Lynne Abraham served for 19 years as Philadelphia’s district attorney. Before that, she spent 15 years as a trial judge in Philadelphia and held a number of appointed posts in city government. Abraham announced her candidacy last month and sat down last week with WHYY’s senior reporter Dave Davies.
Asked about her experience outside law enforcement, Abraham pointed to her time running the city’s Redevelopment Authority and working for City Council.
“I have a wide range of interests and experience, so the notion that I can only do one thing is really a misplaced notion,” she said.
Abraham said she wants to overhaul city development by reforming the Department of Licenses and Inspections and working to entice developers to build outside of Center City.
“I have suggested a 20-year tax abatement which will … inspire developers to build low- and moderate-income housing and housing for the elderly and the infirm in a community,” she said. “The builder will get some tax consideration, and the homeowner or occupant will get a 20-year tax abatement, so this is for the low- and moderate-income people, not just the so-called ‘well to do.'”
On education, Abraham said she’d like to see more private investment in schools and the closure of aging, underutilized buildings.
“We are spending untold millions on schools that ought to be closed,” said Abraham. “And we shouldn’t be spending that kind of money on a building that’s going to be closed and sold off. We have to decide, even though it’s painful, which buildings should be kept open and where to put school kids.”
Abraham has been a vocal critic of Philadelphia City Council President Darrell Clarke’s decision not to bring the sale of Philadelphia Gas Works to private energy company UIL up for a hearing.
“UIL, who comes to Philadelphia with $1.8 billion cash in hand ought to be given the courtesy of a hearing and either up or down vote on the merits,” she said.
Abraham, who would be 74 on Election Day, has said her age is irrelevant, adding that it signifies the “depth and breadth and scope” of her experience.
Abraham has a reputation as a tough-on-crime prosecutor, and some have speculated that she may find it difficult to get support in the African-American community. In 1998, she opposed the nomination of Judge Frederica Massiah-Jackson to the federal bench.
“Every African-American judge before or since, I have avidly supported, back into the ’80s,” she said. “The one judge that I opposed was based on the record in court. It wasn’t because of race or gender. It was because of the record.”