In the up-coming Philadelphia mayoral election between current Mayor John Street and business tycoon Sam Katz, it appears that Street has won the votes of most Temple University students.
Street’s campaign has focused on the accomplishments he’s made since taking office in 2000.
Street’s achievements include refurbishing abandoned buildings, factories and warehouses into housing units (including Temple’s Kardon building) and the establishment of Operation Safe Streets, which eliminated 300 open-air drug markets from neighborhoods.
“I like Street because he is the grind-it-out type,” senior and Democrat James Garrett said. “He goes out into the street and he gets things done, and that is what you got to do to be mayor. He has done a lot for our city, and he is very blue-collar oriented.”
“Street has done nothing to lose his job,” Democrat David Leach said. “From what I see, the city is improving in certain areas, the police are doing a better job of controlling crime, there has been some rebuilding around the city, and I have not noticed any bad decisions that he made.”
A hot topic of discussion in the election, and what may make or break Street’s chance at re-election, is the condition of Philadelphia’s economy.
This issue affects college students in terms of wage taxes and job opportunities.
During Street’s tenure as mayor, unemployment has increased. The Bureau of Labor Statistics reports that between 2000 and 2002, Philadelphia lost 17,300 jobs.
That averages out to more than 15 jobs per day. Just last month, the city lost 1900 jobs, pushing the employment rate to 8 percent.
A 2002 study by the Pennsylvania Economy League reported 280,000 residents have left Philadelphia in the past 10 years.
It attributed the primary reason for residents leaving the city to high wage taxes. About 60 percent of Philadelphians report, “the additional tax burden outweighed the benefits that come with living here.”
“Jobs can fluctuate from time to time,” sophomore and independent voter Amit Doshi said. “It has good times and bad times, and there are loop holes to get through. The economy is just like the weather in that it is unpredictable. But I still like Street.”
Katz proposed a plan that would “restore the positive momentum” of the economy before Street took office. His plan, “The Katz Blueprint for Growth,” promises to decrease the city wage tax from 4.61 to 3.5 percent. It also promises to establish 63,500 new jobs before 2010.
“Everybody promises things,” Garrett said in response to Katz’s proposed plan. “Like with Bush, everybody thought he was the savior and now we have more problems. Street has been our savior for the past few years.”
Some surmise that Katz has difficulty in garnering support from the city’s public because he is a white-collar Republican trying to win an election in a blue-collar Democratic city.
Currently, demographics show that 75 percent of all registered voters in Philadelphia are Democrats.
This election will mark the second time Street and Katz have battled in a mayoral race. The first time was in 1999 when Street won by a slight margin.
Because of Street’s futile attempt to reform the economy and Katz’s proposed plan of recovery, Katz is the first Republican in years to have a legitimate chance at becoming mayor of Philadelphia.
Jonathan Vann can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org