Highlights from today’s #NextMayorPHL debate, in Tweets

In an election season overstuffed with candidate debates, forums and events, we here at WHYY tried something different for our gathering on Monday.

Rather than a standard debate format, the questioners — our Katie Colaneri, the Philadelphia Business Journal’s editor Craig Ey, and David Thornburgh of the Committee of Seventy — used a combination of short-answer and long-answer questions, some directed at specific candidates and others for the group. Each candidate had a “wild card” to use when they wanted to respond to a question that wasn’t specifically for them, and they all had to answer a grab-bag question they plucked from a bowl before the debate began. 

Here’s a recap of how it all went down, via Tweets and with thanks to our #NextMayorPHL media partners: 

We got underway at 8:30 a.m., with an introduction from Commitee of Seventy’s Christine Cavalieri: 

Getting started with @WHYY @Committeeof70 @yiphilly #NextMayorPHL debate pic.twitter.com/B7xpuwN4Vd

— NewsWorks (@NewsWorksWHYY) April 27, 2015

After welcomes and opening remarks from WHYY’s Executive Vice President and COO Kyra McGrath and WHYY VP of News Chris Satullo, it was on.

The first question came from Thornburgh, who asked Lynne Abraham, Nelson Diaz and Jim Kenney to describe their experience representing issues and constituencies in Harrisburg, and what they accomplished.

Abraham talked about her time in the District Attorney’s office, working on the Redevelopment Authority and as a lobbyist.

Diaz on leadership: I was city solicitor involved in SRC agreement. Also worked to get 1.5% interest w convention center #NextMayorPHL

— Claudia Vargas (@InqCVargas) April 27, 2015

.@JimFKenney on background: In 1978, volunteered for a state senator “before anybody brings his name up, it was Vince Fumo” #NextMayorPHL

— NinetyNine (@MayorNinetyNine) April 27, 2015

 Next question: Do the candidates believe the city should be run like a business?

Asked if government should be run as a business: Yes: @LynneForMayor @nelsondiaz2015 @DO2015PHL @Tmiltonstreet No: @JimFKenney @JoinTeamTony

— NinetyNine (@MayorNinetyNine) April 27, 2015

Ey asked Doug Oliver, Milton Street and Anthony Williams to describe one big initiative they would begin pushing immediately after they were elected mayor.

What would be your 1st big push as #NextMayorPHL? @DO2015PHL: Fix schools. @Tmiltonstreet: Stop violence. @JoinTeamTony: Sell PGW; pensions.

— NinetyNine (@MayorNinetyNine) April 27, 2015

Street: “I’m here to stop the violence”. That is cornerstone of his campaign. “If we can stop violence it opens the door for investment”

— Claudia Vargas (@InqCVargas) April 27, 2015

Next, a question for Doug Oliver, who has been portrayed throughout the campaign as the political novice in the field: How would he make voters confident he is capable of doing a job he’s never done before. He didn’t miss a beat:

With no exec experience, how give citizens confidence you can lead @DO2015PHL? “This is a job no one up here has done before” #NextMayorPHL

— NinetyNine (@MayorNinetyNine) April 27, 2015

Oliver says people say they want something new and different then balk at candidates who don’t come from “the mayor-making factory.”

— NewsWorks (@NewsWorksWHYY) April 27, 2015

Oliver pushes back saying he does have exec experience. For last 4yrs says he was leading discussion of energy hub as senior vp of PGW

— Claudia Vargas (@InqCVargas) April 27, 2015

 Up next, the candidates were asked to discuss a time they said something they’ve regretted to a reporter, and what they learned from it.

Abraham: Once I was too informal, came out misunderstood. Learned when I speak to press to focus.

— David Gambacorta (@dgambacorta) April 27, 2015

Diaz: there are very few times I’ve had that problem. Says press confuses his passion for anger.

— Claudia Vargas (@InqCVargas) April 27, 2015

 

.@nelsondiaz2015 “Sometimes they mistake my passion for anger.” #NextMayorPHL

— NewsWorks (@NewsWorksWHYY) April 27, 2015

 

.@Tmiltonstreet at WHYY forum when asked if he ever misspoke with the press — “Never had the problem.” Much laughter. #NextMayorPHL

— Chris Brennan (@ByChrisBrennan) April 27, 2015

Kenney talks about the time he said a man’s hand should be cut off after 8yo boy was killed. Says it was a stupid thing to say.

— Claudia Vargas (@InqCVargas) April 27, 2015

Oliver: Served as press person for Mayor’s office, PGW, etc. Many cases it’s what you don’t say.

— David Gambacorta (@dgambacorta) April 27, 2015

Williams: Let me count the ways. Several. Reporters who know me…I assume ppl know where my heart is, gets in way of what I’m trying to say

— David Gambacorta (@dgambacorta) April 27, 2015

Diaz, Kenney and Oliver were then asked to describe a time when outside events scrambled their plans, and how they adjusted and recovered successfully.

Diaz: when I was doing economic development city, created 3-block district, major co-op of grocery stores. To my chagrin, I get accepted to

— David Gambacorta (@dgambacorta) April 27, 2015

White House fellows program. Had to move to DC, give up what I wanted to develop in Philly with co-op program. That dream is still there.

— David Gambacorta (@dgambacorta) April 27, 2015

Kenney tells story how former mayor Street vetoed his bill that got rid of residency req to apply for city job. Learned what power mayor has

— Claudia Vargas (@InqCVargas) April 27, 2015

Oliver: Back in 2005, PGW had billing, collections challenges. 130K customers owed PGW millions. PGW got bills passed, allow us to tighten

— David Gambacorta (@dgambacorta) April 27, 2015

…ship. Got better at getting customers to pay bills. Katrina hit in 2005. Bills were expected to jump dramatically. Had to react quickly.

— David Gambacorta (@dgambacorta) April 27, 2015

The next question went right to Milton Street, from Katie Colaneri, who asked whether a man who had previously been found guilty of not filing tax returns could be trusted with taxpayer money.

Asked if he can be trusted considering legal past, @Tmiltonstreet says “Yeah.” Would you like to elaborate? “No.” #NextMayorPHL

— NinetyNine (@MayorNinetyNine) April 27, 2015

Well, alrighty then.

Abraham, Williams and Street were each asked about creating positive organizational culture, and what someone who’s worked with them would say about them as a leader.

Street:Can’t say how well he’d work with future council, but w/ current council, he’d have a problem. Some don’t share his values, he says.

— NewsWorks (@NewsWorksWHYY) April 27, 2015

Street: A lot of current council people don’t share my values, my purpose, to give everyone access to the system. #NextMayorPHL

— David Gambacorta (@dgambacorta) April 27, 2015

Williams: Yes. I’ve done it. Four or 5 Council members have already endorsed me. Plus, during sales tax increase bill, I worked with…

— David Gambacorta (@dgambacorta) April 27, 2015

…Darrell Clarke. Listened to what he felt was important. Crafted bill that allowed compromise.

— David Gambacorta (@dgambacorta) April 27, 2015

Abraham: I believe positive environment not only possible but attainable. Council doesn’t want to be obstructionist.

— David Gambacorta (@dgambacorta) April 27, 2015

That word, “obstructionist,” came up several times after that, as Street used it to describe Kenney’s tenure on City Council. Street took several shots at Kenney over the course of the event, though Kenney seemed unperturbed.

Next, Nelson Diaz was asked how citizens could be assured that his administration would embrace “clean government,” given his tenure as city solicitor in a time when accusations and investigations into a pay-to-play culture were rampant.

.@nelsondiaz2015, asked about pay-to-play culture of last mayoral adminstration, calls for independent inspector general. #NextMayorPHL

— Chris Brennan (@ByChrisBrennan) April 27, 2015

Diaz: Look at my history. I’ve fought for civil rights for 45 years for all people, equal rights and pay for women.

— David Gambacorta (@dgambacorta) April 27, 2015

Next question: Name one person who, as mayor, you’d love to have on your staff.

Interesting ? From @KatieColaneri: Name one person you’d love to hire. @JoinTeamTony says he values his current team. #NextMayorPHL

— NewsWorks (@NewsWorksWHYY) April 27, 2015

.@Tmiltonstreet says he’d like to have Deputy Commish. Richard Ross as his @PhillyPolice commissioner. #NextMayorPHL

— NinetyNine (@MayorNinetyNine) April 27, 2015

.@Tmiltonstreet He wants Ross as police commissioner, he is out in the community and “leads a Christ-centered life.”

— NewsWorks (@NewsWorksWHYY) April 27, 2015

Oliver: Chief of staff position would be most crucial to fill.

— David Gambacorta (@dgambacorta) April 27, 2015

Kenney: Estelle Richman best managing director city ever had. Would like to get her back.

— David Gambacorta (@dgambacorta) April 27, 2015

Diaz: Education is my priority. Need superintendent who would be on board with wraparound system for students. Mentions Dr. Evans.

— David Gambacorta (@dgambacorta) April 27, 2015

.@LynneForMayor is a fan of Superintendent Hite.

— NewsWorks (@NewsWorksWHYY) April 27, 2015

The next round of questions were more lighthearted, and varied by candidate depending on which one they pulled from the fishbowl.

Who’s Tony Williams’ hero from history? His father, he said, who loved him unconditionally and taught him the value of hard work.

What book would you want all Philadelphians to read? Street says he would get every Philadelphian to read the bible. #NextMayorPHL

— Claudia Vargas (@InqCVargas) April 27, 2015

Oliver’s Q: What is one of your quotes to live by? Definition of insanity doing same thing over & over and expecting something different.

— David Gambacorta (@dgambacorta) April 27, 2015

.@JimFKenney says his favorite place in Philly is Reading Terminal Mkt

— NewsWorks (@NewsWorksWHYY) April 27, 2015

Diaz asked one habit to break in Philly. Lack of voting, he says. Allows interest groups to control whole process. #NextMayorPHL

— David Gambacorta (@dgambacorta) April 27, 2015

What feature of another city would Lynne Abraham try to bring to Philadelphia?

.@LynneForMayor digs NYC’s High Line #NextMayorPHL

— NewsWorks (@NewsWorksWHYY) April 27, 2015

The next few questions dealt with how candidates foster change, how Abraham would keep politicians honest, and which leader in any field they admire most. Answers included “The Pope and Jay-Z” (Williams), Philadelphia schools Superintendent Dr. William Hite (Oliver), Michael Jordan (Street), Parks and Recreation Commissioner Michael DiBerardinis (Abraham), Independence Blue Cross CEO and Jesuit-educated Dan Hilferty (from Kenney), and President Obama (Diaz).

The last question went directly to Kenney, and asked about his relationship with controversial union leader John Dougherty. Kenney described his lifelong friendship with Dougherty, growing up in the same neighborhood where their parents socialized and spent time together at the Jersey Shore. But he flatly denied that Dougherty would exert undue influence on his administration.

.@JimFKenney calls his lifelong connection to Johnny Doc “a family relationship.” But says he can say no to him when needed. #NextMayorPHL

— NewsWorks (@NewsWorksWHYY) April 27, 2015

.@JimFKenney on Johnny Doc: “He will not have any undue influence (if I’m elected). I know how to say no.” #NextMayorPHL

— NinetyNine (@MayorNinetyNine) April 27, 2015

His opponents weren’t buying it, sparking the most direct exchanges of the debate.

.@JimFKenney hit by @JoinTeamTony and @nelsondiaz2015 for claiming Local 98’s John Dougherty won’t have “undue influence.” #NextMayorPHL

— Chris Brennan (@ByChrisBrennan) April 27, 2015

.@JoinTeamTony takes issue with @JimFKenney‘s answer on Johnny Doc. Says that Kenney wasn’t going to run until Doc asked. #NextMayorPHL

— NinetyNine (@MayorNinetyNine) April 27, 2015

Diaz says its disingenuous for Kenney to say that Doc doesn’t have an influence over him.

— Claudia Vargas (@InqCVargas) April 27, 2015

.@JimFKenney hits back hart at @JoinTeamTony, suggests he is in race to represent the interests of 3 suburban billionaires. #NextMayorPHL

— Chris Brennan (@ByChrisBrennan) April 27, 2015

Stay tuned to NewsWorks for full reports later today on the debate and the issues it raised, and join us tonight at 9 p.m. for a full rebroadcast, on 90.9 FM or whyy.org.

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