PHILADELPHIA, at the center of a convergence of growth, positive attention and forward movement, is having a moment. While still beset with big problems, we can more easily stand with other modern cities - no longer corrupt and content, no longer in thrall to pay to play, patronage, ethical shortcomings and soul-killing bureaucratic indifference, much of which can be credited to Mayor Nutter's past seven years.
Interviewing candidates, and attending some of the countless debates and forums to weigh our choice for the Democratic choice for next mayor, we have focused a key question: Who is most likely to keep the momentum going?
We believe that Jim Kenney is best equipped to accomplish that.
A veteran legislator, serving on City Council for 23 years, he made an early name for himself as a crusader, particularly on quality-of-life issues. Anyone paying attention has seen a clear evolution of man and politician, as those crusades have grown to include progressive causes, like LGBT and immigrant rights, and decriminalization of marijuana, which could stem the tide of overimprisonment.
Kenney takes heat for his ties to unions - he's racked up at least 30 labor endorsements - and his tight relationship with power broker John Dougherty.
But consider: The past few mayoral administrations have had hostile relationships with the city's union workforce, and, as a result, there have been few concessions to show for it. Kenney, with a better relationship starting out, might be able to achieve the kind of serious reforms that are needed.
Consider, too: A former Fumo-crat (which worked in his favor when Vince Fumo was in power), along the line he became closer to Fumo's archenemy, Dougherty. One could see this cynically; we see it as someone who can achieve a level of practical neutrality.
Kenney has shown himself to be independent, especially when you consider the lack of support for many of his pet causes. He knows how the city and its politics work, and is smart and open to new ideas.
As Jimmy-from-the-block, he wears his heart - and sometimes his anger - on his sleeve. You can't get more Philadelphian than that.
Anthony Hardy Williams' intelligence and long career in public office should not be dismissed. But the fact is, he is a longtime representative of a Harrisburg that has a miserable track record in its regard for the city, and for public education. His alignment with billionaire backers who share his single-minded focus on vouchers and charter schools - though he has barely addressed the charter issue during the campaign - is problematic, since it leaves the problems of public education behind in favor of alternatives that lack accountability. His recent about-face on support for Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey seemed calculated as just an attention-getter.
As for other candidates, former District Attorney Lynne Abraham and lawyer and former Judge Nelson Diaz seem both out of place and out of time. As for Milton Street, some of his recent musings might nominate him as the city's first political poet laureate. But not mayor.
Doug Oliver's youth, smarts and charisma have provided some of what little excitement this current race has generated. He's a tempting choice, but at the end of the day his lack of executive and government experience falls short . . . this time.