, no one but Williams ventured to use an expression to describe himself as “someone who is willing to go into the arena.”
Candidate Doug Oliver described Philly’s condition retaining young professionals: “People come here, they stay here, they date us, and then they marry New York City.”
Everyone sold themselves as friends of education and of the 30-something millennial, whose voting bloc is massive but also only theoretical as millennials are not enthusiastic voters (the 2008 Presidential election was a notable exception), including the 78-year-old former District Attorney and subject of last week’s special coverage, Lynne Abraham, as well as this week’s featured candidate:
Nelson Diaz is the former Philadelphia City Solicitor, General Counsel for the US Dept. of Housing and Urban Development under President Bill Clinton, Special Assistant to Vice President Walter Mondale and the first Puerto Rican graduate of Temple University. Diaz is also a current director for energy company Exelon and its subsidiary PECO.
The former City Solicitor under Mayor John Street has promoted himself as many things, and his long and impressive résumé leaves no doubt that he is a very competent administrator. And Diaz has made of his professional life a literal open book, having donated his collected papers to the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. There you can read all types of documents ranging from official records to his correspondence with people like Mondale, Ed Rendell, and the late Arlen Specter.
In a questionnaire distributed to candidates by public policy organization Committee of Seventy, Diaz gave encouraging answers that demonstrated he not only wished to encourage transparency and accountability but was informed in practices for doing so meaningfully.
He wishes to be seen as the first choice for both black and latino voters as he shares ancestry with both, and sees improvement of education, with a holistic approach which includes expanded quality public housing, as a civil rights issue.
“I’m willing to die to make sure that our kids get educated,” Diaz told WURD radio in an interview a few weeks ago, and it is in statements like that, in contrast to his demonstrable belief transparency, that make us question his earnestness. No one is asking the mayor to martyr themselves so the children can be the future, just to be faithful stewards of the resources and the platform given to the Chief Executive of the city.
At this point, gains made through appointments to the SRC and other measures by newly elected Democratic Governor Tom Wolf will be any winners’ to take credit for except perhaps for Diaz – a press release sent out Monday by his campaign denounced the move to appoint teacher-favored principal Marjorie Neff to replace widely reviled Bill Green as SRC chair – not on the grounds that Neff is the wrong person for the position, but on the grounds that the SRC ought to be dissolved, Diaz says, with its powers given to the Office of the Mayor.
You can attend a live Q and A session with Diaz tonight at 6 PM at Venturef0rth, 417 North 8th Street Philadelphia, PA 19123
Stay tuned for more election coverage in The Spirit as the primary nears. The Declaration is an alternative news source for Philadelphia, seeking to highlight city politics, art, culture and activism.
Previous coverage with the Spirit:
Mayoral Election Updates