Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney took the oath of office at the Academy of Music Monday morning, a traditional ceremony I’ve seen so many times that I feel like I should be sworn in for something.
As is often the case with these things, what you don’t see is sometimes more significant than what you do.
For example: You didn’t see Kenney outlining a bunch of bold new policy proposals. Instead it was City Council President Darrell Clarke, who spoke before Kenney, who talked about forthcoming initiatives in criminal justice and tax reform and an energy plan he says will produce “10,000 green jobs.”
What you’re seeing here (without seeing it) is Kenney’s determination to have a more productive relationship with City Council than his predecessor did.
So you won’t find him rolling out big policy ideas (he and his team have some) unless Council leaders have been fully briefed and are probably on board.
Meanwhile, Kenney was fine with letting Clarke have his day at the Academy promising big things.
Kenney’s speech was short and to the point. He delivered it well, with a kind of intensity and determination familiar to anyone who’s spent time around him.
He was very emphatic when he made a point about police-community relations: “We will have to put aside our differences and acknowledge two things — that black lives do matter (a line interrupted by applause), and that the overwhelming majority of our police are decent, hardworking public servants who risk their lives every day” (also interrupted by applause).
Running of the bulls
The inaugural schedule called for a “procession on Broad Street to City Hall” after the ceremony.So reporters assembled on the sidewalk prepared to record the new mayor’s walk north through a throng of welcoming citizens.
It was more like a kickoff return in football, with Kenney at the center of a flying wedge of plainclothes police.
It wasn’t meant to be unfriendly. It was just Jim Kenney wanting to get to work. He moved at such a brisk pace that reporters scrambling to keep up and get their photos and tape were at some peril. Our photographer Emma Lee went down hard as she was backpedaling and hit a curb.
The man’s in a hurry – keep up or get out of the way.
A different Council?The other subtle signal of something significant was City Councilman Bobby Henon being chosen the temporary chair of the Council (the inauguration is technically a Council meeting) and then being elected majority leader.
Henon’s selection followed an internal battle for the post, and the word in City Hall is that this Council will not be as unanimously behind Clarke as the last one was.
Henon, a former political director of the powerful Local 98 of the International Brotherhood of Electrical Workers, is said to have mayoral ambitions himself.
Free adviceOne of the other traditions of the inauguration which I like is that all the former mayors who are around and healthy enough generally show for the ceremony.
There were five this time, and I hustled up afterward and managed to ask four for 30 seconds of advice for Kenney as he takes the reins.
You can hear a montage of their answers by playing the audio above, but for a better treatment I’d direct you to Julia Terruso’s piece in the Inquirer in which she got all five, and gave them a little more space than I could.
I thought the answers were, in many cases, revealing. Ed Rendell said as mayor, you have to say “no,” which is something he had trouble doing, while John Street said you have to be able to delegate, which is something he had trouble doing.
It’s interesting to me that in City Council, Kenney spent nearly 20 years as a student of the mayor’s office and formed plenty of opinions about what works and doesn’t in the big office.
Now he gets to try his hand. Good luck, mayor.