Forgive Boris Kindij for not seeming all that intimidated by an independent mayoral run that features little to very, very little name recognition, funding or political experience.
After all, a couple years fighting as a “foot soldier” in the Croatian War of Independence before coming to “the new world” in pursuit of opportunity tends to change one’s perspective.
“It was hell, man,” Kindij told NinetyNine of the war during a Tuesday night interview. “There was an arranged war between the Croatian political mafia and the [Socialist Federal Republic of Yugoslavia] political mafia and the intention was to divide Bosnia-Herzegovina and steal anything that can be stolen.”
He shared that historical perspective to make the case that “what’s happening in Philadelphia is very similar to what happened in Croatia,” actual war not included.
“I call it a political mafia, but it’s a small group of people ruling the city, enriching themselves, not caring about the people,” he said. “I saw Philadelphia being a very corrupted city, a very mismanaged city and, in power, a small group of people.
“It’s not about the Democratic machine, but the people themselves, the character of the people. They use the machine to get in power, steal and enrich themselves. So, I made a decision to do something about it.”
What Kindij — a real-estate property manager who is on call 24/7 for emergencies — decided was to run for mayor in November’s general election because he’d seen “a lot of injustice as I traveled around Philadelphia,” he explained.
He also wasn’t impressed by what he saw during the mayoral-primary season, saying that Democrat Jim Kenney seems like a nice enough guy but beholden to “patrons” who helped get him elected.
“I just woke up one day in the beginning of April and thought, ‘Let me do something for the people,'” said Kindij, 41, who came to the United States to attend the University of New Hampshire before living in Denver, Minneapolis, Los Angeles and, chasing love, Philadelphia.
That latter stop led to a 10-year marriage and citizenship.
“You only live once. I asked myself, ‘Why not?'” the once-divorced currently engaged father of two said, noting that he personally gathered some 2,400 petition signatures in some of the city’s roughest pockets. “Nobody knew who I was. I started at ground zero. I made a decision to do something that is right, that is just and that is fair in life.”
To that end, Kindij — one of four candidates who find themselves chasing Kenney — personally crafted a platform letter that, among other things, calls for privatized trash collection, the formation of a privatized security force, fighting back against entrenched corruption that “anybody with a brain can see going on,” tax reductions and abatement extensions.
He also wants to end DROP (for all employees except police officers and firefighters), dismantle the School Reform Commission, boost the number of minority recruits in the Philadelphia Police Department and entice former mayoral candidate Sam Katz into joining his administration. (Katz, who doesn’t know Kindij, said he responded that he couldn’t sign on to any potential post because he is “focused elsewhere.”)
Over a four-month period, he met a slew of people in his travels across town. He said he saw a lot of desperation. Well, after people — including drug dealers — asked whether he was lost and/or an undercover police officer.
“I talked to so many people, hearing what they need, what they complain about and what they hope for. Practically, there was no hope,” he said.
“I was the only white guy in black neighborhoods collecting signatures, by myself, from 6 to 9 or 10 o’clock at night,” he continued. “People I met want to change their situation. They just wanted jobs. Even the drug dealers. They had families and kids, and they just wanted jobs.”
He’s hoping that legwork earns him some goes-to-the-polls good will, but does have some other workarounds to his current political challenges.
He already sent out an estimated 250 emails to various religious organizations seeking an audience, as he prepares for the United Way’s mayoral town-hall debate on Sept. 29 and plans to paper the city with “a quarter-million fliers” with the help of (hopefully) 100 volunteers.
“If I can get out there like that and meet thousands more people, I can tell you right now that I will win because people are sick and tired of the current political establishment. Crooks,” he said. “People say that without money, you won’t get too far, but I’m a chess player. You have to play smart with all the resources you have. The most important thing is what’s happening on the ground.”
Kindij cited ridiculously low voter-turnout numbers in May — specifically that among millennials who he labeled “the crucial ones who can change the political structure of Philadelphia for the better” — as evidence that a longshot like him does, in fact, have a shot.
“It’s not like it’s a done deal,” he said. “I’m not experienced in politics, but politics is in everything. Marriage is politics. Business is politics. It’s all about how you play a chess game. I believe that.
“It’s true that I don’t have any financial resources, or any political background, political financial backup, but I wouldn’t be running for mayor if I strongly agreed that I don’t have a chance. Everybody has a chance.”