With three weeks to go until the primary, Philadelphia mayoral candidates discussed concerns from constituents at an on-campus forum on April 24.
Around 40 Penn undergraduate and graduate students, as well as Philadelphia residents, attended the event at the Perelman Center for Political Science and Economics auditorium. Penn's Government and Politics Association, the student chapter of the International City/County Management Association, Penn Democrats, and Women of Fels co-hosted the event.
Two mayoral candidates — Rebecca Rhynhart and 1993 College graduate Helen Gym — made an appearance at the forum, though the promotional material included images of six candidates, not including Gym. The mayoral primary for Democratic and Republican candidates is scheduled for May 16, and the general election will take place on Nov. 7.
The forum had a different atmosphere than College first year Amelia Cucchiara expected.
“I feel like every politician on their own can say the right things," she said. "It would’ve been nice to see more of them [interact with] each other."
College first year Selma Farsakh Ulm agreed with Cucchiara and said that she wished more candidates showed up.
College sophomore and Penn Dems Vice President Alex Venth told The Daily Pennsylvanian that the organization held the event in hopes of educating Penn students about the candidates.
Rhynhart had the room to herself for the first third of the hour-long forum. During that time, she took questions from attendees, discussing her experience as city controller, her thoughts on the Philadelphia school district, and the recent chemical spill in the Delaware River.
Many of the questions she received also centered around public safety and gun control.
“A safe city is where the people feel safe everywhere, where parents feel okay with their kids playing outside, where college students feel safe walking home at night," Rhynhart said.
Gym, a former city councilmember and 1996 graduate of Penn's Graduate School of Education, joined the forum about 20 minutes in. During her introduction, she discussed her history as an organizer in Philadelphia, her plans for reconstructing the education system, and her ideas to address climate change and affordable housing in the city.
“I’m somebody who isn’t here to manage a crisis," Gym said. "I’m here to end them."
Gym discussed her guaranteed jobs plan, which would focus on providing young people financial and occupational support for finding employment.
“Currently, 50% of the young people who apply for jobs for our summer jobs program never make it through to finishing the application," she said. "I’m making sure that 100% of them finish the application."
Both candidates agreed on their approach to topics such as reform to the education system and infrastructure. They talked about the ongoing asbestos crisis, which has closed at least five schools in Philadelphia.
The mayoral race features five significant candidates: Gym, Rhynhart, former city councilmember Cherelle Parker, grocery store operator Jeff Brown, and real estate developer and current at-large city councilmember Allan Domb. Another mayoral forum took place on campus in March at Houston Hall and featured six candidates.
“I’m definitely going to vote for one of those candidates,” Cucchiara said of how she felt after the forum.