Lincoln High School '98
After his narrow victory in the most competitive mayoral election in recent Philadelphia history, Philadelphia's new mayor John Street has spent the past several months getting used to life in City Hall.
Street was inaugurated in January after beating out Republican Sam Katz in November's general election by less than one percentage point. The city has not elected a Republican mayor for nearly 50 years.
Before running for mayor, Street spent 19 years on City Council -- seven as Council president -- where he was famed for his domineering personality and occasional bombastic vote-getting tactics.
The new mayor -- who succeeds the popular Ed Rendell, a Penn alum who now serves as Democratic Party chief -- promised in his inaugural address to improve public education in the city, launch an extensive blight removal program, decrease area crime and maintain the city's current fiscal stability.
"If we are to achieve our goals for our economy and our neighborhoods, we must begin by focusing on the quality of education in our schools," Street said, proclaiming the year 2000 "the year of the child."
And just days after being sworn into office, Street kicked off his term by launching a 100 Day Plan encompassing 20 goals for Philadelphia. The 100 Day Plan especially focused on education and blight.
Yet during his first few months in office, the mayor tackled an array of issues outside of these 20 goals.
Street put the city on a diet, launching a campaign -- "Fit and Free 2000" -- after Philadelphia was dubbed America's fattest city by Men's Health magazine.
The mayor returned to his laundry-list of 20 goals when he launched an aggressive campaign to remove all abandoned cars from Philadelphia's streets in a short 40-day period.
"If we can't remove abandoned cars from our community, then we don't have a very bright future as a community," Street said when he announced the initiative last March.
The mayor then tackled the ongoing battle over the location of a new stadium for the Philadelphia Phillies, recommending several weeks ago that the city build the facility on 12th and Vine streets, adjacent to the city's Chinatown neighborhood.
Also in conjunction with his 20 goals, Street filed a lawsuit against top handgun makers as part of a package of policies to fight crime in Philadelphia.
But some say that the biggest challenges facing the city -- such as the underfunded public school system and a high city wage tax that critics say pushes businesses into the suburbs -- still await Street. And the mayor's aggressive style has raised some eyebrows across the city.
"The mayor's got to learn that government is a cooperative activity," City Councilman David Cohen said, adding that he didn't think Street worked very well with the legislative body he used to head.
Cohen said he thinks the mayor needs to do more in the area of education. He added that he is worried that the mayor would not be able to resolve the school's impending fiscal crisis.
Penn Public Policy and History Professor Ted Hershberg also emphasized the importance of "evening the fiscal playing field," referring to the problem of taxes -- an issue he said Street has yet to adequately address.Comments powered by Disqus
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