Kenney prepares to formally announce mayoral bid, defends record on PGW

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The Philadelphia mayor’s race has a new and formidable candidate.

Former Councilman Jim Kenney — who last week resigned from the at-large seat he’s held for more than two decades — is set to formally announce his candidacy Wednesday. The South Philly native has lately been at odds with Mayor Michael Nutter, though the two share a history dating back to their school days at St. Joe’s Prep.

Jim Kenney sat down with WHYY senior reporter Dave Davies.

“I have a really good understanding of the beat of the city and the pulse of the city,” said Kenney. “And I think knowing, additionally, the way government works — or doesn’t work — and the interaction between the mayor and Council and the business community and labor, and the various minority communities throughout our city, racial, ethnic, or sexual minorities, I think I’d build a coalition of folks to move forward.”

Kenney said his main focus as mayor would be combating poverty.

“[Poverty] drives every other negative aspect of city life,” said Kenney. “People who don’t have a job because they don’t have an education wind up doing things they shouldn’t do in order to survive. We wind up having to take care of that by arresting them, by prosecuting them, by putting them in jail. And then we have families that face dysfunction, children who enter into generational dysfunction, and all that costs money.”

Kenney said he believes the primary remedy is early childhood education.

“I think that a goal would be that every 3- and 4-year-old in the School District of Philadelphia have access to quality pre-K within the next five years,” said Kenney.

Asked how he’d pay for it, Kenney said: “The city of Philadelphia, over the time that I’ve been in the city … has invested in many many things. They’ve invested in sports complexes and all kinds of stuff that are productive things that I voted for. We need to put some city money where our mouth is.”

The friction between the Nutter administration and Council came to a head last year when Council declined to bring the mayor’s proposal to sell off Philadelphia Gas Works up for a hearing. Asked why he didn’t introduce a bill to hold a hearing, Kenney said he wasn’t going to stick his neck out for an administration he felt hadn’t worked well with Council.

“I view the city of Philadelphia as a municipal corporation, where the CEO is the mayor, and with a board of directors who’s Council,” said Kenney. “There’s no corporation in America that would sell a $1.86 billion asset without informing its board what they were doing.”

Listen to the full interview above.

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