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Citizen voices: Weighing in on the process ...

Patricia Berrian Marrujo East Oak Lane As an attendee at numerous forums throughout the city of Philadelphia, I'm excited about the response from the candidates for mayor. Yet I'm disappointed at the bickering they engage in to avoid real answers to the problems that have cast a dark shadow over this city: murder out of control, failing public school system, skyrocketing real estate taxes, joblessness and homelessness, quality-of-life issues for the disabled and senior citizens, lack of programs to excite and engage our youth, green projects, and distribution of casino funds throughout the neighborhoods of Philadelphia.

Patricia Berrian Marrujo

East Oak Lane

As an attendee at numerous forums throughout the city of Philadelphia, I'm excited about the response from the candidates for mayor. Yet I'm disappointed at the bickering they engage in to avoid real answers to the problems that have cast a dark shadow over this city: murder out of control, failing public school system, skyrocketing real estate taxes, joblessness and homelessness, quality-of-life issues for the disabled and senior citizens, lack of programs to excite and engage our youth, green projects, and distribution of casino funds throughout the neighborhoods of Philadelphia.

If they want to be mayor, don't they have a written plan? Be specific! Who's going to fix it, and how much will it cost? Who's going to pay and what's the timeline? What are your priorities, and if you fail to produce, when do we get to kick you out of your job? No more slick answers. We need and deserve the facts, gentlemen, now!

Ruth K. Horwitz


I have been pleased to be a part of this community-based series of forums. Great Expectations has allowed us to meet and discuss our concerns about our great city. I hope this effort will not stop. It should link up with existing community organizations. In my area, this might be the Greater Bustleton Civic League and Somerton Civic League, and the Greater Northeast Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce.

I am trying to convince all I see that they must read up on the issues and the candidates (especially for judges), and VOTE.

Aaron Couch


Great Expectations and projects like the Next Mayor, as well as the numerous community forums and online resources, such as Young Philly Politics and Phillyblog, have helped create a tremendous culture of civic engagement.

I'm encouraged by the debate, but am concerned that not enough Philadelphians are taking part. I've read that up to 40 percent of registered voters will not participate Tuesday. We need to find ways to engage more Philadelphians in the political process if we want to address the growing inequality in the city and have a government that represents everyone's interests.

Linda Wright Moore

Director of Communications

Philadelphia Citizens

for Children and Youth

As this mayoral election cycle began, I had high hopes and real fears. Both have been realized.

As I'd hoped, the presence of several highly qualified candidates has inspired people to pay attention and seek information to distinguish strengths and weaknesses. The scores of forums reflect the hunger to learn more about the mayoral candidates. Defying conventional wisdom, the candidate who was once dead last has been edging toward first place in opinion polls. That signifies an engaged electorate closely following the campaign - not waiting to be told what to think or how to vote.

But a nagging fear persists: that Philadelphians may revert to politics as usual.

I hope that on Tuesday, Philadelphians prove me wrong and trust themselves - ignoring TV ad blitzes and election-day manipulation - to elect a mayor with the vision and experience to lead the city and region to greatness.

Edward J. Dodson

Cherry Hill

Every candidate for political office promises to take actions that will reduce crime, improve the quality of public education, reduce taxes, end corruption, improve the business climate, and create jobs. Some are more sincere than others. Few come with the understanding of the fundamental causes of the problems they seek to solve. What we get, administration after administration, are policies and programs that, at best, mitigate some symptoms while exacerbating others.

Political science came up with the term "disjointed incrementalism" to describe the process by which policies are adopted and implemented in the United States.

Lost on the candidates is the fact that former City Controller Jonathan Saidel produced an extraordinary, objective blueprint for change a few years ago. The candidates for mayor should be strongly encouraged to review this remarkable document, which provides many of the answers the next mayor will need to solve the city's problems.

Jim Foster

Mount Airy

As a registered Independent, I will have to reserve my mayoral vote until the general election in November, but given the one-party system we have in Philadelphia, the winner of the Democratic primary will almost assuredly become the next mayor.

It is that one-party system I would like to comment on.

For quite a few years now, the Republican Party in this city has abrogated its responsibility to provide effective opposition. The GOP is now essentially a part of the pervasively corrupt system of city government and is perfectly satisfied with the crumbs left on the table by the Democratic machine. I contend this arrangement exists not by accident but by mutual agreement.

When a situation becomes this unbalanced, the job of providing objective opposition becomes that of the media, and the mainstream media in particular. The Inquirer has provided effective forums for discussion. I participated in the forums in Germantown and Chestnut Hill. The Germantown one was particularly effective, in my view.

However, the news stories and endorsements still leave something to be desired. The "favorite sons and daughters" are chosen with specific aspects of their careers and history omitted by intention. Endorsements must include the candidate's shortcomings and weakness if the paper is to provide an effective opposition voice. Let the readers decide how much weight those aspects hold when they get to the voting booth.

Judy Mathe Foley

Spring Garden

The mayoral campaign has been glorious in its variety of candidates and - with the notable exception of one candidate's calling up the tired old Mumia name - its lack of racial rancor. With multiple choices, Philadelphia has moved into the enviable position of having several people who can fill the job.

I hope the winner understands the importance of being more public, more enthusiastic, and more cooperative than his predecessor. As the response to Barack Obama's campaign attests, we the people desperately need a cheerleader. We need a mayor who can raise our sights, corral our collective resources, and help us move forward creatively - together.

Patrick O'Bannon

Northern Liberties

Months ago, an acquaintance and longtime observer of the Philadelphia political scene quipped: "The black vote will split and Brady will get elected." In fact, it may be the white vote that splits. Moreover, polls suggest significant black support for Tom Knox and significant white support for Michael Nutter. Other contests appear to be free of racial over- and undertones. Yes, some individuals will cast their vote along racial lines. Nevertheless, neither the candidates nor the electorate have made race "the issue" in this campaign. My belief in both the process and the people has been refreshed.

Joe Eastman


After participating in many of the Great Expectations events throughout Philadelphia, I have decided who will emerge as the winner in November. It will be the citizens of this great city. The notion that Philadelphians are numb to "politics as usual" and don't have the heart to do all the things necessary to bring control of the government back to the people has been put to rest, hopefully forever. We are engaged, we are paying attention, and we are going to the polls in what I believe will be record numbers. We have been given the opportunity to let our voice be heard and that alone will ensure Philadelphia truly does become the Next Great City.

Louis M. Iatarola

Vice President

Tacony Civic Association

I feared no candidate would stimulate the populace into electing one who can enact the type of reform necessary to make Philadelphia great. If the polls are any indication, the number of undecided voters justifies that fear. The polls also demonstrate that Philadelphians collectively desire drastic change.

There is widespread distaste for "politics as usual" and the stale way of conducting business in City Hall. This election marks a critical crossroad in the evolution of our unique city of neighborhoods. The next mayor must take a path that is inclusive of diverse neighborhood interests and must make decisions dictated by common sense, not political or corporate interests.

David Feldman

Lower Merion

The mayoral campaign has come closer to living up to my hopes than fulfilling my fears, but it has shown risk of backsliding as the final days near. Two signs of a return to nasty attacks have been Chaka Fattah's attacks on Michael Nutter in debates and in the media, and Tom Knox's taking strong and well-financed offense at his actual record being exposed.

Where the discussion of issues and solutions fell short of my hopes is in the lack of strong proposals to address our city's and region's problems, and little discussion of how to bring more regional cooperation to solving issues that do not stop on either side of the city line. Two candidates, Michael Nutter and Dwight Evans, have at least demonstrated their ability to work well across the city boundaries, in their work on Special Service Districts along City Avenue and Cheltenham Avenue, respectively.

A partnership of Rep. Evans, Chair of the House Appropriations Committee, and Mayor Nutter, along with a governor friendly to Philadelphia and Southeast Pennsylvania, gives me hope that we can really move the city and region forward to address jobs and education, which will reduce crime and violence, and be able to address planning, parks and recreation to make Philadelphia once again a shining jewel, and a wonderful place for all its citizens to live.

Participating in a Great Expectations forum, and following the Web postings, citizen commentaries and editorials, has encouraged me to believe that there are many thoughtful, intelligent and committed citizens in the city and region who are dedicated to improving the quality of life in Philadelphia, and who are now demanding more of our elected officials than the cronyism of the status quo we have quietly endured for far too many years. And this, most of all, gives me hope not only that we will see a new, progressive, reform-minded mayor and members of Council, like Andy Toy, but also that citizens will continue to demand honesty, integrity and a dedication to hard work to address current problems, and to think creatively to continue to improve all aspects of life in Philadelphia.

Nancy Burd

Vice President

grantmaking services

The Philadelphia Foundation

The current mayoral campaign is, quite properly, centered on ending corruption and overcoming our serious social dysfunctions, vital issues to those of us who vote and live here. While this must be a priority, it is not the stuff of Great Expectations.

Great cities are not merely hundreds of thousands of strangers moving through the streets, even if those streets are safe and clean and the government is free of corruption.

Great cities have a collective soul that is revitalized and reshaped by the young. For us to realize our expectations, the new mayor must concentrate not only on those who will stay, but those who may leave.

In this region, we educate tens of thousands of bright young people who will determine this collective soul wherever they settle through their work, vitality, ideas and commitment to public service. Unfortunately, many of them will do so in some other place.

In a nonprofit community that accounts for 25 percent of the workforce, we feel those departures in a very meaningful way. We cannot afford to continue losing them. The new mayor must change that dynamic if Philadelphia's future is to be secured.

Meryl Levitz

President and CEO

Greater Philadelphia

Tourism and Marketing Council

The forums still leave this question in the air: Who would be the best leader?

Who would pick the best team and get every point out of each of his players? Who would facilitate productive partnerships with City Council, Harrisburg and Washington?

Who would inspire the private sector to continue to invest in this city? Who would share information, welcome ideas, make timely decisions, and carry them through? Who would thrive under pressure? Who has the sense, sensitivity, and sense of humor to serve the people and see beyond his own term in office? Who would be a better mayor 1,000 days into the job than he was on day one? Who would be the best face of this city to the many who are now looking at it?