If the mayoral election was held on Saturday, Doug Oliver would be the next mayor of Philadelphia, according to city kids.
Oliver was voted in during a mock election during the first-ever Youth Mayoral Summit, sponsored by Big Brothers Big Sisters of Southeastern Pennsylvania and WURD-AM.
About 150 kids, ages 12 to 18, filled the Venice Island Performing Arts Center in Manayunk for face-to-face time with the Democratic mayoral hopefuls and Republican candidate Melissa Murray Bailey. All the candidates were present except Nelson Diaz, who was out of town for a prior commitment.
The summit is the brainchild of Marcus Allen, CEO of the Big Brothers Big Sisters chapter, who says the Youth Mayoral Summit allowed the city’s children to feel involved in the political process.
“When you read the stats, the studies always indicate that we have an apathetic voting community,” Allen said. “I would guess that they don’t really talk about the importance of voting in schools, so where else are our kids going to get the knowledge and motivation to be involved?”
The panel answered the children’s questions regarding raising the minimum wage, homelessness, street harassment, nutritional school lunches, funding for education and police brutality.
“We’re showing kids in a very practical way that they have a voice and it matters and it will continue to matter when they turn 18,” Allen said.
Candidate Lynne Abraham, former board member of Big Brothers Big Sisters, was not asked about her collapse several days prior during the first televised debate of the 2015 mayoral race.
“We adults don’t give children a whole lot of credit for things that they see,” Abraham said. “They’re very perceptive, very acutely aware of their surroundings.”
Oliver’s win was no surprise to Sharayna Taylor, a Big Sister for two years now.
“Doug Oliver had a lot of great things to say and he was able to articulate on education and mental health and human services, which is what I work in so I was very interested in his perspective,” Taylor said.
Taylor, 29, and her little sister Synai Williams, 12, have been paired together for a year.
Their concerns ranged from how the candidates plan on getting the school district out of debt to how how they plan to stop gun violence in neighborhoods.
“Back in the day, there was racism and slavery, but now you can just be sitting on a corner and police can come up to you and some will shoot you,” Williams said.
“We live in fear of that happening because we have older brothers who are African-American men and they seem to be a target,” Taylor said.
The Democratic mayoral primary takes place on May 19. Oliver is running against Abraham, Diaz, state Senator Anthony Williams, former state Senator Milton Street, and former city councilman Jim Kenney.
This story was updated to reflect the fact that the event was co-sponsored by NewsWorks and The Next Mayor partner WURD-AM.