Standing on the corner of Eighth and Diamond Streets, Republican mayoral candidate Melissa Murray Bailey called a press conference Friday morning to criticize politicians for ignoring gun violence in Philadelphia.
That corner is not far from where two men on bicycles shot a 40-year-old man Wednesday night, wounding him in the left arm and right foot. The chalk circles outlining the 36 shell casings found by were still visible across the street.
“Nobody is talking about this. We are in a time of crisis in our city,” said Bailey, later adding, “I haven’t seen any other politician in the neighborhoods where we’re working and we’re serving.”
While Bailey didn’t name names, community activists Terry Starks and Melissa Taylor did it for her.
“A mayor is a critical job for the city of Philadelphia, and Jim Kenney is not out here on these crime scenes seeing the deplorable conditions of the people,” said Starks, an anti-violence activist formerly with the group Philadelphia CeaseFire who has taken Bailey to prayer vigils and to meet residents affected by street violence.
Starks said he has “nothing against” the Democratic mayoral candidate, but criticized “comfortable” politicians who have lost touch with communities.
“It’s people that don’t even live in the ghetto that’s making a voice,” added Taylor. “They don’t know what’s good for us, they don’t know what’s good for our communities ’cause they really don’t care or they’d be down here like Melissa Murray Bailey and trying to figure out what could help us next.”
We asked Kenney spokeswoman Lauren Hitt for a response:
“Jim was in North Philadelphia just this past Wednesday, blocks from where this morning’s press conference was held to meet with local ministers about ways to address issues in their community, including gun violence,” Hitt said in an email to NinetyNine.
Hitt added that as a city councilman, Kenney voted for a package of gun-control laws ultimately struck down by the Commonwealth Court. He’s also put out a public safety policy paper that supports ShotSpotter technology and focused deterrence programs to prevent gun violence.
Bailey said she plans to release her own “safety plan” in the next week, which will detail her ideas to improve police-community relations.
Asked for a preview of the plan, Bailey proposed requiring police officers to spend at least eight hours per month “dedicated to engagement and community activities,” such as playing basketball with youth or helping out with after-school programs.
Bailey also said she would welcome into her administration popular Police Commissioner Charles Ramsey, who is rumored to be leaving his post at the end of Mayor Michael Nutter’s term. Bailey said she would look within the department at candidates such as Deputy Commissioner Richard Ross, widely seen as Ramsey’s chosen successor.