Q&A: Melissa Murray Bailey on fresh perspectives, jobs, L&I and vocabulary words

Last week, PlanPhilly sat down with brand consulting executive Melissa Murray Bailey, the lone Republican candidate campaigning to be the city’s next mayor. Over a 30-minute interview held in the living room of her home on a cozy cobblestone street in Society Hill, Bailey discussed why she’s running and why as a Republican; the ten-year tax abatement; what’s wrong with L&I; and what transparency means (Bailey’s young daughter, Cricket, asked that one). Below are some lightly edited highlights. You can read the full transcript of the interview here.

Also read our earlier interviews with mayoral candidates Lynne Abraham, Tony Williams, Jim Kenney, Nelson Diaz, and Doug Oliver.

On why she recently switched parties to run as the GOP candidate:

As I looked at the Democratic Party in Philadelphia and what that stood for, here in the city, it wasn’t really aligned with my values. And so I looked at the Republican Party and started to get to know several Republicans within the city, and determined that was the best alignment for my bid for mayor.

Whether she will be supporting the GOP in statewide or national elections:

I will continue to evaluate who the best candidates are and make the decisions based on that. I think that the Republican Party in the city is very different from the political party nationally. And so I’ll continue to have the values that I’ve always have had, and to make sure I’m voting for the person that best represents that. And that’s the process whether state or federal election.

On Philadelphia’s brand:

Philadelphia has a long-standing history, but it also has a brand of being a little bit insular and closed off and not necessarily welcoming of new people coming in. You can see it all along the politics, right? Everybody starts every one of their introductions with “I was born and raised in Philadelphia.” Like that’s the number one credential, that’s most important. I think as long as we remain like that, it’s going to be hard for people to come, move in, feel welcome and stay.

I think that the brand that we want to have going forward is a brand that is a destination for young people to come and start their careers. That means we need to have great mobility, we need to have great parks, we need to have great social life. But then, in order to get people to stay, you need to have great playgrounds and then great schools. Thinking about the evolution. And then activities for empty nesters to do as well.

On mayoral leadership:

I think that the role of mayor is really a role of leadership and setting a vision and plan for this city. That’s kind of one thing that, because there is so much deluded accountability and responsibility for things across the city – there are a lot of ideas floating around but no clear direction in who we want to be as a city and what we want to get done. So I think as mayor I think the first order of business is setting the vision for where the city is going to go, what goals are associated with that and then what things have to happen in order to accomplish those goals

On L&I:

I think there is one thing about transparency. I think there is another thing about technology and modernization. There are so many forms and so much administration that prevents people from doing things that actually need to get done, which is actually inspecting and making sure that things are safe.

There is no call of action that things need to get done. In my job, when we have a back up of things – I mean, I couldn’t imagine having a 6 month back up at work – but if we had a back up of any kind, we would pull several all-nighters and get it done. And for some reason, in a lot of our government departments, there’s not that urgency….

On jobs:

We need to do more to get people working. That means we need to attract jobs to the city across the entire spectrum. We also need to recognize that college is not the path for everyone and even finishing high school is not the path for everyone. So we need to make sure in education, the number one priority in education is making people employable.

Plans for the ten-year tax abatement:

One of the things I mentioned a couple weeks ago is the idea for multi-family units. If we required some percentage of them to be affordable housing units in order to qualify for the ten-year tax abatement. So I think there are more things we could do to help us bring the development in the city, and not just have blanket ten-year tax abatement but some other things that go along with it.

On vocabulary words:

Cricket: Mommy, what’s transparency mean?

Melissa Murray Bailey: Transparency means you that you let people know what’s going on.

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