It seems that the closer to the mayoral election we get, the less appealling the candidates seem. In particular, the debacle over the FBI-placed bug found in Mayor Street’s office and the developing federal corruption probe. These developments are raising questions for many people in just how Street’s administration has run.
Sam Katz’s situation is a little better. Public appearances by the Republican mayoral candidate have dropped significantly over the past several weeks. Apart from the obligatory Sunday morning church visits and weekly fundraising dinners, Katz has been noticeably quiet.
Philadelphia is a city that, like it or not, has rough-and-tumble election traditions. We are the city that spawned Frank Rizzo and Wilson Goode; a city of party machines and City Council fistfights. It is not necessarily a bad thing. It just means that the rules by which politicians play here are different than the rules elsewhere.
The chance that Philadelphia will have a Republican mayor come November are better than they have been in a long time. While Mayor Street has done an incredible job with the Safe Streets program and an admirable job reining in the madness that is the Convention Center, there have been many failures. As a city, we have never truly recovered from the loss of our industrial base and the subsequent tax heights.
Unfortunately, there are neighborhoods that no mayoral initiative can fix. Fixing them will require thousands of jobs moving from the suburbs to Center City, parents taking responsibility for their children, Harrisburg finally picking up the slack and giving urban regions the funding they deserve. These are things no mayor can change single-handedly; yet incumbents will always take the blame for them.
Meanwhile, Katz has yet to prove that he has a solid plan for the city. Although he has unquestioned abilities as a dealmaker and business guru, Katz still lacks political experience. His awkward answers during mayoral debates have only raised more questions about what his actual policies will be. There are issues relating to crime, public housing and city infrastructure that Katz has yet to give a solid position on.
Yes, Katz is a “left-wing Republican.” But that label includes former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani and Secretary of State Colin Powell. These are two very different politicians, whose ideologies and political styles have little in common other than disagreements with the national Republican Party’s stand on social issues.
Unfortunately, with election week coming close, it seems that Philadelphians are forced to choose between two lackluster candidates. There is one who, even if not himself corrupt, has had questionable activities take place in his office, his Blackberry PDA seized as evidence and gave money away to private organizations to teach college classes that were never taught. Then there is the other who can never give a straight answer to any question, who has no political experience and whose commitment to Philadelphia’s neighborhoods remains in doubt. As usual, Philadelphians deserve better.