Standing outside of the cash-strapped Philadelphia School District’s headquarters, former city solicitor Ken Trujillo announced Wednesday he is running for mayor — and that he wants to ax the School Reform Commission.
“We must end the state takeover of education in Philadelphia,” Trujillo said. “It’s time for the SRC to go!”
The SRC, which includes three members chosen by the governor and two by the mayor, has overseen Philly schools since 2001. Before then, a local board made up entirely of mayoral appointees ran them.
Trujillo offered few specifics about his plan to abolish the SRC, declining to say what type of board would replace it or how, exactly, he would convince officials to disband it. An overhaul would require either an act by the Pennsylvania Legislature or the combined support of the SRC and the state’s education secretary.
“By the time I’m elected mayor,” said Trujillo, “I will have had a chance and an opportunity to speak with every person that’s involved in this process, and I will use every resource I have.”
Other aims are cutting illiteracy rate, citywide pre-K
Trujillo, a Democrat, made education a large part of his campaign announcement, saying he would use proceeds from a proposed severance tax on natural gas drilling in Pennsylvania to pay for citywide pre-K. Like dissolving the SRC, that is no easy task; it, too, would take major support from Harrisburg.
Trujillo also said he wants to cut the city’s illiteracy rate in half.
Larry Ceisler, a longtime political consultant, questioned whether Trujillo has the resume to run as the education candidate.
“He’s done a lot of things,” he said. “I don’t know the credential, though, when it comes to education.”
At his campaign announcement, Trujillo began trying to offer an answer. He highlighted his 23 years as board chairman of Congreso, a North Philadelphia nonprofit that runs truancy intervention and after-school programs.
“We took on every challenge and we tried innovative approaches to deal with our children’s problems,” he said.
City Councilwoman Maria Quiñones-Sánchez, whose district includes Congreso, said it is true that, along with former executive director Alba Martinez, Trujillo played a significant role in the nonprofit’s transformation.
“There’s no doubt that Ken has been incredibly committed to Congreso,” she said, “and during his leadership there the organization has grown exponentially.”
Quiñones-Sánchez, citing the early nature of the mayoral race, declined to say whether she’ll endorse Trujillo.
Trujillo is the first Latino to run for mayor of Philadelphia, according to his campaign.
Insider or outsider?
Regarding campaign issues outside of education, Trujillo said he wants to put an end Philadelphia’s stop-and-frisk policy and improve the climate for the city’s small businesses. Trujillo is himself a business owner, having purchased the local radio station WHAT 1340 AM (now El Zol Philly) in 2011.
Trujillo has said he is prepared to contribute money to his own campaign, perhaps as much as a few million dollars. That would help him address what political insiders consider his biggest weakness: a lack of name recognition.
“No. 1, the challenge for him is getting known,” said Ceisler. “In some ways, he has, I think, a profile and the same appeal that Mayor Nutter has. … My guess is he’s going to come at this race as an outsider, even though he has been an insider through a number of administrations.”
Trujillo was the city solicitor under former Mayor John Street. He has also served as commissioner of the Pennsylvania Gaming Control Board, a board member of the Pennsylvania Intergovernmental Cooperation Authority and a board member of the Delaware River Port Authority.
Trujillo is currently a partner in the law firm Schnader Harrison Segal & Lewis.
After months, even years of speculation, with Trujillo’s entry, the field for the 2015 mayor’s race in Philadelphia is finally beginning to take shape. He is the second candidate to officially jump into the race. Terry Gillen, a former top aide to Mayor Michael Nutter and then-Mayor Ed Rendell in the 1990s, announced her candidacy earlier this month.
On Wednesday, former District Attorney Lynne Abraham also confirmed she is planning to run.
Waiting in the wings
Former state Sen. Milton Street, who spent time in prison for not paying his taxes, said on Facebook earlier this year that he is running.
Other rumored mayoral candidates include state Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams, City Controller Alan Butkovitz, City Councilman James Kenney, City Council President Darrell Clarke and former City Councilman Frank Rizzo Jr.
Given Philadelphia’s “resign-to-run” rule, many of those who hold elected office now may be waiting to declare their candidacy. The rule requires sitting city officials to step down from their posts once they declare they are running for a new job.