‘Globally-Minded Leadership’ mayoral forum addresses Philly’s role in the world

 Global Philadelphia's 'Globally-Minded Leadership' mayoral forum was held inside an International House auditorium on Monday afternoon. (Brian Hickey/WHYY)

Global Philadelphia's 'Globally-Minded Leadership' mayoral forum was held inside an International House auditorium on Monday afternoon. (Brian Hickey/WHYY)

Conflicting schedules and bad traffic on I-95 turned the first hour of Global Philadelphia‘s mayoral forum into a polite Monday afternoon Q&A-discussion between candidate Lynne Abraham and stand-ins for two of her competitors.

The tenor of the “Globally-Minded Leadership” mayoral forum, held at the International House from noon to 1:30 p.m., didn’t much change when Nelson Diaz arrived, apologetically, with a half hour to spare.

The forum itself aimed to give the candidates “an opportunity to set forth their understandings and views on international and national origin community issues.”

And that’s what Abraham, Diaz, Ahsan Nasratullah (a Jim Kenney policy advisor) and Omar Woodward (policy director for Anthony Hardy Williams) set out to do.

Questions from moderator Steve Highsmith and audience members touched on strategies to attract international business, boosting Philly’s global profile, quantifying the city’s “charisma,” finding potential trade-relationship partners, taking trade missions, taxing residents for renting their homes for upcoming high-profile events and, among other topics, whether it’d be wise to host the Olympics here.

With Pope Francis’ September visit and the DNC coming to town next year, the rental-tax question was of practical import.

Abraham said “it’s a bit too much” to tax residents for renting out properties solely for those events, Kenney’s camp said “he’d consider it,” Williams’ proxy didn’t want to give a definitive answer without speaking with the senator first and Diaz said “you’d have to; it’s still income.”

On seeing her potential role as mayor as one of drawing international businesses to town, Abraham noted that “I’d hope the press would treat you with dignity and respect and not consider these types of trips ‘junkets’ when [successful trips could] create jobs.”

She also said she’d like to see foreign students attending universities and colleges in the city head out to public schools to share stories and lessons about their homelands with local youth.

On Williams’ behalf, Woodward spoke about the need to bolster “neighborhood to neighborhood tourism” while Nasratullah noted that “innovation zones” akin to Impact Philly could help draw international business here.

Asked to envision where their first mayoral trade mission would target, Abraham said Colombia (though Russia has “untapped potential”), Diaz targeted Brazil, Nasratullah (speaking for himself as policy advisor) said Africa while Woodward agreed with that latter locale, in a Sub-Saharan sense.

When the issue of first impressions arose, Woodward cited “dirty streets,” Nasratullah called out provincialism and Diaz saw “a ray of hope” while Abraham lamented the need for more environmental sustainability.

While everyone on stage agreed that the need for direct flights to Beijing are sorely needed, disagreement arose when the discussion turned to pursuing a host role for the 2028 Summer Olympics.

Woodward and Diaz came down on the yes side while Abraham and Nasratullah said it was too costly to consider at this time.

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