Phila. mayoral candidates answer 10 questions before Tuesday’s live-TV debate

 The first forum of this Democratic mayoral-primary season drew the candidates to Parkside in February. On Tuesday night, they'll go on live television from the Kimmel Center. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The first forum of this Democratic mayoral-primary season drew the candidates to Parkside in February. On Tuesday night, they'll go on live television from the Kimmel Center. (Kimberly Paynter/WHYY)

The Democratic-mayoral primary shifts to live television on Tuesday night when six candidates gather for the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce’s “Roadmap For Growth” debate, which airs on NBC 10 and Telemundo 62 from 7 to 8 p.m.

In advance of the event, the Chamber sent the same 10 questions for each candidate to answer (and they all did!)

If you click their names below, you can see their entire questionnaire response, but below is an answer that grabbed our fancy from each member of the field (with the question in bold):

Lynne Abraham:

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Every mayor needs to make tough decisions. How will you handle implementing unpopular policies (i.e., cuts in some city services in order to fund other ones; tax increases)?

I have served as Philadelphia District Attorney for 19 years, managing 600 employees and handling 75 thousand cases a year, making our neighborhoods safer and more secure. With 40 years of experience as D.A., Judge, and head of Philadelphia’s Redevelopment Authority, I am the only candidate with the experience to get the job done from day one. Throughout my public service, I have challenged “business as usual” and been a tough, fearless, proven leader.

As an example, as District Attorney, I led an investigation into child sex abuse committed by clergy in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, resulting in convictions of abusers and stronger laws to protect children from sexual abuse.

My top priority will always be to do what I believe is best for all the residents of Philadelphia. I will be nobody’s Mayor but yours.

Nelson Diaz:

The failed sale of PGW was a setback for the current administration. As we look forward to the years ahead, would you make another attempt to sell PGW and what steps would you take to earn enough support to make sure the sale is successful.

It is unsurprising that the City Council did not support a plan it had no say in developing. The next Mayor needs to have a collaborative partnership with the City Council, and rather than attempting to dictate solutions the next Mayor should consult with stakeholders like the City Council to make sure they’ve bought into proposed solutions early on.

This is a question of your basic approach to government and management, and this collaborative, consensus-building approach is the same one I’ve taken every time I’ve overhauled a big bureaucracy.

Whether it was fixing the city court system, overhauling public housing while working at HUD, or as City Solicitor I always treated everyone with respect and treated them like partners.

Jim Kenney:

The real estate tax abatement can help the city grow, but it also provides a tax break at a time when the city needs every dollar. Do you favor the current tax abatement plan and what changes, if any, would you make to it as it stands now.

Reports have found that for every $1 in tax abatement, the City sees a return of $2 in other tax revenue, mainly through increased wage taxes and realty transfer taxes.

After the institution of the Actual Value Initiative, however, it has become clear that a number of tax abated properties are receiving extravagant benefits. A 2014 study found that the top twenty tax-abated properties, valued at over $2.1 billion, are only paying cumulatively $2.9 million annually.

While maintaining the tax abatement to ensure continued development, I would work with the Office of Property Assessment to increase the unimproved value on properties across the City, and specifically on vacant land, to more closely reflect the actual value of that land, as opposed to just an arbitrary percentage of the total assessed value. This will increase revenue from abated and vacant properties without increasing taxes on many Philadelphians who faced a substantial increase just a few years ago under AVI.

Based on the nearly $6 billion of exempted value for property receiving an abatement, increasing land value slightly will provide an additional $15 million in recurring revenue which could all be directed to education.

Doug Oliver:

Ensuring Philadelphia has a well-prepared, well-educated workforce is important to business in our city. What is your plan to ensure Philadelphia has a well-educated workforce capable of filling the employment needs of business?

Currently, with an unemployment rate of almost 7 percent, there are almost 100,000 people living in Philadelphia without jobs.

Only the nimble and pro-active attitudes of American businesses can solve this problem, not government. However, government can play a role in creating an environment for businesses to flourish – creating jobs that are so needed in this City.

Ultimately, private companies are best suited to creating the stable, life-sustaining and family-supporting jobs Philadelphians need and want.

The role that the City must play is providing the necessary training to Philadelphians and economic incentives to businesses to create jobs for Philadelphians. Training our workforce is an essential element to ensuring that Philadelphia citizens can secure available jobs even if the jobs are more technical in nature.

The City can no longer afford for newly created jobs to be given to out of City employees because our workforce is not appropriately skilled.

Milton Street:

What neighborhood commercial corridors would you most like to see strengthened, and how would you strengthen them?

All of them.

Specifically, the historic district on Germantown Avenue with shops like Rothe’s Florist, Man[a]yunk which could be Philadelphia’s version of Georgetown in Washington D.C., North Broad Street, Market Street, and Wynn[e]field all need support.

I would establish a Business Corridor Commission working with PIDC and the Commerce Office to create “commerce partnerships” with local retail businesses with the “Community Anchors” in neighborhoods such as churches, schools, government offices, and universities.

I would ask for the anchors to make commitments to do a certain amount of business normally done online or through out of state ordering to include the use of local businesses as well.

I would also look at the establishment or expansion of empowerment zones and other designations that might help community businesses as well.

Anthony Hardy Williams:

There’s been a lot of debate at City Hall about creating an energy hub in Philadelphia to attract manufacturing to the city and create jobs. What are your thoughts on the city as an energy hub?

While we’ve long paid attention to our “eds and meds” for job creation, we should turn our eyes to Philadelphia’s future as an energy hub to create well-paying jobs for Philadelphians across all skill levels.

Production of natural gas in Pennsylvania has more than doubled since 2011, solidifying Philadelphia’s opportunity to be the region’s leader in its entire industrial supply chain. This includes the delivery and export of natural gas, growing new markets like natural gas vehicle fueling, and strengthening our manufacturing base through the conversion of natural gas to higher value products.

We can revolutionize Philadelphia’s economy for the future, by returning to our legacy as the Workshop of the World.

Transporting the finished products such as liquefied natural gas (LNG) naturally pivots to our port. As the nation’s 5th largest city with the 28th ranked port, we have opportunities for significant market gain.

Developing properties in South Port and South Port-West provide a blank canvas and ripe opportunity for this strategic growth.

As Mayor, I will work with PGW to diversify its natural gas portfolio to safely secure more natural gas from Pennsylvania. I also support the pursuit of public-private partnerships that expands PGW’s ability to export LNG to emerging markets.

Under a Williams Administration, PGW needs to play a vital role in the city’s economic development strategy by reducing energy costs for businesses seeking to expand or relocate to Philadelphia. Developing a strategy to use Combined Heat Power (CHP) installations across the City will leverage its economic and environmental benefits to attract new businesses and create more jobs for Philadelphians.

For more from the candidates, visit NBC10’s “10 Questions for Philadelphia’s 2015 Mayoral Candidates” page.

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