Friday, June 23, 2006

First impressions

Had the opportunity to meet one of Philadelphia's mayoral hopefuls this week, Tom Knox, at a gathering of interested young (cough) folks. Was interesting to see him in person and hear him talk about a range of issues that he'd been studying over recent months. In no particular order, here were some of my takes:
  • He was naturally wonky -- loves numbers, thinking about the details of city government as a business, where money could be saved or shaved through better management, etc. It was impressive in the He Knows Shit way, but I think tended to make his audience glaze over more than get passionate. Quite happy to talk about the taxes, especially eliminating the gross receipts portion of the BPT, but realistic about the fact that savings elsewhere would have to be found first. However, he also talke about improving city services, so it's not all tax-cutting...

  • He had some interesting ideas about broadening educational opportunities in the city, including reopening some "Vox-ed" schools that used to exist, to give students incentives to stay with their education (to get some training as, say, mechanics or hair-dressers). Additionally, and more boldly, he had a plan to help lure new businesses to the area by launching a series of training centers all over the city to help guarantee that skilled labor would be available to fulfill their needs -- something like offering a year's ramp-up training (to sales, drivers, clerks, whatever was needed), fully financed, with the promise of at least one year's employment on the other end. (You build the factory, and we'll have a workforce for you by the time it's ready to open.) Neat to see some long-term thinking, although it could be hard to swing.

  • Interesting mannerisms/feel. He's soft-spoken and less of a glad-hander than, say, Nutter or Saidel, but plenty confident and clearly intelligent. On the other hand, he spent probably 90% of the evening speaking directly to me (even if answering somebody else's question), as though the other dozen people weren't even in the room, which I thought was pretty bad manners, let alone politicking. It made me feel genuinely uncomfortable (not personally, but socially, if that makes any sense). Additionally, his talk about racial issues tended to the slightly quaint (somewhere between patronizing and cliched), although he had reasonable information at his fingertips too (e.g., about black voters' interest in capability over race). It's hard not to hold these things against a candidate, although (a) they could be gone in another month or two of campaigning and (b) they could have little effect on his ability to run city government or interact with employees. Still...
That's about all for now. I hope to get chances to meet or at least see appearances of all of the candidates by the time this primary is really underway, say next fall. Thanks to Tulin for the invitation; I hope she gets her technical difficulties solved so that she can share her impressions as well (if so inclined).

  1. Here's the Knox campaign site, which I should have linked above.

  2. I realized there was another thing that took me aback a bit: Knox appeared to applaud the effects of gentrification. Yes, he made some disclaimers along the lines that seniors or the medically disabled should be buffered from increases in property taxes that might displace them, but pretty much the poor were given little sympathy. Heck! they could cash out! Have family in the area or other community attachments? Too bad; sell your house and learn to love a less popular neighborhood. Long-term renter being pushed out by the sudden doubling and tripling of city rents? That's the price we pay for increased city prosperity; you can stop by anytime and enjoy the new streetlights! (yes, it made me feel snarky.)



Anonymous Tom Knox said...

Thanks for posting about the visit.

That was a very good group. I enjoyed being there, listening to people's concerns and their ideas about how we can improve our city.

I guess it's true that I'm not much of a polished politician, but that's just who I am.

I really do have a vision for a leaner and more efficient city government. I believe we can find the savings that will let us scrap the gross receipts portion of the Business Privilege Tax, and I think we could further attract more businesses by providing workers with the education and training they need. Jobs and education are vital if we're going to turn this city around.

The other crucial quality the next mayor's going to need is the ability to break free of the culture of corruption in government. One thing that people will be able to count on from Tom Knox is integrity. I'd be going into office not being beholden to anyone but the people of the city. I'm not a professional politician and I have no further agenda than to make Philadelphia a place that we can be proud of once again.

I appreciate the comments and look forward to meeting many more people in groups like that one.

6:03 PM  

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