Kenney makes it clear, just not official

     City Councilman James Kenney announces that he will resign on Thursday. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    City Councilman James Kenney announces that he will resign on Thursday. (Emma Lee/WHYY)

    Philadelphia City Councilman Jim Kenney today made it clear he plans to run for mayor in the May 19th Democratic primary, and he engaged reporters in a half-hour give-and-take on a variety of policy issues.

    Kenney made it clear, but not official, that he’s running.

    The city charter would require him to quit his Council post if he actually said he was a candidate, so Kenney summoned reporters to his office and said everything short of that. He said he’ll resign from Council on Thursday and make the announcement everyone expects.

    He said he isn’t sure when he’ll have a formal campaign opening event, but he entertained as many questions as reporters wanted to ask. He was asked about police strategy, for example.

    “I’m not a big fan of stop and frisk. I’m just not,” Kenney said. “I think that despite the fact that there’s a belief that it is a crime-fighting tool, I think it further degrades the relationship between minority communities and the police, which we don’t need.”

    He said City Council “maybe should have had a hearing” on the proposal to sell the Philadelphia Gas Works, but suggested Mayor Nutter didn’t do enough to inform and involve Council members and others throughout the process.

    He said he’d keep Nutter’s ethics reforms if elected.

    “The Nutter administration has done some really good stuff,” Kenney said. “I will tell you, from ethics and transparency, and [appointing a strong] inspector general and integrity officer? All that stuff’s staying.”

    And I was struck by his candor on the problems facing public education.

    “I don’t have the answer to the public schools,” Kenney said. “I will tell you right now, I don’t have the answer.”

    He went on to say that as mayor he would go “hat in hand” to the state legislature looking for more funding, then added, “I’m not waiting for superman from Harrisburg any more.”

    He said he wants to get universal pre-kindergarten in the city in five years. “The city’s going to have to spend some money,” he said, “and we’re going have to be able to approach foundations, and maybe some of our local institutions and businesses, to get that done.”

    Kenney’s been in council 23 years, and he said it’s liberating to finally go for the big prize.

    “It’s something I’ve thought about for a long time, for the last couple of mayoral elections,” Kenney said. “I don’t want to be retired and sitting on my porch and saying, ‘I should have tried.’ I’m willing to take the risk of resigning and the risk of not winning.”

    Kenney’s entrance brings the field of Democrats to six likely candidates.

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