All five of Philadelphia’s mayoral candidates may not be invited to every debate this fall, but each of them will have a chance to sit down with Marty Moss-Coane, host of WHYY’s Radio Times as part of the program’s weekly series, “Ballot Talks.”
Thursday, it was independent candidate Jim Foster’s turn at the mic. He told Moss-Coane he’s running for mayor because he was frustrated that two other “well-known, recognized people,” Sam Katz and Bill Green, ultimately decided not to challenge Democratic mayoral primary winner Jim Kenney. As Foster put it, “they wimped out.”
“It so incensed me, that with 18 days to go [to gather petition signatures] … that’s when I decided to run,” he said.
Here are some of the highlights of Foster’s 40-minute interview, edited for length and clarity. Listen to the full interview here.
On Philadelphia’s 27 percent poverty rate:
“My claim is that our government isn’t even thinking about it, is not prioritizing it, is not characterizing it legitimately for what it is and basically pretending that it really isn’t much of an issue … I call it ‘distraction government.'”
On whether Philadelphia is a city on the rise:
“There’s pockets of progress and there’s pockets where the comfortable, elite and the millennials live, and then there’s the part that nobody talks about. I would suggest anyone wants to get a real picture of Philadelphia, you take a trip to Southwest Philly. Get on a commuter train in any direction and ride it til it gets outside the city, then ride it back in and look out the window on both sides … Those communities have literally been destroyed. The opportunity base is gone and there’s nothing other than a little manicuring around the edges taking place to change it.”
On funding the city’s cash-strapped school district:
“The school system owns a tremendous amount of real estate, much of it underutilized. Why should all the cost of that real estate be part of the regular city budget for the school system? It shouldn’t be. What should happen, in my opinion, is all the real estate should be spun off to a separate real estate trust by a board of independent nonpolitical people to run it with a purpose of selling off all the unneeded real estate in an orderly manner, not a political manner … But that board would then lease back to the school system, only the square footage it needs to run the classrooms at a reasonable market rate. So when you prepare the operating budget of the school system, you don’t have an overblown cost of real estate built into it.”
On his proposal to require Philadelphia’s police officers and teachers to live in the city:
“The city neighborhoods are best stabilized when the folks who earn their living and they’re going to be paid pensions into eternity [live here]. Why should we let those folks live outside the city, not pay all the taxes that everybody else does and get nice compensations and DROP [Deferred Retirement Option Program] programs and pensions out in Blue Bell?”