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Grid Endorses Nelson Diaz for Mayor



Nelson Diaz photo by Gene Smirnov

Two months ago, no mayoral candidate was the presumptive choice for voters whose main concern is a sustainable Philadelphia. As we went through the process of asking candidates questions directly, looking at public records, examining other local reporting, and consulting with sustainability leaders in the field, one candidate stood apart from the field. Grid is pleased to announce our endorsement of Judge Nelson Diaz for Mayor.

Each of the candidates had positives. Doug Oliver proved a charismatic candidate, and we wouldn’t be surprised if he is one day the mayor of Philadelphia. We hope as his executive experience deepens and his views evolve, he’ll rely less heavily on his natural gas-centric view of sustainability and think about the long game for the city.

Lynne Abraham is a sharp-minded, dedicated public servant, and by all accounts a fierce prosecutor. Her policy recommendations when it comes to the environment are mostly sound, but she lacks a comprehensive vision for how a commitment to sustainability could make or break our future, and she has not challenged the prevailing wisdom that bringing a petrochemical hub to the city should be a central part of our economic development strategy.

Anthony Williams is a seasoned politician, and is most compelling when he’s speaking about the nuances of social justice as they relate to the sustainability community, but his relationship with the natural gas industry is troubling. He was one of a handful of Democratic State Senators to vote for Act 13, a bill—now law—that stripped communities of their right to protect themselves from fracking, instituted a gag order against doctors, and repealed existing environmental protections. Fortunately, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court intervened, and some of the worst pieces of the law were overturned. 

Jim Kenney has proven himself a friend to progressives and has been a strong leader on the environment and LGBTQ rights, among other issues, he knows well the dynamic between City Council and the Mayor, and he won the official support of some in the environmental community. Though he was first to add the environment to his campaign platform, it was disturbing to hear a staffer say that clean air didn’t do people much good if they couln’t afford to live here. It was an undisciplined gaffe that would have faded away had Kenney not appointed Phil Rinaldi, CEO of Philadelphia Energy Solutions, responsible for 72 percent of the air pollution in Philadelphia, to his economic development team.

Nelson Diaz, a candidate we knew little about at the beginning of this race, has surprised and heartened us. We were initially intrigued that he was the only candidate who seemed to want to voluntarily put the brakes on the discussion of making Philadelphia a petrochemical hub. The more we learned about his experience and vision, the more we came to believe in his ability to lead Philadelphia into the next phase of becoming a world-class city.  His experience growing up poor (and sick from poor air quality) in New York City, his time as a public housing administrator in Washington, D.C., his experience as a judge, and in private practice at a law firm have given him a regional and national perspective on urban sustainability that would serve Philadelphia well. He was the only candidate to tackle Grid’s questions on climate change, resilience and adaptation, and he lays out a compelling vision for the City in “Principles for a Greener Philadelphia,” his new environmental policy platform. It’s aspirational, articulate and uncompromising.  Nelson Diaz should be the next Mayor of Philadelphia.


  1. Unlike the Kenney staffer that put his foot in his mouth stating "clean air didn’t do people much good if they couldn’t afford to live here," and having just recovered from lung surgery myself, I would rephrase his statement to say that clean air is the only way we can afford to live here. Thank you Judge Diaz for supporting that view.

  2. As usual I am troubled about the upcoming election. I initially felt drawn to Diaz as a candidate. Watching the shifting electoral landscape I now think he cannot win and can only take votes away from the next best choice, Kenney. This election has too many candidates which means it will be possible to win with a VERY narrow margin. I'm afraid Anthony Williams can pull this off, and I shudder to think of him as mayor particularly regarding to the environment. You did not mention his wife is the spokesperson for Marcellus Shale. I am troubled by Kenney's connection with Rinaldi. I also feel Kenney is open to public input and the sustainability community could be active, organized and vocal to influence him.
    I do recall Nutter's come from behind victory, but I think it may be a little late for Diaz to do this. I think Doug Oliver may pick off some of the millennialis who could help skew toward environmental issues. Troubling and complicated, and this time around we do not have the benefit of the Urban Sustainability Forum.
    All of this also makes the Council races unusually important, and electing progressive candidates like Sherrie Cohen and Helen Gym could help balance the cause for sustainable, non-energy hub development.
    Tough call, though not in the case of the Council races. I hope people think long and hard about this.

  3. Kenney's connection to Rinaldi isn't merely troubling, its alarming. When campaign contribution totals come out, it will be interesting to see how much money has come in from energy hub friendlt parties.

    This race has gained a tremendous amount of coverage, yet the press doesn't seem terribly interested in questioning these candidates on their connection to the energy industry. And what sort of progressive candidate works so closely with an oil company executive? It makes my head spin.

    I like Diaz, and wish he had a greater chance to win. His policy position on sustainability is far more developed than any of the other candidates, and he seems like a far more empathetic individual on the issue of public health, whereby the others (and Kenney's staffer's gaffe just sums it all up) are inclined to believe that the creation of some fossil fuel processing and manufactring jobs trumps our right to public health.

    We need this city to move forward, not backwards.

  4. I'm reaching out today because I'd like to share this Kenney story with you and would love your help to get Jim Kenney elected as Mayor of Philadelphia.

    Since December, many of us have been actively against the dirty energy hub being planned for Philadelphia by champion Phil Rinaldi of PES. You may have heard of various protests (outside Drexel Student Union in December and more recently outside the Franklin Institute last week); and of participation at City Council hearings in March; and more.

    Looking at recent polls, we felt Kenney had a winning chance of becoming our next Mayor. Except for the fact that he had Phil Rinaldi, the man behind the dirty energy hub plan, on his advisory team.

    So a coalition of people against the dirty energy hub, against pipelines, against oil trains, and against fracking met with Kenney. It was a team representing interfaith groups, environmental groups, labor & business too. And we've worked with the Kenney team to craft an energy policy for Philadelphia.

    We're pleased with the result, which includes a goal of 80% carbon reduction by 2050. And pleased too that Kenney's for an open & democratic process for our energy future with no back-room deals. And that he agreed to add people we recommended to his policy team: a public health person, a scientist, and a clean energy person, right alongside Phil Rinaldi.

    Press release here:
    Environment policy here:
    And the updated policy committee here:

    We know GRID magazine endorsed Diaz. But that was before the Kenney energy policy was public. The Kenney policy is much better, we think; not just because we helped craft it! And, last we heard, Diaz only had 4% at the polls.

    We've got to get Kenney elected.

    We know Williams represents fracking interests. But have you heard about Williams' association with Islamophobics? See…

    We really can't afford the votes split towards Williams favor.

    What we need help with now is to get this press release publicized, and Kenney elected. Can you help? You ask how?
    – Talk & write about this to your circle of influences
    – Canvass your neighbors We can provide literature.

    I can provide contact info of various people involved. If any concerns about this candidate, please write, call or text me!

    Meenal Raval | | 267.709.3415 | FB: meenal19119 | T: @meenal19119

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