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Street victorious in tight race

(11/03/99 10:00am)

The Dem. won in a 50-49 percent split Drawing to a close the most competitive mayoral election in recent Philadelphia history, Democrat John Street slipped by Republican Sam Katz last night by a single percentage point. With 96 percent of precincts reporting, Street claimed victory with 50 percent of the vote, while Katz took in 49 percent. Street squeaked by with just 7,200 votes more than Katz as of early this morning. The remaining ballots were cast for Constitution Party candidate John McDermott, who finished with 1 percent. Hundreds of loyal and enthusiastic supporters packed the Warwick Hotel in Center City for Street's official election night party, aptly titled "Victory '99." With updates pouring in all night that consistently showed Street ahead, the crowd never lost its spirit. For hours they waved signs and cutouts of Street's head and cheered at the tops of their lungs. And when the victor finally stepped to the microphone at around 1:30 a.m., they erupted in applause for the next mayor of Philadelphia. Street, 56, used his victory speech to call on both his supporters and detractors to work toward a common goal. "It is now time for us to bring this city together," said Street, who served as City Council president for seven years under Mayor Ed Rendell. "It's time for us to set aside our differences. It is time for us to come together as one great city, to make the progress that we need to make during the course of the next millennium." Just a few block away at the Park Hyatt at the Bellevue Hotel, Katz -- who called to concede the race and congratulate Street at around 1 a.m. -- said he was proud of the city for listening to his ideas. "I can say with every ounce of sincerity, we did as well as anyone could have expected," said Katz, 49, who mounted the first competitive Republican campaign the city has seen in three decades. Street, who will become Philadelphia's second-ever African-American mayor, was joined on stage by many of the region's Democratic elite, including Rendell, U.S. Rep. Chaka Fattah, city Democratic Party chairperson and U.S. Rep. Robert Brady and several prominent City Council members. Attorney Marty Weinberg and State Rep. Dwight Evans, two of Street's primary election opponents who pledged their support to the former City Council president, were also in attendance. In his victory speech, Street shared some of his visions for Philadelphia's future. "As I embark on this new responsibility, I'm going to ask everyone here? to give us a chance," Street said. "Give us a chance. Give us an opportunity to provide the leadership in this city. Give us an opportunity to help this city reach its potential." Street's controversial past during his 19 years in City Council nearly cost him the election in a city which hasn't elected a Republican mayor in 52 years. Many white Democrats chose to cross party lines, but in the end the GOP was not able to overcome the 4 to 1 Democratic advantage in Philadelphia. "I really haven't been perfect," Street acknowledged during his speech. "But I have never tried, never intentionally, to do anything that was against the interests of our great city." Street was also quick to commend his adversary, thanking Katz for a worthy and productive challenge that stayed remarkably clean and issues-based. "I want to thank him because he ran a brilliant campaign," Street said. "He tested our capacity and our work ethic. He made us work in a way that all of us can know that we have really earned this victory." The victory did not go unnoticed, and was watched around the nation as a bellwether for the 2000 national elections. Street said he received congratulatory phone calls from President Clinton -- who appeared at a Street rally in Philadelphia last Friday -- and Pennsylvania Gov. Tom Ridge, a Republican. Street saved particular praise for Rendell, the popular outgoing mayor who acted as his most visible -- and perhaps most vital -- mentor and supporter. "Ed Rendell didn't just write a check or two, although he did write a check or two," Street said. "He shared with us the benefit of his experience as a candidate, as a person who was not only a great mayor but a person who understands the political process in this city and in this state in a way that is almost unparalleled by most of us." This year's mayoral campaign was the most expensive in United States history, exceeding the $23 million mark. The candidates battled furiously over the last eight weeks over issues of economic reform, education and neighborhood development. Katz, a former business executive, repeatedly used his campaign mantra of "running the city like a business." He pledged to cut the city wage tax from 4.6 percent to an even 4 percent -- a move Street continually attacked as fiscally irresponsible. Street continued to tout his partnership with Rendell throughout the campaign and focused on the Rendell program of modest tax cuts that would maintain a steady level of city services.

Altering turnout, rain could leave one candidate out to dry

(11/02/99 10:00am)

Stormy weather is forecast for today. But this isn't just any ordinary day -- it's Election Day in what will likely turn out to be the closest mayoral general election the city has seen in decades. And the pitter-patter of little raindrops may actually affect the election's outcome. Experts say that bad weather impacts voter turnout as it often keeps the less passionate voters from the polls. "Rain tends to hold down the low-intensity voters," said David L. Cohen, outgoing Mayor Ed Rendell's former chief of staff. According to voting expert Curtis Gans, nothing short of a blizzard will keep motivated voters from their civic duty. "It depends on who's motivated to vote," said Gans, director of the Washington, D.C.-based Committee for the Study of the American Electorate. Gans noted that in 1992 some Atlanta voters stood in line at polling places for 2 1/2 hours in the rain to vote for then-Arkansas Governor Bill Clinton for president. And Gans said that in the tight Philadelphia election, there is motivation for voters to tough it out in less-than-ideal weather. But it is hard to gauge which candidate has the motivated voters who will put on their raincoats and face the weather conditions. According to a recent Daily News/Fox Philadelphia Keystone Poll, voters who may not vote favor Democrat John Street. Voters who are certain to vote favor Republican Sam Katz by a 44-34 margin. This may tilt the balance in Katz's favor. Penn History and Public Policy Professor Theodore Hershberg said that the bad weather may benefit Katz because he has a wide range of strong supporters. Hershberg explained that Street, on the other hand, is relying on people who consistently vote Democrat but may not have a strong inclination to vote for him. "Street is not somebody people are excited about," Hershberg said, adding that Street will need to mobilize the Democrats to hit the polls if he is to win. But Hershberg also added that rain may deter some of the elderly voters on whom Katz is counting. Both candidates downplayed the effect rain will have on tomorrow's outcome. "Most people who are worrying about that have no idea," Katz spokesperson Bob Barnett said. "There's going to be a moderate turnout anyway." And Street spokesperson Ken Snyder said their field team was equipped with 3,000 umbrellas to ward off the rain. "We have a phenomenal field organization," he said. "I don't know if it will be a problem. I just know that we're prepared."

Voters head to polls today to choose new mayor

(11/02/99 10:00am)

The election could still go either way, and both campaigns insist they will emerge victorious. Election Day is here and in a few short hours, Philadelphia will elect a new leader. After months of shaking hands and debating the issues, the city could meet tonight a Mayor Sam Katz or a Mayor John Street. The race is very close for Philadelphia, a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 4 to 1 margin. Yet the two candidates are neck and neck in the most recent polls and have been battling furiously during the final weeks of the election for the roughly one-quarter of the electorate that had remained undecided. Both campaigns remained confident last night, with each side saying they stand on the brink of victory. Katz has garnered support from many staunch Democrats with his party-free rhetoric and moderate conservative platform -- even scoring endorsements from The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News, as well as several prominent local Democrats. Spokesperson Bob Barnett said the Katz campaign felt confident heading into the election. "We've done everything we can do," he said. "We feel good." Street continues to tout his experience -- his 19-year tenure on City Council and his seven years working with outgoing Mayor Ed Rendell as Council president. But the Street campaign has lost a lot of Democratic support to Katz. President Clinton spoke at a Democratic rally for Street on Friday, trying to reinforce party support for the candidate's lackluster campaign. And Street's campaign says everything is under control. "We feel great," Street spokesperson Ken Snyder said. "Short of flaming cows falling from the sky, John Street is going to win." While Street and Katz agree that Philadelphia needs intensive work, they differ on how the work should be done. Katz, a former business executive, says that only by cutting taxes will the city -- which has lost 150,000 people over the past decade -- gain population and business. He has stressed the need for an innovative voice in City Hall. But Street has attacked Katz's goals, saying that the projected cuts would cripple city services. Street says he will carry out Rendell's program of limited tax cuts while working to improve the quality of life for people living in the city.

Mayoral Race 1999: Clinton gives Street a boost in campaign's final days

(11/01/99 10:00am)

President Clinton came to Philadelphia Friday to host a rally in support of Democratic mayoral candidate John Street. He did not get endorsements from the Philadelphia Inquirer or the Philadelphia Daily News. Two of his primary opponents are backing his rival. And right now it looks like either candidate could win the election. But on Friday, John Street got the presidential seal of approval. President Clinton visited Philadelphia to attend a rally for the Democratic mayoral candidate, giving a much-needed boost to a candidate who was once considered unbeatable. Clinton ignited the crowd with his party rhetoric -- asking how Street could be running so close with Republican Sam Katz in a city where Democrats outnumber Republicans by a 4 to 1 margin. "What's the deal here?" he questioned, arms outstretched to the 5,000 screaming supporters at La Salle University. "John Street is a young, vigorous, dedicated public servant," Clinton told the crowds, telling people to "reward his record." Clinton was flanked on stage by Senator Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.), outgoing Mayor Ed Rendell and various local Democrats, including Reps. Chakah Fattah, Robert Borski and Robert Brady. As the announcer bellowed to the pom-pom waving Street fans -- the Democrats were in the house. Undaunted by Clinton's appearance, Katz spent the day campaigning with John White, who lost to Street in the Democratic primaries and whose endorsement of Katz helped pave the way for a closer-than-expected general election. Katz has repeatedly dismissed the importance of Clinton's visit, saying that party is not a key factor in city politics. But party loyalty was clearly the overriding theme of the rally. Signs proclaiming "The Democratic party is still intact" hung across the gym and a band played "We are Family," loudly before and after the event. "The Democratic party is the party of the people. We are the working-class people," roared Brady to the invitation-only crowd which was approximately two-thirds African American -- illustrating Street's attempts to secure the city's black vote. Street pumped up the audience with a rousing speech during which he managed to turn the phrase "lower taxes" into a negative chant. The keystone of Katz's campaign has been his pledge to make cuts to the city wage taxes -- cuts that Street says will damage city services. "The Democrat want to invest in the city," he yelled, "but the Republican wants to?" "Lower taxes!" the crowd shouted back. Street hit the big issues -- education, conservative economic reform and neighborhood development -- but he also went right for the heartstrings with a story about crying the day President John F. Kennedy was assassinated. Sen. Kennedy spoke briefly on Street's behalf, reflecting on the strong Philadelphia support for his slain older brother. "I want those same votes for John Street," he said. As Clinton stepped towards the podium, Street pinned a John Street for Mayor button on his jacket. "This is a very good day for me," Street said. And Clinton's speech only made his day better. The president kept his 25-minute speech casual, telling the crowd he wanted to talk to them not as a president but as "a good friend for Philadelphia." Clinton said Street had been unfairly portrayed by the media as uninteresting or uninspiring. "The guy they introduced me to had vision and charisma," he said. He urged the crowd to bring out the Democratic vote on Tuesday. "What will it say if you stay home after the job this man has done?" he asked the crowd. Rendell, whom Clinton recently appointed as general chairperson of the Democratic National Committee, talked along the same vein. He told the crowd about his seven-year partnership with Street, saying that the two of them "turned the city around." "Folks, it happened. No one can re-write history," he said. Rendell continued to load on the praise for Street. "He's the best qualified person ever to run for mayor," he said, grabbing Street's hand and raising it up in the air.

Candidates debate for last time before election

(10/29/99 9:00am)

Katz and Street were calmer than usual in debting issues like crime, schools and taxes. Standing side by side at twin podiums, mayoral contenders Sam Katz and John Street were calm and non-confrontational yesterday evening when they met in the election season's final debate at Drexel University. As the election clock rapidly ticks away and November 2 looms, the candidates have become increasingly forceful and aggressive for the past few days, each trying to pull ahead in a race that the polls show as dead even. But there were no barbs, catcalls or even raised voices yesterday, as Street, a Democrat, and Katz, a Republican, carefully stuck to their standard campaign statements on education, public safety and economic reform. Effectively, it was a lull in an otherwise stormy campaign. During the hour-long event -- broadcast live at 7 p.m. on WPVI-TV -- the candidates fielded questions from an anchor for Channel 6 and a panel of four local experts. The debate was sponsored by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce, the League of Women Voters and WPVI-TV. Still glowing from his endorsements by The Philadelphia Inquirer and The Philadelphia Daily News, Katz confidently repeated his key campaign goal of cutting the wage taxes, drawing people and business back into the city and running the city like a business. Street -- who will be getting a supportive visit from big guns President Clinton and Sen. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) tomorrow -- calmly focused on his longtime experience as City Council president and partnership with outgoing Mayor Ed Rendell, stressing that he has the necessary inside knowledge of city politics. While the candidates have similar views on many economic and neighborhood issues, one stand-out difference is education -- a key focus of yesterday's debate. Katz reiterated his support for school vouchers, but was quick to add that he wants overall education reform. "My support for vouchers is secondary to my responsibility as mayor," Katz said, adding that he plans to head to Harrisburg to negotiate for more school funding. But Street attacked vouchers, saying "they will do grave damage to public education." He added that what the schools need is more funding and a leader like himself to procure it. The wage tax issue came up again, with Katz coming under fire for not disclosing the way he plans to cut the wage tax and what he plans to do if his proposal fails. Katz said that even if he cannot cut taxes from the current 4.6 percent to his goal of 4.0 percent, he will still be able to get them below the 4.45 percent goal set by Rendell and Street. Street pointed out that he himself is the candidate with experience dealing with city taxes, having balanced several city budgets. He added that he will continue Rendell's "responsible" five-year plan for the city. Another issue addressed by the moderator was Street's support among Democratic city politicians. Until yesterday he had not been endorsed by Council Democrats and opponents have been chalking it up to his oft-criticized people skills. Street brushed the notion aside, saying that the Democratic Party was firmly behind him. Katz returned by listing his own various endorsements from both sides of the fence, including his support from Democratic primary losers John White and Happy Fernandez. "I will be a bipartisan mayor that puts Philadelphia first," he said. The candidates also discussed gun control. Katz said he would have an "aggressive police presence" on the streets while he fights for "stiffer gun laws." But Street took a stronger approach, saying that he will join several other large cities in suing gun manufacturers. After all was said and done, both candidates took what seemed to be a sigh of relief. Street, leaning toward Katz, placed a hand on his shoulder and smiled. "No more debates," he said.

Candidates debate for last time before election

(10/29/99 9:00am)

Whoever wins November 2 will have a hard time matching Rendell's flair. Maybe a good mayor should keep his pom-poms nearby. Few would dispute that popular outgoing Mayor Ed Rendell became famous not only for his economic achievements, but also for his flamboyant personality -- which earned him the title of "Philadelphia's cheerleader." When Rendell stepped into the mayor's office almost eight years ago, he needed every ounce of charm and pizazz to lure businesses to the area, revive Philadelphia's ailing economy and restore people's faith in the city. Although the next mayor will not have to salvage a destroyed city as Rendell did, experts say he should still have a megaphone handy. Annenberg School for Communication Dean Kathleen Hall Jamieson said one of the key jobs of the next mayor will be "selling the city [and] persuading people to stay here, to work here." And while the candidates have not discussed personality much during the campaign -- both Republican Sam Katz and Democrat John Street say the role demands skills and know-how over style or flair -- Jamieson noted that personality will affect the mayor's ability to get the job done. Street says his longtime service to the city and extensive knowledge of local politics will enable him to masterfully and enthusiastically lead the city. "John Street wants to be mayor because he loves this city and understands this city," spokesperson Ken Snyder said. "Cheerleading comes from the heart." Katz says he will inspire and rejuvenate the city with his economic plans -- bringing both leadership and vision to the Mayor's office. "The agenda is cheerleading, promoting," Katz spokesperson Bob Barnett said, adding that Katz's personality is perfect for the job. "Katz appeals to people," Barnett said. "He's warm [and] he's funny." Still, it may prove difficult for the next mayor to match Rendell's vibrant eight-year run. "[Rendell's] energy level is extremely high," Jamieson said, adding that this contrasts with the current candidates' personalities. "They both exude a quiet confidence," she said. With his spunk and creative savvy, Rendell has lured projects such as the Republican Convention and Disney Quest to the area. Many laud him for reinventing Philadelphia as a center for the arts and tourism and for putting the city back on the map. "They can't compare," Penn Political Science Professor Jack Nagel said. "This is going to be a hard act to follow." Throughout the campaign, both candidates have struggled to refute criticisms of their personalities, with some calling Street too belligerent and Katz too business-minded. Street has avoided the accusations that he alienated fellow party members through his aggressive -- and sometimes turbulent -- reign as City Council president. Street has said that his two-time unanimous elections as City Council president should speak for itself. Nevertheless, it took until yesterday for Council Democrats to openly endorse Street for mayor. Snyder says the city knows Street is a candidate to whom the people can relate. "People are going to identify with a working class neighborhood guy," Snyder said. Katz, on the other hand, has fought off assumptions that as a former CEO he will spend more time in business meetings than out in the neighborhoods. Barnett maintains that people have responded well to the Katz campaign, which has toured neighborhoods across the city. "People stop him on the street? a sign of when you're connecting," Barnett said. But Penn Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Carol Scheman noted that Rendell's success can not only be attributed to his pleasant demeanor. "The personality factor is overrated," she said. "He put in an enormous amount of hard work and stick-to-it-ness." And Jamieson said the candidate who wins may ultimately grow into Rendell's shoes. In fact, the first time Rendell ran for mayor, she explained, "he didn't look like the person he now is."

Race the unspoken factor for Katz, Street

(10/27/99 9:00am)

Beneath the polite veneer of policy statements and TV ads, the election may come down to skin color. Beneath the polite veneer of policy statements and TV ads, the election may come down to skin color.Fourth in an ongoing series analyzing the critical issues of the Philadelphia mayor race. They don't talk about in their ads. They don't mention it in their speeches. And their campaign managers are certainly loath to discuss it. But simmering beneath questions about vouchers and wage taxes, economic development and welfare reform, the color of the mayoral candidates' skin is sure to play a part in next week's election. According to a recent poll, 67 percent of white voters are planning to vote for Republican Sam Katz, who is white, while 66 percent of black voters will opt for Democrat John Street. "Race is the going to be the best single predictor of how people vote," Penn Political Science Professor Jack Nagel said. Street is an African American running in a city that has only elected one black mayor in its history. But the Democratic contender has avoided discussing race and has stressed his longtime commitment to city government and his plans to carry on outgoing Mayor Ed Rendell's legacy. "No, [race] isn't a concern for us," said Street spokesperson Ken Snyder, who added that people will vote for Street because he is a "working class neighborhood guy." Meanwhile, Katz has posed a major challenge to Street with an aggressive campaign that has skillfully avoided the term Republican and has focused on his plans to promote economic development and cut the city's wage tax. Katz's party-free strategy has earned him support from a wide range of groups across the city, including endorsements from some of the city's prominent black leaders -- leaders that were expected to back Street. Jerry Mondeshire, the head of the local chapter of the NAACP, all but endorsed Katz during a radio talk show last month. And Democrat John White -- a well-known local politician and old friend of Street who lost to him in the primaries last spring -- backed Katz last month. The White endorsement was a huge boost to the Katz campaign, effectively signaling to Democrats that they could vote for a Republican and to African Americans that they could vote for a white politician. Street's campaign has brushed off the significance of the endorsements, trumpeting instead endorsements by Rendell and President Clinton, who is scheduled to visit Philadelphia on Friday to support Street. But Street currently lacks the kind of support that carried the only previous black mayor, Wilson Goode, to victory in 1983 and 1987. Goode had the support of every major African-American leader in the city and relied on strong support from voters of all races. "Goode had substantial white support," Nagel said, adding that "a black candidate can get significant white support." Still, each candidate says that race will not be a deciding factor on Election Day and that issues will, instead, decide who wins City Hall. "The only people who have talked about race is the press," Katz spokesperson Bob Barnett said, adding that, ultimately, "Sam Katz has people from every neighborhood and John Street has people from every neighborhood."

Neighborhood issues get candidates' focus

(10/26/99 9:00am)

Third in an onoing series analyzing the critical issues of the Philadelphia mayoral race. Philadelphians have a lot of questions for the next mayor and not all of them are about school vouchers or campaign spending. They want to know if graffiti will be removed, if abandoned cars will be towed and if streets will be made safer. In short, the city wants a mayor that will take care of its residential neighborhoods. And candidates Sam Katz and John Street both say they will take care of Philadelphia -- including the people who don't reside in Center City. Katz, a Republican, wants to bolster the city's economy by bringing in more businesses and jobs through regulatory reform and tax reductions. By attracting businesses, his campaign mantra goes, the quality of life for the Philadelphia neighborhoods will improve. But Street focuses much more directly on specific neighborhood issues. The former City Council president and Democratic candidate repeatedly stresses his experience working with city government and individual citizens to improve city services and safety on the streets where people live. Katz spokesperson Bob Barnett said his candidate is equally committed to the neighborhoods and derides as "speculations" the opposing camp's suggestion that Katz's focus is directed only at the business community. "Sam has been much more attentive to neighborhoods in this campaign," he said, noting that Katz hopes to promote small business growth and provide more funding for neighborhoods. Street himself says that as a Democrat, he is very committed to the working class. He said in a recent interview that he is aware that many communities feel "an alienation from Center City," which has been the focus of the city's economic boom in the 1990s. And Street insists that he plans to change that. He says he will focus on increasing safety, putting more police officers on the streets and improving the quality of life through graffiti and blight removal. "The quality of life is an idea whose time has truly come," said Democratic City Council member Jannie Blackwell, who represents West Philadelphia and supports Street. Redeeming neighborhoods and improving urban areas is a daunting task for Philadelphia, a city that has lost 150,000 residents over the past decade. This unprecedented level of urban flight has undermined the city's tax base, prompting Katz's call for a large cut in the city's 4.6 percent wage tax. And although the city's economy has flourished under Rendell, critics of his administration say the benefits have mostly been geared toward Center City, not the surrounding communities. After eight years of stabilizing the city, it may now be time to broaden the spotlight from downtown to the whole town. "Center City is thriving and there are parts of Philadelphia that are thriving," Urban Studies Professor Eric Schneider said, adding that the question now is "how to create wealth in poor and more working class neighborhoods." According to Schneider, City Hall needs to push development projects and initiatives that will create jobs for the city's blue-collar workers. "I think Katz's strength is his appeal to the business community," he explained, adding that Katz would decrease the wage tax, thereby increasing investment and job creation. But he added that Street, a 19-year City Council veteran, "is going to be more attuned to the poorer working class community." Blackwell said that communities need day-to-day maintenance like trimmed trees, paved streets and thrown-away trash. "I'm sure both [candidates] are in tune," she said. But Blackwell added that "Street has lived it.? He understands the problems I do as a City Councilman." If elected, Katz has promised to remove graffiti and urban blight in the neighborhoods, Barnett said, adding that this "really hasn't been done" during Street's tenure on City Council. Both candidates stress the importance of public safety and crime prevention, a continuing problem in Philadelphia -- and each has pledged to retain John Timoney as police commissioner. But although the candidates see eye to eye on many community issues, observers still think Street would play a greater role as mayor in the neighborhoods' revitalization. Blackwell said that Street's experience and know-how are the keys that would enable him to be a successful mayor. "You've got to have a person who knows the issues and knows the players," she said.

Katz, Street battle on city economic issues

(10/21/99 9:00am)

The mayoral candidates do not see eye-to-eye on wage taxes, development. The mayoral candidates do not see eye-to-eye on wage taxes, development.Second in any ongoing series analyzing the critical issues of the 1999 Philadelphia majoral campaign. One candidate is a former business executive. The other has worked with city finances for the last 19 years. Now with less than two weeks left in the action-packed mayoral race, voters will have to decide which candidate can best manage the city's $2.7 billion budget. Republican Sam Katz and Democrat John Street have been angrily battling over who is qualified to handle the Philadelphia economy -- each trying to convince voters he has the fiscal skills to pay the city's bills. Street keeps stressing that his experience in city government and his work with Mayor Ed Rendell are the keys to effectively handling city finances. "Street has the experience and the knowledge," said his spokesperson, Ken Snyder. Meanwhile, Katz insists that his business know-how and innovative "outside of the box" financial ideas will fiscally enhance Philadelphia. Economic skill is crucial for the next mayor, who will become the leader of a city that was financially insolvent seven years ago when Rendell took the reins. But just as the candidates both have different backgrounds in financial wheelings and dealings, they also have very different ideas on how to handle the city's pocketbook. Cutting the city wage taxes has been an overriding theme of Katz's campaign. Katz has repeatedly blamed the Philadelphia wage taxes for the city's business and population loss, saying that only with lower taxes will Philadelphia thrive. Katz has released a wordy 83-page plan outlining his goal to slash the wage tax from 4.6 percent to 4 percent over the next four years, which he says will cost the city about $226 million. But Street and his supporters have branded Katz's plan -- which does not say where that $226 million will come from -- "fiscally irresponsible." Street has pledged to stick to Rendell's five-year financial plan for the city, which would reduce the wage tax to 4.4 percent. Snyder said the five year plan is "cautious and conservative." And there may be reason to take a cautious approach to city finances. After all, Philadelphia has only recently emerged from a dark economic period. When Rendell inherited Philadelphia eight years ago the city had hit rock bottom -- with an annual $200 million deficit, ongoing battles with the city's municipal unions, failing city services and a falling population. "We had a patient that had cancer and at the same time had just been wheeled in with a gunshot wound to the chest," Rendell spokesperson Kevin Feeley said of the state of Philadelphia's economy in 1991. Rendell has since dragged Philadelphia up by its boot straps -- he presented six years of balanced budgets, generated increases in city jobs and supported a vast range of urban development projects -- and Philadelphia has made a healthy recovery from its financial woes. But while the city is currently on an upswing, any financial decisions must be made carefully because a recession could cripple the city's economy. "Although the downtown has made a recovery, the first recession will show just how fragile the recovery is," Penn History and Public Policy Professor Ted Hershberg said. While Philly's recovery may currently be fragile, the city's economy is at least headed in the right direction. And Street wants everyone to know that he helped Rendell put the city on the right track -- he has referred to their partnership endlessly throughout the campaign. "I will tell you over and over that Philadelphia's recovery does not happen without John Street," Feeley said. But according to Katz, there is still much room for improvement. Katz maintains that the city can be more effectively and aggressively managed -- generating more jobs and business opportunities -- through skilled management and greater government efficiency. That, he says, will save money while actually improving the quality of service. Hershberg, who also serves as the director of the Center for Greater Philadelphia, agrees that the city can be managed better. "Anybody who believed that Philadelphia has achieved an efficient government is kidding themselves," he said. "Rendell's done some good things," Hershberg noted, but added "Katz is correct? there are lots of things still to do." Street responded to Katz's criticism of government inefficiency by citing the city's accomplishments over the past seven years. "We've increased the quality of services, hired police, have longer library hours. I think that it is inaccurate and unfair to suggest that this is a government that is sitting on its hands," Street said after Sunday's debate. "That's astounding to me." On Monday the differences between the two campaigns were highlighted when Katz released an economic plan entitled "Philadelphia is Open for Business." The plan broadly outlined tax policies, job-oriented education initiatives and neighborhood development goals, which according to Katz will boost the Philadelphia economy. Street's campaign criticized this plan -- like the tax plan -- for its lack of details. "We've seen it in how-to-govern books," Snyder said, adding that "there's not one original thought [in the plan]." Katz spokesperson Bob Barnett said that the criticisms of the campaign's economic plans show the negative nature of Street's campaign.

Freshman killed in bicycle accident

(10/20/99 9:00am)

Sung Woo Yang, 18, was hit by a truck as he rode his bicycle near the corner of 33rd and Spruce streets. An 18-year-old Wharton freshman was killed yesterday afternoon after the bicycle he was riding collided with a truck at the corner of 33rd and Spruce streets. Sung Woo Yang, an international student from Korea who lived in Hill College House and went by the name "Michael," was pronounced dead at 3 p.m. upon arrival at the emergency room at the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania, University spokesperson Ken Wildes said. University Police believe Yang was traveling north on 33rd Street and hit the tractor trailer as it made a right turn from 33rd onto Spruce. University Police Chief Maureen Rush said the incident is not being investigated as a criminal matter. The accident marks the first on-campus death of an undergraduate in recent memory and is also the second fatal bicycle accident in the past 10 days. Officials said the collision occurred at about 2:30 p.m. Rush said it appears that Yang ran into the rear wheel of the truck as it was turning and was pulled under. The mangled bicycle lay in the middle of the street yesterday as police officers examined the scene. A single shoe and half of a pair of glasses rested on the ground nearby. Rush said police do not believe Yang was wearing a bicycle helmet. The Philadelphia Police Department is leading the investigation into the incident with the assistance of the University Police. The driver of the A-1 Pipe Inc. truck, who Rush said was in his mid-30s, was questioned at the scene by Philadelphia Police officers. "There was no indication that he was reckless or doing anything out of the norm." Rush said. "He was extremely distraught at the scene," she added. Officials at A-1 Pipe could not be reached for comment yesterday. University officials notified Yang's family, who live in Cairo, Egypt, late yesterday afternoon, according to Leah Smith, spokesperson for the Office of the Vice Provost for University Life. She said the office will be in touch with Yang's family, friends and other students in the coming days to offer support and counselling services. "Services are readily available in times of emergency," Smith said. No plans have been made yet for memorial services, Smith said. Arrangements are typically organized with the cooperation of the family. In a written statement, University President Judith Rodin offered her condolences to Yang's family yesterday. "We are terribly saddened by the untimely death of this young man so new to our community," the statement said. "Our thoughts and prayers are most certainly with his family and friends." Interim Wharton Dean Patrick Harker also mourned Wang's death. "This young man's death is a tragic loss for his family, friends and classmates," he said. "Our heartfelt thoughts and prayers are with him during this difficult time." This is the second on-campus death of a bicyclist in the past 10 days. On October 8, 70-year old Benjamin Tencer, a senior citizen who was taking classes at Penn as part of a special program for the elderly, was hit by a taxi at the corner of 34th and Walnut streets. He died three days later. This second death may force the University to closely re-examine bicycle safety on campus. But Rush, while saying that there is a need for increased bike safety on campus, said a bike lane probably would have made little difference in this incident. "It's not like it's anyone's fault in these two situations," Rush said. "We don't have people driving reckless in either case. In both cases the driver stopped immediately."

Katz, Street square off in Annenberg debate

(10/20/99 9:00am)

The two mayoral candidates stuck to soundbites in their televised showdown Sunday. Sitting on the Zellerbach Theatre stage Sunday morning, Philadelphia's two mayoral candidates faced off in their second televised debate. John Street and Sam Katz rehashed their positions on crime, education, jobs and taxes before approximately 200 citizens gathered at the Annenberg Center. But although only two weeks are left in the furiously competitive campaign, they failed to deliver anything new, instead sticking to standard soundbites -- for Street, his experience and political party, and for Katz, his desire for innovation in government. During the hour-long event -- broadcast Sunday morning on WPVI-Channel 6 -- the candidates fielded questions from a panel of citizens who have been meeting throughout the election season to discuss critical issues to the city. The panelists sometimes became frustrated that the candidates avoided specific answers by sticking to vague statements and campaign slogans. At one point, moderator Marc Howard, an anchor for Channel 6, turned to a questioner who had just heard the candidates dodge his question and asked, "Did you hear an answer?" Katz repeated his goal of running the city more efficiently and drawing people and businesses to the city with lower taxes. He did not give any specific examples of spending cuts he would make to offset the tax cut. And Street cited his experience on City Council and seven-year partnership with Mayor Ed Rendell, stressing that he helped save the city from a financial crisis in the early 1990s and can responsibly guide the city into the future. The debate was sponsored by The Philadelphia Inquirer, Philadelphia Compact, the League of Women Voters and the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. Sitting side by side before small glass tables, Katz in a blue suit and Street in a black one, the two levelly discussed campaign issues. Wage taxes were a focus of the event, with Katz referring to tax plan for the city -- in which he pledges to cut the wage tax from 4.6 percent to 4 percent over the next four years. Street criticized the plan, saying it will cost the city $250 million and would damage city services. "I don't believe we have to cut services," said Katz, who explained that the key to making the cuts was to increase government efficiency. Street touted Rendell's five-year financial plan, which he would continue. "My tax reduction program is designed to give us some balance," he said. Education was another major concern on the table. The panelists questioned Street and Katz about the future of the city's suffering public schools. "I want to have a fully funded system," said Street, who said the schools need more money for qualified teachers and good facilities. He said he plans to demand more education funding from the state legislators in Harrisburg. But Katz criticized this plan, saying it will damage public schools. "My opponent has said that he will go to Harrisburg? that if we don't get what he calls funding, that he will close the schools. I think that playing brinkmanship with the school kids of Philadelphia is not only bad politics, it's bad policy," he said. Katz supports school vouchers, while Street does not. "I don't make the case that vouchers will improve education," Katz said, instead insisting that vouchers provide parents with a choice. Street countered that vouchers "drain desperately needed resources." Another issue the candidates addressed was race relations in the city. Street said he would try to improve the quality of life across the city -- fighting against blight, crime and drugs to improve the quality of life. Katz noted that "racism is a cancer." He said he will try and promote minority hiring and publish statistics on minorities in the workplace. At the debate's end each candidate hit the audience with a decisive closing statement. "Ed Rendell and John Street literally saved this city from financial disaster," Street said. "We can't take a chance on inexperienced leadership." Katz said Street was being unfairly critical of his ideas. "My opponent has suggested that thinking outside of the box, which has so successfully helped other cities become 21st century competitive places is radical, risky and reckless," Katz said. "Well, it's not."

MAYORAL RACE 1999: Katz unveils long-awaited plan to lower wage taxes

(10/15/99 9:00am)

Some criticized the plan for not specifying where budget cuts would come from. Throughout his mayoral campaign, Republican Sam Katz has maintained that slashing the city wage tax is one of his key goals -- and yesterday he released a document designed to show just how he will do it. Katz debuted his highly anticipated wage tax plan -- outlining his goals to cut the tax from 4.6 to 4 percent over the next four years -- which he said will cost the city $226 million. Katz has maintained that cutting the city's wage tax is the only way to attract people to Philadelphia, which has lost almost 150,000 residents this decade. "Becoming fiscally competitive is the Mount Everest of Philadelphia's problems," Katz said. But Katz refused to say how he would pay for such a cut, which only reinforced criticism of the plan from the opposing Democratic candidate, John Street. Street has repeatedly attacked Katz's tax goals, saying the reductions will cost the city more than twice what Katz claims. "His plan will jeopardize the fiscal stability of the city," Street spokesperson Ken Snyder said . Katz presented the 100-page document -- entitled "Reducing the Cost of Living and Doing Business in Philadelphia" -- at a press conference yesterday in the Park Hyatt hotel at Broad and Walnut streets. He cited a range of economic authorities within his plan, including the Pennsylvania Authority League, the Pew Charitable Trusts and Penn professors Robert Inman and Gary Ritter. The plan describes outcome-based budgeting, a process that rewards departments based on performance. And it calls for better accounting techniques, stricter inventory controls and increased labor-management cooperation. Katz has consistently bemoaned the city's population loss of recent years, placing the blame on high wage and business taxes. Katz compared his plan to outgoing Democratic Mayor Ed Rendell's five-year plan for the city, to which Street said he will adhere. The five-year plan will reduce residential taxes from 4.6 percent to 4.46 percent by 2004. "Staying the course simply won't work," said Katz, who said the city should pursue a more ambitious course of action. But despite his broad research and lengthy document, critics say the plan fails to address the issue at stake: How will Katz pay for the cuts? Former Rendell chief of Staff David L. Cohen called the plan a "collection of consultants' jargon." "I think it exposes the fact that Sam Katz has no experience managing a government," he said. Cohen added that Katz's tax cutting goals may negatively affect the city. "The Katz proposal is a reckless plan that literally threatens the financial stability of the city," he said. Street has warned that such a large cut in the wage tax will return Philadelphia to its dark fiscal days before Rendell took over in 1992. Rendell arrived to a city on the brink of collapse, with annual budget deficits of more than $250 million. Rendell has repeatedly refused to make deep cuts in the wage tax during his tenure and has endorsed Street, the former City Council president, partly because they share that same fiscally conservative philosophy.

Bike accident victim dies; new lanes planned

(10/14/99 9:00am)

Plans have been in place for some time to install bike lanes at Penn. . Bike lanes will debut across West Philadelphia over the next year as part of a joint city and state transportation project which will help cyclists from Penn and elsewhere to ride through campus more safely. The major campus thoroughfares -- Chestnut, Walnut and Spruce streets -- will all be resurfaced to allow for bike lanes or "bike-friendly" areas, City Design Engineer Charlie Denny said. The pro-biker efforts stem from a city initiative called the Philadelphia Bicycle Network. Started by the city's Department of Streets in 1994, the network aspires to create over 300 miles of interconnected bike lanes throughout the city. So far, Philadelphia has over 60 miles of bike lanes. Campus interest in bike safety has risen lately, after Benjamin Tencer, a 70-year-old man taking classes at Penn as part of a special program for senior citizens, died Monday after being hit by a car while crossing the busy 34th and Walnut streets intersection Friday on bicycle. University officials described Tencer's death as a "wake-up call" to the campus community about bike and pedestrian safety. But even before the accident, there were plans in place to make University City a safer area for cyclists. Both Chestnut and Walnut streets are state highways and will be resurfaced from the 3400 block to the 3800 block by the Pennsylvania Department of Transportation. The state has worked with the city to develop the designs, Denny said. The University is not directly involved in any of the plans, according to Denny. Although these streets will not have clearly marked bike lanes, the existing three traffic lanes will be changed to two lanes -- leaving a broad space along the side for parked cars and bikers. Denny said the PennDOT work would begin next spring. And the city plans to resurface Spruce Street from 34th Street to Cobbs Creek, putting in bike lanes along the entire stretch. The University of Pennsylvania Health System has worked with the city to ensure that the road work will still allow sufficient space for ambulances. As a result, the curb along Spruce beside the Hospital of the University of Pennsylvania will be pushed back three feet to accommodate the changes, Denny said. Work on Spruce Street should begin next August, according to Denny. In the future, roads in West Philadelphia will allow bikers to wind around the city more easily. "We're trying to encourage to more people to bike," Denny said. "Every time you take a car off the road, you reduce the congestion." Streets soon to be resurfaced -- and supplemented with bike lanes -- also include 43rd and 44th Streets. According to Denny, there will be "a fairly good network in the area of Penn." University City District Executive Director Paul Steinke said although the UCD welcomes the project, it has not been involved in the bike lane initiative. Steinke said the UCD looked at the plans last spring and was happy with them, adding that the project was very progressive. "There's a lot of cyclists who live in West Philadelphia and University City who ride their bikes to work and school. This adds a sense of legitimacy to the cycling community," he said.

Mayoral candidates face education issue

(10/13/99 9:00am)

One main area of contention is school vouchers, which Sam Katz favors but John Street opposes. One main area of contention is school vouchers, which Sam Katz favors but John Street opposes.First in an ongoing series of examining the critical issues of the 1999 Philadelphia mayoral campaign. Though they are battling over contrasting education platforms, Sam Katz and John Street both say they can revive the city's schools -- and help Philadelphia students learn their ABCs. With the city's public school system continuing to struggle because of insufficient funding and a lack of teachers, the next mayor will have to make education a top priority. While Democrat Street and Republican Katz have both stressed the importance of school reform heading into the next millennium, they have very different views on how to do it. Street's education platform is based on greater state funding, which he has pledged to secure. Katz, meanwhile, believes that the city school system is mismanaged and students would be well-served with a voucher program. The issue of school vouchers, a nationally debated program of giving government financial support to parents who choose to send their kids to private schools, is the main source of contention between the two. Katz supports the traditionally Republican issue, while Street calls them "radical." Critics, like Associate Graduate School of Education Dean Nancy Streim, say that school vouchers are dangerous and take away precious resources from already-underfunded public schools. "[Vouchers] drain resources from an already struggling public school system and pumps it into private schools," Streim said. But Katz disagrees. "There is no statistical evidence to support that vouchers will drain resources [or the] best kids," he said. Katz also backs a range of other alternative education options, including charter schools. Meanwhile, Street, who has been endorsed by the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, has focused on increased state funding as the primary need for the suffering public schools. Area suburban schools spend around $10,000 per student, compared to $6,000 per student inside the city, according to PFT statistics. Street also said the schools' operating deficit will soon result in a showdown with the state government. "The school district is going to have a financial crisis," he said. He believes that when the crisis strikes, the state will be forced to come through with additional school funding. "The schools need three-quarters of a billion dollars in investments," he added. Though in the past the city has failed to secure financial support from state government, Street said that within his first five months as mayor he will travel to the state capital in Harrisburg and request money from the state legislature. While Katz agrees that funding is needed, the former business executive also thinks schools could be more efficiently managed. He has said he won't retain Superintendent David Hornbeck and plans to create a new management team for schools. Street has avoided discussing Hornbeck directly, as he has with most other major political appointments, to avoid being nailed down to specific personnel decisions, insiders say. Although the mayor does not have direct control over city schools, he appoints school board members and City Council approves the school budget. A recent Keystone poll on the election showed that voters believe Street would be better at improving education and neighborhoods, while Katz would whip the city into better financial shape. But although Street may have a slight edge in the education issue, it appears that the voucher issue will not hurt Katz. Fifty-seven percent of the approximately 500 surveyed said they favored school vouchers, while 33 percent oppose them. The Philadelphia Federation of Teachers -- which represents 20,000 teachers, librarians and other school personnel -- said they backed Street because of his experience. "Street has a track record," PFT spokesperson Hal Moss said. "There have been times when City Council has provided additional funding for schools." Both candidates have stressed the need for school improvements, such as smaller classes, pre-kindergarten programs, after-school programs and more teacher training. "Teacher quality is at the heart of any education system," Penn Graduate School of Education Dean Susan Fuhrman said.

Striking Wawa workers get politicians' support

(10/12/99 9:00am)

Four local politicos spoke at a rally outside Irvine Auditorium in support of the 9-day-old strike. "Philly is a union town. Wawa dairy's going down." Nine days into a contentious labor dispute, about 75 striking workers and supporters held a rally yesterday outside Irvine Auditorium at 34th and Spruce streets. Chanting loudly and brandishing signs urging people to avoid Wawa, the Teamsters were supported by three Philadelphia City Council members and U.S. Rep. Bob Brady. Council members David Cohen, Frank Rizzo and Rick Mariano told about 75 cheering Teamsters that Council stands behind them and will support the 9-day-old strike by Wawa's unionized truck drivers and warehouse workers. The main point of contention between management and the union is the issue of overtime pay. "Philadelphia is the strongest labor town in this country," shouted Cohen, adding, "Wawa isn't even listening. They're not coming around." Speakers blasted Wawa's use of temporary replacement drivers. "I think it's illegal to bring in scabs. Even if it isn't illegal, it's certainly immoral," Cohen said. And the protesters slammed court injunctions that restrict the picket lines to a maximum of two people standing no fewer than 10 feet away from each store. Council members plan to introduce a resolution at Thursday's meeting urging Wawa to resume negotiations. In a press release, Wawa management said it has not discussed the resolution with City Council. Wawa officials said that management is willing to negotiate at all hours but that no talks are currently scheduled. The company has also requested that the Teamsters return to work while contract negotiations continue. But warehouse worker Jim Rivello said the union members will not return to work without a contract. "You would have no rights then? under corporate control," he said. The key contract issue at stake is Sunday overtime pay. The Teamsters want time and a half for all Sunday hours while the company offered time and a half for employees working only certain hours on Sunday. Strikers have clashed with the police several times over the past week and Teamsters say the police are "working for Wawa." The crowd erupted into raucous applause when union spokesperson Bob Ryder took the microphone. "We're gonna get a fair contract," he shouted. "We don't want anyone to shop at Wawa." Brady, a famously pro-union Democrat, was wearing a Teamsters jacket over his suit and said he wanted to show his support for the striking workers. "It's a lousy, stupid issue," he said. "It's ridiculous, utterly ridiculous." According to the Teamsters, many customers have respected the picket lines and sales have dropped. Wawa spokesperson Lori Bruce said she did not have specific information on how business is being affected but she did note that the stores have continued to receive daily deliveries. But Steven Grant, manager of the Wawa at 36th and Chestnut streets, said he has definitely seen a drop in sales. "My business sucks," he said. "Usually right now you couldn't walk in the store," he said yesterday afternoon, at which point only about 15 people milled about the store. Grant explained that he has had to cut back employee hours due to slow business. And he has been working with other managers to organize deliveries throughout the region. Jim Clark, a Wawa warehouse worker picketing in front of the Chestnut Street location, said the company wants to destroy the union. "It would be a long time before anyone cracks," he said. But Clark -- who has a 4-year-old son and a pregnant wife -- said he is concerned about the strike dragging on. "My wife's been a little stressed and I keep telling her it will work out," he said.

Poll shows Katz tied with Street

(10/08/99 9:00am)

With Election Day less than a month away, the two major candidates are in a dead heat. They're hurtling towards the finish line in a dead heat. According to the latest Keystone poll released this week, Republican Sam Katz has 39 percent of the vote and Democrat John Street 38 percent. The difference is statistically insignificant. With barely three weeks left until the election the candidates are now furiously campaigning for the remaining swing votes -- according to the poll, a hefty 23 percent is undecided. But as the numbers look now, Election Day could have a photo finish. The poll, sponsored by The Philadelphia Daily News and WTXF-TV, surveyed a broad demographic of voters and indicates that many Philadelphians will cast their vote along racial -- not party -- lines. According to the poll, Katz has the support of approximately 67 percent of white voters, while Street has a corresponding 66 percent of the black vote. Philadelphia is a staunchly Democratic city, with registered Democrats outnumbering Republicans by a 4-1 margin. Penn Political Science Professor Jack Nagel said he was not surprised by the close results of the poll. "There's a substantial part of the normal Democratic voters that would have real trouble voting for a black man," he said. Street has long been the frontrunner, so the latest poll results surely come as a blow to his campaign. But Street spokesperson Ken Snyder said that their campaign is in good shape. "This is exactly the race we anticipated," he said. "We knew things would be close." Street originally expected backing from all the Democratic primary candidates. Instead, Katz's campaign has been boosted by recent endorsements from Democrats John White and Happy Fernandez. This support is key for Katz's campaign, since the endorsements may make Democrats who are unhappy with Street as their standard-bearer feel better about crossing party lines. The poll revealed that the endorsements are indeed having an effect on Democratic supporters of White and Fernandez -- 37 percent of White's backers plan to vote for Katz compared to 24 percent for Street, while a whopping 69 percent of Fernandez voters intend to vote for the GOP candidate. But those numbers may be misleading, since White drew only 22 percent of the vote in the Democratic primary, while Fernandez garnered just 6 percent. And even supporters of Marty Weinberg -- who finished second to Street in the primary and is now endorsing him -- do not like Street. A stunning 83 percent of them are now backing Katz. Still, Snyder said that Street is not worried, insisting the poll will fuel the intensity of the campaign for the next few weeks. "We are going to keep the heat on Sam Katz and aggressively point out the difference [between the candidates]," he said. Street has just begun airing a new series of ads questioning Katz's plans to cut the wage tax from 4.6 to 4 percent. Meanwhile, Katz spokesperson Bob Barnett said the Street campaign knows it will be a tough race. "They're very desperate," Barnett said. The Keystone poll also addressed voters' opinions on key campaign issues including economic reform, education and public safety. Fifty-seven percent favor school vouchers and 33 percent are against them. Katz is a vocal supporter of vouchers, while Street opposes them on the grounds that they would drain money and resources from public schools. A plurality of those polled, 37 percent, said crime and drugs are the city's biggest areas of concern, while 27 percent said education was the biggest issue. Others cited taxes, unemployment and population loss. The Keystone telephone poll was taken of 361 registered Democrats, 101 registered Republicans and 58 independents. It has a 4 percent margin of error.

Penn faces end of the Rendell era

(10/07/99 9:00am)

Without Ed Rendell in office, the University's relationship with the city may change after November. Though they may profess total neutrality in this year's pivotal Philadelphia mayoral race, Penn officials are watching the campaign with interest to see who will succeed a mayor who sent his son to Penn, cheered at the sidelines for nearly every Quaker basketball game and made frequent visits to campus during his eight years in office. Penn officials have enjoyed a close relationship with Rendell -- an alumnus and ardent University supporter -- but administrators say they are confident that the relationship will endure with either Democrat John Street or Republican Sam Katz. But no matter who the winner, one thing is certain: For the first time in 16 years, a Penn alumnus will not occupy City Hall. Rendell, who graduated from the College in 1965, was preceded by Wilson Goode, also a Penn alumnus, who served from 1984 until 1992. "We had a wonderful relationship with the Rendell administration," University President Judith Rodin said. But she added that "Penn has an important relationship with the city." The new mayor certainly won't be able to dismiss the University -- it is the largest private employer in the city and its wishes are usually acceded to by the city government. And both Katz and Street have said they plan to work closely with the University. "I know a lot of kids at Penn," said Katz, who is wooing voters from across the political spectrum with his moderate conservative platform. He added that he is "very committed" to the University. And former City Council President John Street -- who is endorsed by Rendell -- said that working with universities is "imperative" and "they represent a tremendous asset." The University and the city have a vested interest on various issues which affect both the campus and the surrounding community -- such as public safety, neighborhood improvement and retail development. "The relationship between Penn and the city is very substantive," Vice President for Government, Community and Public Affairs Carol Scheman said. Scheman noted that the University must work well with the city because what's good for it is usually good for the campus. Rendell's economic revival has boosted Philadelphia's appeal and aided the University, which lured a huge range of new retail and restaurant venues -- including those in the Sansom Common complex and the upcoming Sundance Cinemas. "It's easier to attract businesses because of Ed Rendell," Scheman said. The mayor's office is also vital to the University because Penn needs city approval for many of its projects. As Scheman pointed out, "If we want to repair a sidewalk, close a street, build a building? everything goes through city agencies." Penn has had to work closely with city government on such issues as street vending -- which the University lobbied City Council to severely restrict on Penn's campus last year -- and is frequently involved in real estate deals with the city, including the purchase of much of the Philadelphia Civic Center. Though Penn may not want to take a stand, West Philadelphia City Council member Jannie Blackwell said she expects that West Philadelphia would thrive under Street's administration. "I think we know how to work together," she said. She added that if she worked with a good mayor and a good University president, "you have a win-win situation." But one Penn professor following the race said Katz may be more beneficial for Penn. "My guess would be that Sam Katz would be more sympathetic," said the professor, who requested anonymity. "He's part of the high-brow culture."

Rendell speaks in Hill House

(10/06/99 9:00am)

In a dinner and talk, the mayor confirmed he will still teach at Penn. Philadelphia Mayor Ed Rendell, the recently named head of the Democratic National Committee, said yesterday that he will definitely be teaching three classes at Penn next semester despite the demands of his new job. During a visit to Hill College House last night, the popular outgoing mayor said he plans to teach courses in the Urban Studies and Political Science departments, as well as a class in the Annenberg Public Policy Center. He said that because of his schedule -- which will require traveling around the country to raise money for Democratic candidates in the 2000 elections -- he will teach all three on the same day. Rendell, a 1965 College graduate, spoke about politics and the state of the city in front of the group of approximately 100 students. Key themes of Rendell's hour-long talk were revitalizing the city and keeping college students in the area. "We are the biggest college town in America," Rendell said. "I don't think we did a good enough job to reach out [to students]." The evening was co-sponsored by Hill and Stouffer college houses as part of a program to introduce freshmen to Philadelphia. Hill Faculty Master James O'Donnell said he was thrilled Rendell was able to visit. "He's one of the most interesting people going," he said. Before the talk, Rendell had a private dinner with 20 students. The students who attended the dinner earned the privilege by writing essays on about what they wanted to talk with the mayor. Laughter rippled through the room as Rendell joked with the audience. "If you don't ask questions, I have seven or eight stock speeches I can do," he quipped. Students quickly loosened up and asked Rendell about a issues ranging from national health care to the upcoming presidential race. Because of his new role as DNC chairperson, Rendell refused to comment on whether he favored former New Jersey Senator Bill Bradley or Vice President Al Gore for president. He is a longtime friend and supporter of Gore -- and had endorsed him before being named to the DNC --Ebut has said recently that he will remain neutral. "Both have a great deal to offer," he said. He did praise the Clinton-Gore administration, though, adding that "Al Gore was the most involved vice president in my lifetime." No one asked Rendell about the Philadelphia mayoral race, now hurtling through its final four weeks. While Rendell has publically endorsed Democrat John Street, he told the crowd that "John Street and [Republican] Sam Katz are both extremely bright fiscal conservatives," a trait he shares. Striving to plug the virtues of Philadelphia, Rendell also advertised this weekend's CollegeFest -- a music and culture festival at the Mann Music Center. The festival is sponsored by the Philadelphia College Students Retention Committee, a group trying to make the city more attractive to students. When the talk ended, O'Donnell presented Rendell with a momento of his visit -- a framed copy of his senior class prophecy and a student government photo from his days as a student leader at Penn. Students responded positively to the speech, applauding Rendell loudly as he left the room.

Teamsters strike outside Wawa

(10/05/99 9:00am)

Wearing sandwich boards with the word "strike" in glaring red letters, unionized truck drivers and warehouse workers for Wawa picketed yesterday across the city, including by the store's two on-campus locations. The Teamsters union that represents Wawa's 268 drivers and warehouse workers began striking late Sunday night after contract negotiations with Wawa management broke down over the issue of overtime pay for work on Sundays. Union officials said that 95 percent of employees rejected the final contract offer on Sunday, two days after the previous contract expired. Picket lines were set up at several stores on Sunday night and expanded to more locations yesterday, Teamsters spokesperson Bob Ryder said. But Wawa quickly obtained an injunction against the union, which bars it from having more than two picketers per store and enjoins those on strikes from coming within 10 feet of the door. As of last night, no additional negotiations were scheduled. Wawa officials said they have stocked the stores in preparation for the strike and plan to remain open. Store employees will continue to work because they are not unionized. "They can be out there for a month or more, we don't care," said Rita Fries, manager of the store at 38th and Spruce streets, adding that the managers are taking care of deliveries in the drivers' place. Several Teamsters were out in front of the Wawa locations at 3604 Chestnut Street and at 3744 Spruce Street yesterday. Bearing signs saying "On Strike," the picketers handed out flyers to passersby and yelled at customers who entered. Teamster Dan Simpson, who was out in front of the Chestnut Street store in the afternoon, said he would strike "for as long as it takes." Picketers yelled derisive remarks about the quality of the food Wawa carries, saying such things as, "There are bugs in the potato salad" and, "The rolls are stale." "It's bulldust," Fries countered. "They're the ones who brought it in before the strike." Wawa's final contract proposal included offering time and a half for work on Sundays between 6 a.m. and 6 p.m. The union wants time and half for all Sunday hours. Wawa officials maintained that they offered a reasonable deal to the Teamsters. "Wawa is disappointed that [the] union has chosen to strike and have made many concessions in an effort to reach an agreement," the company said in a prepared statement. This marks the first Teamsters strike at Wawa in 97 years. The Teamsters shouting outside the stores did not deter customers from entering. Each location on Penn's campus had a steady flow of customers throughout the day. "I guess young kids don't care anymore," said Simpson, who said he was surprised how many students crossed the picket line. Several students said they regretted crossing the strike but had no where else to shop. "I just walked in. I need drinks," said one student who asked to remain anonymous. The truck drivers deliver to 550 Wawa convenience stores in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Maryland, Delaware and Virginia.

Street, Katz face off in televised debate

(10/04/99 9:00am)

The candidates debated the major issues facing the city, including taxes and schools. Discussing issues, policies and personalities, the two major-party candidates for mayor of Philadelphia sharpened their claws on each other this weekend during their first official televised debate and a subsequent forum on Penn's campus. Tension hung heavy in the the air at both events, as Democrat John Street and Republican Sam Katz pressed each other over key campaign issues like wage tax, public safety and education. The televised debate was taped Saturday morning at WPVI, the local ABC affiliate, and broadcast yesterday at 5 p.m. A second issues forum took place at the Annenberg Center's Zellerbach Theatre on Saturday afternoon. The events highlighted some of the clear ideological differences between the candidates. The city economy and wage taxes was indisputedly the biggest issue dividing the candidates at both events. And several surprises were in store as the candidates pressured each other into announcing positions on issues they had previously skirted. Katz, who has broadly declared that reducing the wage tax is the only way to combat Philadelphia's population loss, said he would cut the wage tax to 4 percent or less. Street repeatedly insisted that this was a "radical" move that could cripple the city's finances. Outgoing Mayor Ed Rendell has spoken frequently about the need to avoid lowering the wage tax too much. Meanwhile, Street acknowledged that he would retain John Timoney as police commissioner -- a step Katz favors, but that Street had until now avoided discussing throughout the campaign. Katz stressed the city's decline in both population and number of businesses, adding that Philadelphia is not customer friendly. A wage tax reduction, he said, would attract people back to the city. "We have to make the community competitive," Katz added. According to the GOP candidate, the city budget needs to be re-evaluated, repeating his campaign mantra of running the city like a major corporation. Street, a former City Council president, prickled under Katz's statements about inefficiency within city government. He then tried to color Katz's goals as irresponsible and impractical for the city. According to Street, it would cost the city about $500 million over a four-year mayoral term to reduce wage tax from the current 4.61 percent to Katz's goal of 4 percent. He endorsed the "modest tax cuts" of Rendell's five-year plan that would reduce the taxes to 4.46 percent over five years. And he questioned how Katz would carry out his promise. "Tell us what you're going to cut," Street demanded. "Are we still going to have a police department?" Street repeated the question several times over the course of the debate but Katz steadfastly avoided answering it. Katz later said, "We have every intention of making a detailed proposal [and] make it public in the course of the campaign." Another key issue over which Street and Katz battled was public safety and security. But while both candidates said they were committed to promoting safety in neighborhoods and productivity in the police force, the discussion centered on who planned to retain Timoney. Katz announced early on in the campaign that he would keep Timoney, the former deputy police chief in New York City who came to Philadelphia in January 1998. Street has avoided the question, because, insiders say, he doesn't want to discuss appointments during the campaign. Street has frequently stressed that he was key in bringing Timoney to Philadelphia from New York, but has avoided committing himself to retaining Timoney. But as Katz continued to goad him on the issue, Street finally came out and snapped: "I'll reappoint John Timoney. Does that make you happy?" Beyond taxes and Timoney, education garnered the most discussion on Saturday, with both candidates saying they would focus on improving the failing Philadelphia school system. Katz said the schools need a new management system, adding that he would not retain Superintendent David Hornbeck. He also said that he would support school vouchers and charter schools -- a move Street said could hurt public educations. "There is no statistical evidence to show that vouchers will drain resources and best kids," said Katz -- who, as Street noted, sent his own children to private schools instead of public. Funding, according to Street, is the key issue at stake for city schools. He pledged to get additional funding from the state and said he would reduce class sizes. But Street did not comment on the superintendent. "Hornbeck is not the issue," he said. Both candidates said they looked forward to following the popular Rendell, who was recently named head of the Democratic National Committee. "I look forward to being a cheerleader of the city," Street said. Katz echoed the sentiment. "I have a very bubbly personality," he noted. Fringe candidate John McDermott, running on the right-wing Constitutional Party ticket, was not invited to either debate.