This past Tuesday, April 21, six democratic candidates vying to be the next mayor of Philadelphia met at a forum held by the Greater Philadelphia Chamber of Commerce. The debate was the final scheduled one before the primary, which will be held on May 16.
The six candidates who appeared in the debate were state representative Amen Brown, businessman Jeff Brown, former city councilmember Allan Domb, former councilmember Helen Gym, former councilmember Cherelle Parker, and former city controller and treasurer Rebecca Rhynhart. Three other democrats, pastor Warren Bloom Sr., former Philadelphia Municipal Judge James DeLeon, and Delscia Gray, were not invited to participate at the debate.
The candidates, all vying to become Philly’s 100th mayor, spent time discussing the economy, public safety, a new Sixers arena, and their leadership experience.
Despite the array of directed questions by moderator Matt O’Donnell, one of the night’s most notable moments happened in the final minutes of the debate when O’Donnell invited participants to direct a question to one of their opponents.
Former councilmember Helen Gym took this opportunity to question former city controller Rebecca Rhynhart about her work on the city’s budgets in Mayor Michael Nutter’s administration. In particular, Gym accused Rhynhart of advocating for the use of fire station brownouts as a cost-saving measure for the city, a choice decried by many due to the public safety concerns.
In 2008, Nutter’s administration shut down seven fire stations across the city and implemented brownout policies in response to the city’s budget crisis. Under this new policy, six engine or ladder companies were temporarily out of service each day on a rotating basis, putting residents at risk due to delayed response times.
In 2016, brownouts were officially ended by Mayor Jim Kenney after millions more in overtime pay, no cost savings, and fatal consequences.
In response to Gym’s question about the brownouts, Rhynhart said, “I worked for a mayor who wanted to keep the brownouts so I did my job”.
Rhynhart’s response to the question is raising concerns in the closing days of the primary. Despite the evidence of damage brownouts caused to Philadelphia, she continues to stand by Nutter’s decision to implement them.
The full debate will air Sunday, April 30th at 9AM on 6abc.