Mayor Kenney sat for a Q&A with longtime news anchor and journalist Larry Kane at an event for the Center City Residents Association Wednesday night. About 300 people packed the Plays and Players theater to hear Kenney discuss his first year. Here are some highlights.
Doubling down on sanctuary city status
Kenney again pledged to keep Philly a sanctuary city saying he believes the city can defend itself legally. He believes any money President Trump threatens to withhold would likely be related to police and fire, which would have to be voted on by Congress.
"If someone gets stopped for traffic violations or a street altercation or any retail theft, something dumb, I'm not going to hold the person for 72 hours, at our cost, in violation of the Constitution because they asked, because they tell us to," Kenney said.
He said the city's crime rate has continued to drop over the three years Philadelphia has been a sanctuary city. "It doesn't translate into an increased explosion of chaos and crime," he said.
He also said he had a personal stake in the issue, netting some of his biggest applause of the night from the Center City crowd.
"I'm not going to denigrate the memory of my great-great-grandfather who fought at Gettysburg as an Irish American to do that to somebody. If they lock me up they lock me up."
No new taxes
Kenney says there will be no new taxes in this year's budget and "probably not" in next year's either.
"We're continuing to reduce taxes," he said. He took a shot at merchants who started upping prices before the Philadelphia beverage tax went into effect and said he thinks people who are now leaving the city to buy sweetened beverages will eventually come back to the city.
He likes being mayor, really he does
"I'm happy. I'm not happy all the time. I mean if you're happy all the time there's something wrong with you. If you're in a job like this and you're happy all the time, yeesh."
He conceded he's not one to put on a fake smile. "I'm passionate and I have a hard time holding back my feelings. ...I have a hard time being phony."
Kenney said it's been tough getting used to his police detail — he snuck away from them to explore the Christmas Village last month. He hasn't driven a car in over a year but he still grocery shops at BJ's.
The Rittenhouse wall-sitting ban was doomed to fail
"My kids are 27 and 23. I know when you tell them not to do something they're pretty much going to do it. I sensed a confrontation coming that wasn't necessary," he said.
He stressed that smoking of any kind is banned in all city parks but repeated his advice for those who try anyway. "Do what I used to do when I was a kid and be a little discreet, don't do it in people's face."
He's happy with the job the local press corps is doing
"I think they're hard working. I think they want to get to the facts. They do a job that's necessary. It's not fake news."
He said he worries more broadly about the tension between the national press and the Trump administration.
"The media is under severe attack and they're either going to adjust with him and try to make him happy or they're going to continue to fight with him. I mean when Twitter accounts and other things are shut down in the federal government, the Park Service shuts it down because someone made a critical comment, we can't go in that direction."
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