Name: Chaka Fattah
In 1982, 25-year-old Chaka Fattah became the youngest person ever elected to the Pennsylvania House of Representatives.
Six years later, the young politician was elected to the state Senate, where he served one term before winning a seat in the U.S. House of Representatives representing the 2nd District, which includes parts of Philadelphia and Cheltenham Township.
Now in his seventh congressional term, the West Philadelphia native is one of five Democrats vying for the party’s slot on the November ballot in the city’s mayoral election.
Arguably, the most celebrated initiatives of Fattah’s lengthy legislative career are education-related. In 1998, he persuaded Congress to fund his GEAR UP program designed to help low-income students prepare for and succeed in college. He is also founder of the Fattah Conference on Higher Education for students seeking to pursue graduate school.
As mayor, Fattah hopes to curb violence by installing up 1,000 new cameras on city streets, beefing up the police department and providing incentives and protection to those who offer tips to law enforcement.
To weed out corruption, he plans to build an “honest and open” administration. To do so, he advocates strengthening the role of the city inspector general and rewriting the ethics handbook for city employees.
Improving public transportation in the region is also high on his list of priorities. Through expansion of SEPTA railways, securing funding to continue Amtrak service and minimizing congestion on the streets, Fattah’s comprehensive plan aims to make transportation safe and accessible for citizens.
Name: Dwight Evans
State congressman Dwight Evans was a city school teacher and a job developer for the Urban League before his election to the Pennsylvania House in 1980.
Nearly 27 years since his election, Evans represents the West Oak Lane section of Northwest Philadelphia and is credited with reducing crime and bringing new housing and retail options to the once-blighted district. The rebirth of Evans’ district impressed many, including Daily News columnist John Baer who wrote, “He did it for a neighborhood, he can do it for a city.”
Following the tragic death of 10-year-old Faheem Thomas-Childs in a shoot-out between rival drug dealers in 2004, Evans worked with local and state officials to create the Blueprint for a Safer Philadelphia. The violence prevention initiative pairs youth with community groups and social services in an effort to help them “unlearn” violent behavior.
In conjunction with his existing program, Evans’ plan for cutting Philadelphia’s crime rate calls for at least $60 million to hire more police officers. While reducing homicides is a high priority, he also advocates a zero tolerance policy for minor crimes like vandalism.
He has also unveiled an extensive vision for the city’s struggling school system which features tighter security, increased emphasis on workforce training and preparation for higher education.
This year’s contest marks Evans’ second bid for mayor. In 1999, he was voted last in the party’s primary election.
Name: Tom Knox
Growing up in Philadelphia’s Abbotsford public housing, Tom Knox went from one side of the tracks to the other.
Within three decades the self-made businessman has owned and managed his own software, banking and health care insurance companies. Knox is now chief executive officer of United Healthcare Services, Inc., an international health care provider with 18 million individual customers.
His entrepreneurial attitude got him an invitation by Mayor Rendell in 1992 to help the city get out of their deficit and balance the budget as deputy mayor for the Office of Management and Productivity. Knox accepted the invitation on two conditions: he would accept a salary of no more than $1 per year and he would resign as soon as the budget was balanced.
Only one and a half years later Knox helped the city gain a budget surplus of $10 million dollars. His work also prevented a major tax hike for the residents and erased a quarter billion dollar annual budget deficit.
Knox resigned from the position earning $1.50 for his work.
But now Knox is back in the game and wants to help Philadelphia get back on track. The first issue he wants to cover is a plan for stopping the violence. The plan is called the Resolve to Stop the Violence Program, or RSVP, and will hire 1,000 new police officers over the next five years to help keep crime off the streets. The program is already operating in San Francisco. Other goals include plans to reduce drug use throughout the city, which some credit this interest to the Knox’s brother who died from a drug overdose in 1992 when Knox was deputy mayor
Knox also plans on bettering the education system by creating more funding for the community colleges as well as providing job training for the unemployed. Knox visited Main Campus in the beginning of the semester and expressed his desire to build relationship with the city’s college students.
Name: Michael Nutter
Elected in 1991, Michael Nutter served for 15 years as City Councilman for Philadelphia’s 4th District, which includes Overbrook, Manayunk, Roxborough and Wynnefield.
But, on June 27, 2006, Nutter stepped down to declare his candidacy in Philadelphia’s mayoral race.
Nutter has sponsored many of the city’s ethics-reform bills but one of his major contributions to the city is the legislation to make Philadelphia smoke free. Now, Nutter is leading a $630 million expansion project for the Pennsylvania Convention Center. So far, he has recruited a professional management staff as well as increased bookings.
Nutter also has a plan to stop bloodshed in the city. He wants to have curfews for zones that are deemed Philly’s worst neighborhoods. The initiative, called Safety Now would also make it possible for police officers to stop and frisk citizens for illegal weapons. It’s the only way to regain law and order, Nutter said.
Nutter’s proposal for housing includes the production 1,000 units of affordable homes and expansion of the support systems for basic home repairs. He would also like to reform property taxes and the 10-year property tax abatement policy so all Philadelphians can benefit from rising home values.
Nutter considers himself to be a lifetime Philadelphian who has dedicated his time to public service, business and financial administration and also served as Democratic Ward Leader of the 52nd Ward since 1990.
Name: Bob Brady
Bob Brady understands the hardships of ordinary citizens. Born in Philadelphia, Brady grew up to be a carpenter in Overbrook Park and after being concerned with local problems, he decided to run for precinct committeeman in 1968.
By June of 1986, Brady became Democratic Leader of the 34th Ward. He also served as staff aide in the Pennsylvania State Senate as well as the Philadelphia City Council.
Brady was also a member of the Pennsylvania Turnpike Commission from 1991 until his election to Congress. Currently, he is the only county Democratic Party chairman serving as a member of Congress, a position that provides added access to national democratic candidates and leaders.
Despite not having a college education, Brady co-teaches a course Organizational Dynamics at the University of Pennsylvania.
Brady is also known as the guy to help smooth things over and get things done when it concerns potential worker strikes or brokering peace deals. But when it comes to the issues in this year’s election – one thing is clear: Brady just wants to make a difference. Although he hasn’t offered any specific plans for the city, he said that he wants to better the school system, fight crime and eliminate the business privilege tax.
“When I am mayor, there will be elephants in the Philadelphia Zoo, and they will live in a place we can be proud of,” Brady said.
The Lone Republican
Name: Al Taubenberger
The only Republican candidate in the race thus far, Al Taubenberger, a Northeast Philadelphia businessman is officially in the running to become the city’s next mayor.
Taubenberger entered the race on Feb. 8 with the support of the Republican City Committee and only $100 in campaign funding, according to the Daily News.
Taubenberger has never held political office, though he served on the city’s tax reform commission in 2003 and worked as an aide to two members of city council. He also unsuccessfully ran for Congress twice. Currently, he is the president of the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.
Unlike his more established opponents, Taubenberger has yet to unveil any specific plans for the city, but at the press conference where he announced his candidacy, he called for better schools and end to corruption in City Hall.
Unless another Republican candidate enters the race before May, Taubenberger will run against the winner of the Democratic primary for the November election. Philadelphia’s last Republican mayor was Bernard Samuel, who took office in 1941 following the death of then mayor Robert E. Lamberton.
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