Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney’s opponents in the May 21 Democratic primary unleashed a barrage of criticism on a variety of issues Thursday, and state Sen. Anthony Williams picked up the endorsement of former Mayor John Street.
City Controller Alan Butkovitz stood outside City Hall and accused Kenney of lacking diversity in his top leadership team.
Just four of the 14 officials in Kenney’s Cabinet are black, Butkovitz noted, and no Latinos or Asian Americans are part of that inner circle.
Butkovitz also criticized Kenney’s recent statement to the African American Chamber of Commerce that he couldn’t find diverse candidates for key city positions because many qualified candidates were offered better pay in the private sector.
“He’s been about rhetoric on these issues, not reality,” Butkovitz said. “When I’m the mayor, it’s not going to be a problem to find a representation of the actual demographics in the city for representation in the Cabinet and high-level positions.”
“So if you have 44% of the population of the city, that would be the reflection of African Americans in the upper reaches of the government,” he added.
Earlier this month, City Controller Rebecca Rhynhart released an analysis of the racial and ethnic composition of non-civil service employees that found whites are overrepresented compared with other racial groups.
The report found that while 35% of the city’s population is white, 48% of the non-civil service employees under the mayor’s authority are white.
In a prepared statement, Kenney campaign manager Brandon Evans said Kenney had created an Office of Diversity and Inclusion, appointed several African Americans to high-ranking positions in his administration, and started providing annual workforce diversity reports to provide more transparency.
“While great strides have been made under his leadership, he is not satisfied and knows that more needs to be done in this regard,” Evans said. “He remains committed to creating lasting change in the city’s hiring practices so that the city’s workforce is truly representative of Philadelphia.”
In a separate news conference in North Philadelphia, former Mayor Street punctuated his endorsement of Williams with a 30-minute speech to supporters and the media in which he said Kenney had failed to manage the city’s finances, improve its schools, make streets safer or fight poverty.
“Our neighborhoods are dirtier than they’ve been in my memory,” Street said to applause from the audience. “Streets are in worse condition than I’ve ever seen them! I mean, the potholes? Holy moly, I mean it is awful!”
Street said Williams had the experience as a state senator and the vision to turn things around, so he’ll do what he can to help him win.
It was Williams’ first public endorsement from an elected official, albeit one who’s been retired from office life for 11 years.
When Williams was asked why he hadn’t gotten the endorsement of any of the Democratic state representatives in his state Senate district, he noted that he had plenty of endorsements in his 2015 mayoral run.
“Almost everybody endorsed me,” he said. “I’m not sure that translates to votes.”
He said Street’s reputation as man known and respected in neighborhoods would have impact in the race.
Williams got only 26% of the vote in the six-candidate 2015 primary, finishing 30 points behind Kenney.
Also on Thursday, Kenney’s campaign released a statement announcing seven elected Democrats endorsed the mayor’s re-election. The list includes Gov. Tom Wolf, U.S. Sen. Bob Casey, three members of Congress, and William’s West Philadelphia colleague, state Sen. Vincent Hughes.