DN editorial: Victory lap for Kenney, then challenges from a Trump administration

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Mayor Kenney has had success in his first year in office, but, with Donald Trump becoming president, 2017 could bring some challenges to Philadelphia.

EVEN BEFORE MONDAY'S court decision that tossed out the lawsuit challenging his soda tax, Mayor Kenney deserved to take a victory lap after his first year in office. And now that a judge invalidated the lawsuit - brought by distributors, retailers and others - that attempted to put a halt to a tax on sweetened beverages, Kenney can add a little dance to that victory lap.

The court decision now means that the tax will fund Kenney's pre-K program, one of the ambitious initiatives the new mayor announced in the early days of his administration. Expected to generate about $90 million a year through the imposition of a 1.5-cents-per-ounce levy on sugary and diet beverages, the soda tax will pave the way for 2,000 children to get into a pre-K program as early as January. It also paves the way for similar taxes to be imposed in cities across the country.

Kenney also recently announced another significant victory: his Rebuild program, a $500 million effort to repair and renovate libraries, parks and recreation centers, aided by a $100 million grant from the William Penn Foundation. Rebuild proposes improvements to 150 to 200 facilities - many neglected for decades - over the next seven years.

The city also plans to use Rebuild as a lever to create more minority and female participation in the building trades, the collection of unions that do most of the construction work in the city.

Kenney has shown himself able to build coalitions, reaching across boundaries of neighborhoods and classes - and City Council. Early on, Kenney also faced the fundamental litmus test of all new mayors - dealing with a blizzard three weeks into his administration.

But the biggest challenge ahead is what few other mayors have faced: an unexpected blizzard of change from Washington. And that is likely to pack a wallop.

This wallop is not without precedent. In 2008, as Mayor Nutter was preparing to deliver candy and flowers - er, we mean money from a budget surplus - to a variety of city departments and initiatives, he and his administration were slammed with the near-collapse of the U.S. economy following the mortgage meltdown. Nutter was forced to shift focus from making transformational changes to the city to fundamental survival.

While it wasn't always pretty, Nutter managed to leave his successor a city with renewed financial stability and thriving development. But what Kenney now faces - the unknown impact of a Trump administration - could make an economic collapse look like a day at the park. Trump's positions and his early Cabinet choices bring terror into the hearts of anyone who cares about public education, poverty, wage equality, the environment, public health, housing and immigration, many of them issues Kenney holds dear. Already, Kenney's support of Philadelphia as a sanctuary city - or, as he has taken to call it, a "Fourth Amendment city" - has been met with threatened cuts of millions in federal dollars.

Big cities like ours could bear the brunt of the changes coming from Washington. It will be up to Kenney to navigate carefully. So far, at least, his navigation skills seem quite sound. He's also smart enough to know that however successful his first year has been, it means little when you have no way of seeing, or controlling, the future.