Philadelphia basks in 2016 DNC selection

State Sen. Anthony Hardy Williams and former City Councilman Jim Kenney, who are seeking the Democratic mayoral nomination, are both excited that Philadelphia will host the 2016 Democratic National Convention.

“This honor once again shows that when we come together, as one Philadelphia, to work for a common goal, we can accomplish great things,” Williams said.

Williams thanked U.S. Rep Bob Brady, Mayor Michael Nutter, former Gov. Ed Rendell and Councilwoman Marian Tasco for their efforts, adding that he looks forward to “welcoming the world to our great city as mayor.”

Kenney congratulated Brady, Nutter, Rendell, City Council, Visit Philly and the Philadelphia Convention & Visitors Bureau.

“As a councilman, I saw first hand the effort that went into making Philadelphia’s tourism and hospitality industries stronger than ever. I especially thank City Council for coming together last year to introduce a resolution that expressed Philadelphia’s sincerest interest in hosting this tremendous honor and bringing an economic boost to our city,” he said.

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Williams, meanwhile, released his plan for a fair and full education funding formula.

Williams said he is the only candidate in the race with experience securing money from Harrisburg. He noted his sponsorship of a cigarette tax bill, passed by a Republican legislature and signed by a Republican governor, that has brought in $17 million.

In fighting for more money, Williams will point to Philadelphia’s poverty rate, English language learners and special education population.

The candidate, whose mother is a retired Philadelphia public school teacher, believes education is the key to economic prosperity and reducing poverty in the city.

“The most pressing issue facing the school district is a lack of funding. State government is not meeting its constitutional obligation to provide for a ‘thorough and efficient’ system of public schools in Philadelphia,” he said.

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Kenney released the following statement on the impending cost-of-living-adjustment for pensions of retired firefighters, police and city workers.

“Denying retired firefighters and police their first cost-of-living adjustment in seven years to save 1 percent of our $5 billion pension fund isn’t fiscally responsible, it’s immoral. Unlike other Philadelphians who are eligible for Social Security benefits and receive regular COLAs, the retirees who put their lives on the line every day for Philadelphians have received no adjustment for cost of living since the fiscal crisis in 2008. In fact, they are only receiving one this year because the pension fund has performed better than expected for the past few years.

“I fully appreciate the need for our city leaders to look at the bigger financial picture, which is why I was the chief sponsor on the rainy day fund bill, voted against DROP, refused it myself, and turned down cost-of-living increases that are automatically awarded to the mayor and City Council during the fiscal crisis. As mayor, I will work to address the fundamental revenue problem which is causing our entire city and school budget to struggle each year.”

Critics say the payments are fiscally irresponsible because the pension fund is so underfunded. At one time, the fund needed to be considered solvent to begin paying out. Kenney sponsored a bill in 2007 that eliminated that requirement.

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Meanwhile, Kenney communications director Lauren Hitt released the following statement on Anthony Williams’ support for the $25 million the Philadelphia School Partnership raised to persuade the School Reform Commission to consider new charter school applications.

“Over the last week, it has become increasingly clear that state Sen. Williams is a single-issue candidate driven by the contributions from anonymous billionaires more concerned with making a profit than a quality school. The senator is supported by no fewer than four PACs with either implicit or explicit education privatization missions. And, on the same day it was revealed that Williams accepted $7,000 from a PAC associated with PSP, the senator came out in support of PSP’s $25 million ‘gift,’ which has almost as many strings attached as these pro-voucher billionaires have attached to Anthony Williams himself. As mayor, Jim Kenney will stand up to special interests and put our students and parents first.”

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Democrat Helen Gym last week launched her campaign for an at-large City Council seat.

Gym is a former elementary school teacher and co-founder of Parents United, a parents’ organization advocating for better public schools.

“It is time for us fight to make the lives of working Philadelphians better by raising wages and benefits, to fight for economic policies that encourage small businesses and entrepreneurs and make sure that everyone pays their fair share, to fight for transparency so that the days of buying access and doing business behind closed doors finally come to a close, and to fight for our public schools,” she said.

Jerry Jordan, president of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, endorsed Gym.

“We will support her campaign with the same energy and commitment that she has shown in her fight for quality public education in Philadelphia,” he said. “When it comes to public education, Helen Gym is, by far, the candidate most qualified to speak to the challenges facing Philadelphia’s schools. She has been a tireless advocate for our city’s schoolchildren and educators. Helen combines the knowledge of an educator, the compassion of a public school parent and the heart of a social justice activist. She will make an outstanding member of City Council.”

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Isaiah Thomas, another Democratic candidate for City Council at-large, has been endorsed by the Service Employees International Local 32BJ.

Local 32BJ represents 10,000 security guards, building maintenance personnel and school district employees in the Philadelphia region.

Thomas has also received endorsements from AFSCME, which represents the city of Philadelphia’s civilian workforce, and the National Union of Hospital and Health Care Employees District 1199c.

“Local 32BJ and its members share my vision of fixing our schools, bringing middle-class jobs to Philadelphia and making our city safer,” he said.

Thomas has also received endorsements from City Controller Alan Butkovitz, state Rep. Kevin Boyle and former state Rep. Tony Payton.

Thomas, 30, works as an educator and coach at Sankofa Freedom Academy.

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A recent Quinnipiac University Poll showed Republican U.S. Sen. Pat Toomey leading potential Democratic candidate Joe Sestak, 45 percent to 35 percent.

Toomey edged Sestak, a former Delaware County congressman, in 2010. They could have a rematch next year.

The pool surveyed 881 voters.

Seventeen percent were undecided. Three percent said they would not vote. ••