On Nov. 4, The next Philadelphia mayoral election will take place.
For better or worse, the citizens of our city will be deciding whether to re-elect John Street for the next four years or to take a bet on the perennial challenger, Sam Katz.
Unfortunately, this year’s election has been marred by the usual shenanigans.
Most recently, accusations from Sam Katz’s camp of a Molotov cocktail being thrown through their window led to counter-accusations from John Street’s press secretary that Katz faked the whole incident.
This should come to no surprise in a city where politicians and their cronies are known for playing dirty.
Philadelphia’s past mayors include such beacons of integrity as the quasi-fascist Frank Rizzo and Wilson Goode, a man who bungled his own re-election prospects the fateful day when he bombed the MOVE complex in West Philadelphia, setting fire to a full city block of rowhouses (he still got re-elected).
Compared to those two, the mayoral candidates of 2003 are positively tame.
For all of Street’s reputation for being aloof and unpersonable, his last year in office bought deals for three additional high rise buildings in Center City and the Safe Streets program, which has bought immeasurable improvements to the lives of residents in Philadelphia’s worst neighborhoods.
Katz is a cipher though. His day job is as executive director for Greater Philadelphia First, an organization of large corporations based in the Philadelphia area that aims to attract additional investment to the region.
Mostly self-financed, Katz has the advantage of having no first term to work against him, as well as the simmering resentment against Street from fiascoes like the Convention Center.
In the end, the question of which candidate is best to Philadelphia comes down to one question: How do we improve the health of Center City?
As the economic and cultural engine of the region, Center City Philadelphia occupies a unique niche that makes it absolutely important that it continues to attract new businesses.
Despite recent success stories such as Trader Joes and Borders, economic growth downtown is lagging compared to that in the suburbs.
There is no reason why office parks in deepest Montgomery County should continue to fill up while Center City languishes.
Street’s work in attracting new high rise commercial space to Philadelphia was a great boon to the city; Katz has the connections necessary to attract large companies who might otherwise be repelled by uniquely Philadelphian nuisances such as the Wage Tax & sky high utility bills.
Both candidates have proved that they will be able to do a lot for downtown Philadelphia.
With more than six weeks left in the campaign, there is still time for them to prove that they can do more for downtown.
In the end, this is what will make or break them in the race for mayor.
Neal Ungerleader can be reached at email@example.com.