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Where is 'Citizen Sam' Katz on charter schools?

Sam Katz is increasingly looking like a candidate for mayor...but will he run as a liberal?

Is Sam Katz, the earnest 1970s Democrat turned Republican businessman turned documentary filmmaker and political independent, running for mayor again?

Signs point to 'yes'...with an 'IF' in 72-point type. Katz came within a percentage point (and maybe a torrential rainstorm on Election Day) from doing the unthinkable in 1999, winning the mayor's race as a Republican. How'd he do it? By positioning himself mostly to the left of the Democratic nominee (and eventual winner) John Street. That would be the strategy again...IF the current Dem frontrunner, state Sen. Tony Williams, emerges in May. If Williams loses to the more progressive Jim Kenney, the newly independent Katz probably sits it out.

That's an informed guess.

Today, "Citizen Sam" Katz launched a website and released a plan to raise money for Philadelphia schools. As PhillyMag's Patrick Kerkstra so rightly points out, it's more detailed than anything that the six or seven actual declared mayor candidates have put out there. Some of the plan feels like fiscal wizardry that may or may not work -- who knows? -- but one piece is telling.

Katz proposes raising some $45-50 million for schools from PILOTs (that's "payments in lieu of taxes") that would be assessed on the city's increasingly influential non-profit universities and hospitals ("eds and meds"). That's a popular stance with liberals. It puts Katz on the same side as the folks sitting in at Amy Gutmann's house. That strikes me as a "tell" that the 2015 Katz model runs on the left side of the road.


Much of the liberal opposition to the Williams candidacy -- from unionized teachers and other progressive groups -- stems from the state senator's close association with the charter-school lobby. So it seems like to be the un-Williams, you'd have to be less supportive of charters. Where does Katz stand on this today?

I don't know.

Here's what Katz told an Inquirer citizen Q-and-A when he ran in 1999 as a Republican:

I support trying everything we can to help every student we can help. I support vouchers and charter schools because they will help some students get a better education. I also support reforms to improve education in the public school system as a whole.

Tonight, I put the link out on Twitter and not surprisingly Katz quickly tweeted back to say: "Funding schools. Not a novel enough idea?" I replied to ask for a more specific stance on charters and vouchers. If he gets back, I'll let you know.

It's an answer that could help determine Philadelphia's next mayor.