Jim Kenney looks back on 8 years as Philadelphia mayor on WHYY’s ‘Studio 2’

“Some people just need to go away,” Kenney said when asked about his future plans for public life.

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Jim Kenney speaking at a podium

File - Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney thanks Philadelphians for their calm during the vote counting process. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

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Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney looked back on his two terms in office during an extended interview on WHYY’s “Studio 2.”

Kenney spoke of the highlights of his time in office, including how he used a tax on sugary drinks to help fix libraries and playgrounds and expand access to Pre-K in the city.

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“I think there’s a couple [of] different things that I am the most proud of,” Kenney said. “I think the creation of Pre-K by the time I, we leave office, they’ll be over 16,000 three- and four-year-olds in a quality Pre-K program throughout the city.”

“We’ve expanded the Pre-K opportunities for people in neighborhoods. And we’ve done that expansion equitably in neighborhoods that really need the help, and kids need a good start in education. We’ve expanded the role of women of color, and ownership and management [of] all of these mostly family-run, generational businesses,” he added.

Kenney said of his time in office, he will miss visiting Pre-Ks the most.  “It’s so rewarding and so inspirational,” he said.

Kenney said he stands by the decision not to bring in the National Guard to control violence in the city, even in light of the fatal stabbing of a Macy’s security guard earlier this week.

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“I lay in bed at night. Sometimes I look at the ceiling and just go what can we do? What can we do? The issue at Macy’s the other day — My Lord in heaven, this guy has 13 priors,” he said. “This kid [security guard Eric Harrison] was doing everything right. He was working two jobs, the post office at night [and] at Macy’s during the day, and was 27 years old … That life is gone.”

Kenney also touched on the now-infamous remark he made in the wake of the July 4, 2022 shooting that injured two police officers, where he said he couldn’t wait until the day he wasn’t mayor anymore.

“If it’s not the only thing that reverberates after these years it’s not that bad.  I’m a human being; I have emotions and issues.” Kenney said he didn’t do a good job of being a self-promoter during his time in office. He explained he shows emotion on his face and, at times, is too honest in letting his inner feelings out through his expressions.

Kenney said he’s “pretty funny in different places,” but he cut back on social media shortly after taking office when his communications staff instructed him not to do it anymore. He said they were getting too many requests from the news media to explain his interaction with the public on social media.

In recent months, Kenney’s pushed for so-called “safe injection” sites in the city in “order to get the people the help they need.” He said he doesn’t believe there is a way to stop the drug crisis in the city without the sites, which he said is “better than what is going on, on the street right now.”

He said he doesn’t expect to return to public life soon.  “Some people just need to go away,” Kenney said.

Mayor-elect Cherelle Parker will be sworn in as Philadelphia’s 100th mayor on Jan. 2.

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