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.