Philadelphia mayoral candidates were pressed Saturday to take positions on progressive policies such as increasing the minimum wage to $15 an hour, publicly funding campaigns, and ending "stop and frisk."
At a Center City forum hosted by Pennsylvania Working Families, a political group made up mostly of union and liberal activists, four of the six declared mayoral candidates gave some indication of how far left they would go as mayor.
Former Councilman James F. Kenney, former Common Pleas Court Judge Nelson Diaz, and State Sen. Anthony H. Williams said they supported a $15 minimum wage. Former city spokesman Doug Oliver didn't immediately agree to doubling the current state standard of $7.25.
"Do I support the increase in minimum wage? I do . . . I don't know if $15 is the right number, but I know $7 and change is not," Oliver said.
Candidates Lynne M. Abraham and Keith Goodman did not attend.
Discussing education, Diaz tried to claim the crowd, which was full of members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers, by saying he wanted to get rid of the School Reform Commission. His statement about returning schools to local control received applause.
"The 1 percenters can send their kids anywhere they want. But my community, 83 percent, which is in the school system, have no options. This is it," he said.
Oliver said he would like to see a larger local influence on the five-person board by having three mayoral appointees to the SRC instead of the current two.
Though Kenney and Williams did not address the SRC question on stage, Kenney wrote in the Working Families questionnaire that "if the SRC does vote to disband itself, I would welcome the new school board." The Williams campaign did not provide a copy of his questionnaire to The Inquirer.
Specific ideas on ensuring affordable housing varied, but all of the candidates agreed more funding was needed.
Diaz wants to require all new development to include 20 percent affordable units. Williams wants rent-stabilization laws in Philadelphia like those in New York City. Kenney wants community development corporations to get more support from city government. Oliver wants to preserve the affordability of homes for current homeowners in gentrifying areas.
After a spirited introduction to the matter of ending the Police Department's stop-and-frisk policy, Oliver recalled being stopped and searched at a playground when he was 8.
"My mom was livid because it was wrong then and it's still wrong now," Oliver said. He and the other three candidates said they would end the controversial policy.
Kenney, who seemed to be the crowd favorite, drew applause for turning a corporate-influence question into a school-funding answer.
"Publicly financed elections, I philosophically agree with, but I am not going to put money in public campaigns until we have our schools paid for," he said.
Before the forum, Working Families held a similar gathering for City Council candidates. The group is expected to make its endorsements after a March 17 meeting.