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Philadelphia mayoral candidate Rebecca Rhynhart speaks at a dinner event hosted by Penn Dems on April 5. Credit: Derek Wong

Rebecca Rhynhart, the former Philadelphia City Controller, told The Daily Pennsylvanian that as mayor, she wants to engage directly with the Penn community, reduce city violence, and strengthen the quality of life in Philadelphia.

“The University of Pennsylvania is a very important institution of higher education in our city, and they are also a big employer in our city,” Rhynhart said. “It’s important that the city government works hand-in-hand with our universities to make sure that we’re working on issues facing the city together — so that students feel safe.”

Rhynhart said that she believes there are significant opportunities for the city to partner with Penn, adding that as Controller, she has experience working under different crises, including gun violence and the opioid epidemic. The mayoral candidate affirmed that she would work closely with universities and that she would want Penn students to conduct research on issues facing Philadelphia.

“I plan to work hand in hand with leadership at the University of Pennsylvania and other universities — there's probably a lot of creative ways to involve students in some of the significant issues facing our city,” Rhynhart said, adding that she would bring students from student leadership organizations to “have a voice around the table” through regular meetings with the mayor’s office.

Former Pennsylvania Governor, Philadelphia Mayor, and 1965 College graduate Ed Rendell, who is currently a Penn professor, endorsed Rhynhart Wednesday morning, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer, becoming the third former mayor to back her.

To mitigate gun violence and increase public safety on campus, Rhynhart said she would declare a city-wide emergency, which would allow for coordination between the Police Department, Department of Streets, Philadelphia Parks & Recreation, and other agencies to enhance well-being and programming in 14 target zip codes, which includes Penn’s 19104 zip code.

“As a Penn student, what you would see would be a real focus and taking-care of the neighborhood — not just a police presence but also street lighting getting fixed, the neighborhood getting cleaned up, and expanded programming for our youth and teenagers,” Rhynhart said.

In the short-term, the mayoral candidate said that she would implement group violence intervention, which has been successful in other cities, and crack down on illegal guns through collaboration with the District Attorney, Police Commissioner, and other criminal justice partners. In the long-term, Rhynhart added that she would also address the root causes of violence — poverty and lack of opportunity — by fixing the educational system and creating job pathways from low-income neighborhoods to good paying jobs.

Rhynhart said that it is important for Penn students to express their voices, as mayoral leadership has a crucial role in our city.

“As your mayor, I’m going to try to convince you to stay here and help with job growth so that you want to stay here, but part of that is having a voice and that’s through going to vote on May 16,” Rhynhart said. “I can hit the ground running on day one to fix our city’s issues to make it safer and cleaner and fix our schools. We have such a great city with arts, culture, and restaurants, but we need to fix the issues, and I’m the best person to do that.”