What should be the focus for Philly’s next mayor? Voters weigh in

During a community listening session Tuesday night, residents said reparations, youth opportunities should be among top concerns for the next mayor.

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Two people talk to one another.

Jorden Michael (pictured right) wants the next mayor to focus on education and providing the city's youth more opportunities in the wake of the gun violence crisis. (Cory Sharber/WHYY News)

This story is a part of the Every Voice, Every Vote series.

What questions do you have about the 2023 elections? What major issues do you want candidates to address? Let us know.

With public safety a top concern for voters as Philadelphia prepares to elect new city leadership, WHYY’s News & Information Community Exchange (N.I.C.E.) wants to hear directly from Philadelphia’s voters on how the next mayor should approach solutions to gun violence and community safety.

So far, at least ten candidates have officially announced bids to become the next mayor. All are Democrats, each with a different philosophy on how to tackle crime in Philadelphia.

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Eric Marsh Sr. speaks to a group of people.
WHYY Community Outreach Organizer Eric Marsh Sr. led the discussions focusing on developing questions for a future mayoral forum. (Cory Sharber/WHYY News)

A community listening session held on Tuesday at the ECO Foundation in West Philadelphia was the first of two events inviting input from voters on what questions they would like mayoral candidates to answer.

The forum was organized by WHYY,  the CeaseFirePA Education Fund, and Billy Penn as part of “Every Voice, Every Vote,” a collaborative project managed by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism with funding from the William Penn Foundation.

Issues highlighted by attendees varied from the city’s economy and gentrification to policing.

A truck parked by the side of a sidewalk reads "We all we got we all we need." Above the elevated subway tracks are visible.
Tuesday’s listening session took place in West Philadelphia at the ECO Center. (Cory Sharber/WHYY News)

Rashaun Williams said he wants to know how the next mayor plans to accelerate change throughout the city, particularly pointing to reparations efforts that have been picking up steam across other major cities.

“This mayor needs to participate in the work of these Black organizing groups to make sure that the crimes against the humanity of Black people here in Philadelphia are addressed and addressed properly,” he said.

A person gestures as he speaks to another person in a conversation.
Rashaun Williams (pictured left) discussed what he wants to see in the next mayor come November, most notably efforts towards providing Black Philadelphians with reparations. (Cory Sharber/WHYY News)

Jorden Michael, a volunteer with the ECO Foundation, said he wants the next mayor to focus on education and youth opportunities in light of curfews being enforced on teens as a result of an uptick in gun violence last year.

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“It’s not fair that they’re not afforded better opportunities, and then they get treated as criminals. There’s nothing but complaints towards them — because there’s nothing better for them out here or is being provided,” Michael said.

A person hands out sheets of paper to a group of people who are seated.
WHYY’s N.I.C.E. collaborated with CeaseFirePA and Billy Penn to host the listening session at the ECO Center on Jan. 17, 2023 in West Philadelphia. (Cory Sharber/WHYY News)

There were more than 500 firearm homicides in Philadelphia in 2022. Just under 80% of fatal shooting victims were Black, and about half were between the ages of 18 and 30. At least 30 children were killed by gunfire.

On Jan. 24, another community conversation will take place from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m. at the Lillian Marrero Library at 601 West Lehigh Ave.

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This story is a part of Every Voice, Every Vote, a collaborative project managed by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism.

Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation with additional funding from The Lenfest Institute, Peter and Judy Leone, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harriet and Larry Weiss, and the Wyncote Foundation, among others.

Learn more about the project and view a full list of supporters here.

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