The venue for the Climate Mayoral Forum presented by Green Philly couldn’t have been more fitting. The auditorium of the Academy of Natural Sciences, home to decades of research about dwindling biodiversity and exhibits of extinct animals, was sweltering. The heat on this early April evening served as yet another reminder of how the seasons have become unmoored as we continue to pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, with precious little sign of slowing down. None of us — not least the next leader of a city of 1.6 million — can afford to ignore the imperative of climate change any longer.
So, where were the candidates? Only two of the serious contenders showed up: Helen Gym and Rebecca Rhynhart. We’re left to assume that addressing climate change is not a priority for the others.
Even prior to this event, Rhynhart and Gym had distanced themselves from the pack. Readers can look to our Mayoral Voters Guide for their thorough and well-considered answers to Grid’s questions about flooding in Eastwick, carbon-free transportation and sustainable development, among other topics.
Philadelphia faces a host of environmental challenges that demand action from City Hall, first among them the current and looming impacts of climate change. These include increased flooding and extreme heat, problems that promise to have a disproportionate impact on communities of color and neighborhoods whose residents can least afford to cope with them.
There are two viable candidates to consider, and while Grid firmly believes the City should adopt a ranked-choice voting option, there is a clear choice in this race. Helen Gym should be the next mayor of Philadelphia.
First, a few words about Rebecca Rhynhart, our second choice. As the City’s controller, she issued critiques of the police and the Rebuild program to name just two, zeroing in on inefficiencies and injustices — with the data to back up her assessments. She has proven herself to be an ethical and methodical public servant who genuinely wants government to be transparent, and she promises more data-driven solutions to the deep-seated problems facing the city.
Helen Gym is our choice because of the philosophical underpinnings of her candidacy. When she forms her political positions, everything begins with the needs of the people. Gym’s commitment to public health, racial equity, climate justice — all of which lie on the pathway to community safety — is apparent in her stance on issue after issue.
Because of her consistent approach and sense of urgency, Gym is easily the most inspiring mayoral candidate.
Of course, inspiration alone is not enough. Her advocacy for public schools, an issue close to her heart, has yielded big wins, including shifting oversight of the School District of Philadelphia back to the City after years of state control. She drove City Council to create a landmark eviction diversion program that keeps the city’s most vulnerable renters in their homes.
Gym is undaunted by an initial lack of resources as she tackles big problems. As she said in the Grid #165 cover story about the successful drive to get lead out of public school drinking water, “when we are clear about our mission, we can go out and leverage resources to make it happen.”
Philadelphia faces big problems that are centuries in the making—poverty, racism and pollution, to name a few. Helen Gym understands the gravity and scope of these problems, and she has a bold and cohesive vision to propel us into the future. On May 16, vote for Helen Gym.
I’m disappointed that you didn’t even mention Cherelle Parker. She’s the candidate most qualified for the position and has a track record to prove it. Before her stint on City Council Parker was a State Representative for a decade, five years of which she led the Philadelphia delegation. Unlike all of the other mayoral candidates with council experience Parker was a district representative which gives her first hand experience with the kind of issues a mayor is going to encounter. Whoever wins is going to need the combined resources of both the State and City governments to tackle the serious problems facing our city and only Parker has a foot firmly in both worlds. Parker and Gym were on council for almost the same timeframe and in that time Parker was the far more effective legislator. In her almost two terms Gym managed to get 106 bills she sponsored enacted whereas Parker almost double that with 206 sponsored bills enacted. For comparison Gauthier who still has 8 months left on her first term has already managed to get 113 bills enacted.
Philadelphia is about to get the first woman mayor in its history and it should be someone who’s actually from here. Parker is born and raised in Philadelphia and is the graduate of an HBCU, Gym on the other hand is from Ohio and went to an Ivy League College(UPenn).
Yeah and all that experience somehow made her oblivious to climate change (didn’t show up for either forum, nothing on campaign website), and she somehow convinced herself that STOP AND FRISK is a viable crime prevention strategy.
It actually may be all her experience — stepped in establishment politics of maintaining the status quo — that disqualifies her.
The mayor has very little power to address climate change in a serious way. In the very limited ways that Philadelphia can address climate issues are going to require that City Council pass new legislation. Gym could’ve done that during her time on council but didn’t.
Helen Gym voted in favor of giving the Cobbs Creek Foundation millions of dollars after they cut down 1% of the tree canopy in the entire park system.
I’m not a fan of stop and frisk but it doesn’t matter who the mayor is because it’s not going away. Stop and frisk is still legal in Pennsylvania and routinely employed by law enforcement. However it’s accomplished something has to be done to get the guns of our street. Close to
Or over 500 Philadelphians have been murdered a year for the last three years and something like 2000 more per year are being shot. We’re not going to love and hug our way out of that. We need crimes to be immediate addressed by law enforcement AND to invest in addressing the root causes of crime.
And generally I’d be inclined to agree that it takes a native Philadelphian to deeply understand this city and its unique merits and problems. But then I remember that Frank Rizzo was a native, and instead of stop and frisk, he preferred CHASE AND BEAT. Also STRIP AND SEARCH (on TV no less). So… yeah no.
Comparing a black woman
Not impressed with Cherelle Parker. And Gym is actually from Seattle.
Helen Gym is far too left and far too woke to be mayor.
Ew. Did you just use “woke” pejoratively? In Philly my dude? I think you got the wrong election. Even our Republican candidate doesn’t wade into that trough.
“Woke” is a good thing, Thom. Look up the meaning of the term instead of just repeating what Newsmax, OANN, and Breitbart tell you to say.
Helen Gym is far too woke and far too left to be a viable mayor for all the people.
That only two candidates showed up to the climate change forum when at the time it was an open field race for mayor suggests to me that the organization hosting that forum didn’t have the clout to compete for the candidates’ time.
And just a reminder when considering Rhynhart, just because you do an analysis based on data doesn’t mean that analysis is true. Almost no one seems to have publicly evaluated her claims in those reports, which is exactly the worst way to handle data-based claims and what can make data-driven policies dangerous if everyone assumes that makes them impartial. In my opinion a careful review finds that those reports often present conclusions that are not supported by the data, conclusions that conveniently position Rhynhart as a hero and support policies she favors. For instance, her analysis of the city’s property assessments found that the city was systematically over-assessing homes in black neighborhoods, so-called modern-day redlining. If you believe that, your solution would be to overhaul the city’s financial offices and staff, change assessment methods, and toss out leadership. A much more common-sense interpretation when looking at the data is that it is well known the areas she highlights are rapidly gentrifying. If you compare the city’s assessed values with actual estimated values and sale prices, they are actually systematically lower than market value in the poorest neighborhoods. Rhynhart’s policy responses would result in higher taxes and tax burden in those neighborhoods and escalate turnover and gentrification. Rather the common sense takeaway would be greater tax relief for longtime homeowners and residents, policies Rhynhart does not support. If your answer is that of course no one would present reports with findings that inarguably support policies they disagree with, then those reports are meaningless.