Talking points, beefs and eye-opening quips define Fox29 mayoral debate

 The six Democratic candidates for mayor of Philadelphia on stage for Thursday's Fox29 debate. (Stephanie Aaronson/via The Next Mayor partnership)

The six Democratic candidates for mayor of Philadelphia on stage for Thursday's Fox29 debate. (Stephanie Aaronson/via The Next Mayor partnership)

Lynne Abraham thinks the Sixers are “pathetic.” Doug Oliver finds out one of his foes would vote for him. Milton Street namechecks kangaroos while talking about litter. Tony Williams hates the status quo. Jim Kenney says his anti-DROP vote almost cost him a city council seat. And, Nelson Diaz just wants some marijuana.

Those are just some of the takeaways from Thursday afternoon’s mayoral debate at Saint Joseph’s University that airs on Fox29 at 6 p.m.

All six Democrats vying for their party’s nomination to take over Mayor Michael Nutter’s office were on hand for the roughly 90-minute debate, which was held in Mandeville Hall’s Wolfington Teletorium.

There, they fielded questions from panelists and students about police/community relations, education funding, affordable housing, litter, job creation, whether Eagles head coach Chip Kelly is “a madman or mad genius”, the Sixers, who they’d vote for (besides themselves) and the difficulties of enacting tough policies.

The candidates didn’t stray too far from talking points about topics addressed at previous debates and forums. Translation: everyone’s still for police oversight, better schools, responsible development and cleaner/safer streets.

Talking-point highlights

Abraham said that “we are a magnificent, beautiful city marred by litter and garbage” but criticized the city’s “wasteful, disjointed government.” Addressing strained relations between city police and community members, she hearkened back to her district-attorney days in saying, “I know exactly what the community is going through and it’s very, very regrettable.”

Diaz called for a civilian-review entity overseeing police complaints with subpoena power in recalling how he “would be on the other side of the street” if a Police Athletic League coach hadn’t seen he was “a good kid.” He said his economic-funding plan was deemed the only “sound” one in the mayoral field and pointed to City Avenue as emblematic of a tax structure chasing businesses out of the city.

Kenney “wouldn’t rule out a tax increase ever” as it comes to school funding, but would not do so upon getting into office. He also shouted out Kenny Gamble’s Universal Companies as helping “a community that was gentified in a good way” and said, “you have to look at a person’s career and the hard decisions they’ve made already.”

Oliver said the best way to spur economic development is to address the failing public-school system. He also said the people who are apt to litter are those with a “narrow perspective of ownership” that needs to be broadened. On why he deserves votes, he noted that “I do not come from the ‘mayor manufacturing farm.’ I come with a new perspective.”

Even Street’s namesake son noticed that the candidate was more reserved than in previous appearances. He reiterated his stance that “we’re never going to fund the schools properly unless we address the violence in the schools,” and the same goes for not being able to attract new businesses to communities plagued by guns and crime.

For his part, Williams renewed his call for police to be fired for hate speech, noting that there was just one African American in the police department’s latest recruit class. He identified “small businesses, technology and the energy hub” as areas for potential economic growth and cited his ability to build consensus as a selling point for city voters.

One dust-up

When the candidates were asked about making tough decisions in their respective careers, Kenney noted that he was the lone candidate to vote to eliminate the controversial DROP retirement program.

As a result, he had a “near-death experience” in the next election (finishing fifth in the 2011 council at-large Democratic-primary field).

It took just seconds for Williams to fire back that Kenney also voted for voted against an assault-weapons bill.

Per his campaign, Williams was alluding to Kenney’s 1993 vote against council’s bill to ban assault weapons.

After the debate, Kenney said that he voted, as a new councilman, against a bill that he “believed was unenforceable.” In 2008, he said, he voted for a similar bill.

“I’ll tell you what I didn’t do, though: Vote twice for ‘stand your ground’ legislation” like Williams did, said Kenney of 2010 and 2011 votes that were the subject of a “FACT CHECK: Anthony Williams’ Record on Gun Control” email from his campaign minutes later.

To that, Williams’ spokesman Al Butler said the “Castle Doctrine” opposition stemmed from constituents’ concerns about carjackings in Southwest Philadelphia.

“The people in my district asked me to support the expansion because they wanted to protect themselves and their property, specifically from carjackings,” Williams wrote in a statement to the Daily News earlier this month. “But let’s be clear: I have a long record of supporting gun control. I would strongly oppose any attempt to cite that law as an excuse to use overly aggressive deadly force in the streets.”

Lighter moments

In a “quick fire” round, the candidates were asked to give one-word descriptions of the current state of the Sixers, which is when Abraham said “pathetic,” and who they would vote for if they couldn’t vote for themselves, which is when Kenney said Oliver while the others took the easy way out by saying Fox29’s Mike Jerrick.

“It was a surprise, but a welcomed surprise,” said Oliver when leaving the debate. “It would have been so easy to take the easy way out [with the Jerrick gimmick vote], so that’s why it was such a welcomed surprise.”

Kangaroos came up when Street was talking about the need to “teach people how to throw trash in trash cans,” while worrying about raccoons and other creatures (perhaps he meant possums?) that tip over garbage cans.

The candidates were also asked about whether they support marijuana legalization, piggybacking off of Kenney’s decriminalization bill.

“I want some, yes,” he said. [Video]

And while that statement wasn’t explored further with television cameras rolling, he laughed if off on his way out and gave NinetyNine the thumbs-up sign of a man who knew said something people would remember when his weed response was broached.

For more details from the debate, check the Twitter hashtag #Fox29DemsDebate and #NextMayorPHL.

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