Mayoral candidates discuss youth-violence issues at Dobbins High forum

 The mayoral candidates danced their way into Wednesday's forum at Dobbins High School. (Stephanie Aaronson/via The Next Mayor Partnership)

The mayoral candidates danced their way into Wednesday's forum at Dobbins High School. (Stephanie Aaronson/via The Next Mayor Partnership)

Six of Philadelphia’s seven mayoral candidates fielded questions inside a gymnasium at North Philadelphia’s Dobbins High School on Wednesday afternoon during Philadelphia CeaseFire and the Philadelphia Youth Commission‘s Youth Violence Prevention Summit.

Many responses during the “Our Future Matters” event had been heard at previous debates and forums, but the absence of one candidate — T. Milton Street Sr. — was a curiosity considering the fact that his campaign primarily focuses on the scourge of urban violence.

Street told NinetyNine that it wasn’t an intentional slight.

“Whoever called in with information [about the event] gave me the wrong time,” Street said. “I went up there at 5 [p.m.], but it was already over.”

The forum itself launched an “effort to stress to city leaders the importance of preventing violence before it occurs,” according to CeaseFire Director Marla Davis Bellamy.

More than 100 students and community members attended the candidates’ portion of the event, which was moderated by John L. Jackson, Jr., dean of the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Social Policy and Practice.

The candidates, who each danced their way into the room, were asked to outline their campaign’s violence-reduction platforms and answered questions about public-health and education policies, and whether the city should be investing millions in hosting the Democratic National Convention next year while school’s are fiscally strapped.

Lynne Abraham, who fainted during a Tuesday night mayoral debate, spoke about the need for fingerprint-activated trigger locks for guns. (She also shushed the crowd on at least two occasions.)

Nelson Diaz steered attendees toward the public-safety plan posted on his website.

Jim Kenney and Tony Williams agreed that the ideal approach would be offering more support services than arresting youths. Williams’ “we can’t arrest our way out of this” quote was seconded by the former city councilman.

Doug Oliver noted that “we find the money for the things we want” so it’s particularly damning “how we don’t find money for our schools.” He, like the other candidates, also envisioned a Philadelphia where every neighborhood has a viable public-school option.

Melissa Murray Bailey, the field’s Republican candidate, noted the need for more afterschool programs to help counteract the 3 p.m. to 6 p.m. hours when many problems related to youth violence arise.

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