Wednesday, August 20, 2014
Inquirer Daily News

Where is Philadelphia's Bill de Blasio?

There's a lot to process from yesterday's election -- most of it not good. When the "best" news is that the sleazeball Democrat beat the nutjob Republican in Virginia, there's not much to truly celebrate. Corrupt one-party rule lives on in Philly... and in Delaware County. Across the river, Democrat Barbara Buono wonders why Democratic party bosses abandoned her (especially when there was so much dirt on Gov. Christie) and it's hard not to agree. The winners all lost the spotlight to the mayor of Toronto, anyway.

Where is Philadelphia's Bill de Blasio?

Bill DeBlasio. (AP Photo)
Bill DeBlasio. (AP Photo)

There's a lot to process from yesterday's election -- most of it not good. When the "best" news is that the sleazeball Democrat beat the nutjob Republican in Virginia, there's not much to truly celebrate. Corrupt one-party rule lives on in Philly... and in Delaware County. Across the river, Democrat Barbara Buono wonders why Democratic party bosses abandoned her (especially when there was so much dirt on Gov. Christie) and it's hard not to agree. The winners all lost the spotlight to the mayor of Toronto, anyway.

And the most depressing election news of all...was about 2015.

The field of candidates for mayor of Philadelphia two years from now is taking shape.

And it's bleak, people.

Daily News reporters hung out with the city's politerati on Election Day so you wouldn't have to, and part of their assignment was to ask them who will be replacing Mayor Nutter on the second floor of City Hall 26 months from now. The runway winner was state Sen. Tony Williams, an increasingly strong presence in Harrisburg and a gubernatorial candidate in 2010.

Sigh.

There are certainly some good things about Williams -- in 2010 I watched him obliterate his Democratic debate foes with his inside-and-out knowledge of Harrisburg -- but the bottom line is that the son of the late Hardy Williams (a historic figure in city politics) is, well, a little too wedded to the bottom line. In a time when charter schools are devouring the notion of fair and equitable education for all, Williams had been the bought-and-paid-for candidate of the charter school industry. His acceptance of more than $6 million in campaign cash from three charter-school crazed hedge fund gazillionaires is a textbook example of everything that's wrong with politics in Pennsylvania. And then there's that time his wife got a lucrative job with the Marcellus Shale Coalition, the people who brought you fracvking.

Whatever else, Williams is the opposite of a progressive -- at a time when Philadelphia needs a fighter for its flagging public schools -- and against its abysmal poverty rate and its lack of good middle-class jobs. And the other names that have been bandied about for 2015 are little or no better.

This is why it's been both electrifying and disheartening (from a Philly-envy standpoint) to watch what's been happening with our urban neighbors 100 miles to the north, in New York City. Bill de Blasio ran as a long-shot candidate to undo some of the excesses of the Michael Bloomberg years that made New York a gussied-up urban Disneyland for the upper classes but did precious little for the priced-out working poor, other than to humiliate thousands of young blacks and Latinos with the racial profiling process called "stop and frisk."

In de Blasio's campaign, he called for policies that -- in the exact opposite of what is happening here in Philadelphia -- would favor traditional public schools at the expense of charters, and unlike the grim budget cuts we've experienced, the New Yorker wants to modestly tax the city's millionaires who did quite well in the years that the middle class continued to suffer. He would use that money to fund early childhood education, critical to breaking the cycle of poverty. What's more, de Blasio is an advocate for fair housing,for campaign finance reform, and for ending stop-and-frisk.

Much like the status quo today in Philadelphia, nobody gave a candidate like de Blasio much of a chance -- he started out fifth in most of the polls earlier this year, But the more that New Yorkers learned about de Blasio and the chance to undo the regressive policies of the last 20 years in the nation's largest city, the more they liked. Last night, de Blasio was elected mayor with 73 percent of the vote. He told New Yorkers: “Make no mistake: The people of this city have chosen a progressive path, and tonight we set forth on it, together.”

No one saw this coming just six months ago, and yet it happened. Philadelphia has two years to figure this out -- how to stop recycling the same old tired pols and their tired, bought-and-paid-for ideas, and find a woman or a man who will fight for the fast-food workers and the airport workers with the same vigor as for Center City loft tax breaks, who will create safe neighborhoods not just for hipsters but for health care workers.

Two years to answer the question: Where is Philadelphia's Bill de Blasio?

About this blog
Will Bunch, a senior writer at the Philadelphia Daily News, blogs about his obsessions, including national and local politics and world affairs, the media, pop music, the Philadelphia Phillies, soccer and other sports, not necessarily in that order.

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