5 takeaways from Jim Kenney’s town hall at South Philly High

A large and notably diverse crowd filled the auditorium of South Philadelphia High School last week to share their vision for the city with mayor-elect Jim Kenney and members of his Transition Team. Moderated by South Philadelphia High School Principal and Chief Education Officer Otis Hackney, the meeting was orderly (raise your hand if you want to speak; no profanity) and offered a few key takeaways for a South Philly audience:

Jim Kenney
Photo: Lauren Leonard

  1. South Philly is filthy and we made it that way. Kenny agreed with one commenter’s assessment of cigarette butts as a scourge, but he was not willing to put the burden of containment on businesses. Butts and litter in general, Kenney said, signal a behavioral problem.  While he vowed to perform regular, large-scale cleanups, the onus of keeping streets clean was put squarely on the community because, after all, streets “don’t get dirty again from the sky.” When asked about placing more cans in public, Kenney animatedly shared one of his personal pet peeves: the illegal and inconsiderate dumping of residential trash in public cans.  These “nighttime gifts” start with one bag of household trash and end up a pile of short-dumped mattresses and tires. He will look into providing more cans—the Big Belly receptacles with foot pedals so you don’t have to touch the “cruddy” handles—but reiterated that it’s up to the people to care for their streets.

  1. The conversation will be elevated. Kenney made it clear in his opening remarks that though South Philly and its people are near and dear to him, he was not going to entertain a discussion of potholes and parking.  The evening’s discourse (and hopefully his term) would be civil and focused on the critically important issues.

  2. The Kenney administration pledges be respectful and transparent. At all levels of government, Kenney vowed to be respectful and transparent. Council members, he explained, are elected by the people and are genuinely eager to do good work. As such, they are deserving of his and our respect. He called the Rendell-Street model a successful one. In acknowledging the suggestion of a hotline for city workers to give feedback to council and the mayor, Kenney thanked city employees for their hard work and agreed that there was a wealth of knowledge possessed by these employees that should be capitalized on.

  3. Education, housing, crime and jobs are inextricably linked. Kenney pledged to open 25 community schools, and he expressed a strong desire to remove some of the extra burden on teachers to allow them more time to teach. By way of his appointments, he will work to open lines of communication and increase transparency with the School Reform Commission. Crime and police-community relations will be addressed through training on the part of the police department and the community. Said Kenney on the relationship between crime and unemployment, “get them jobs so they’re too tired to go out and do nonsense.” Jobs might be created through our building trades, waterfront development and an expansion of our ports.

  4. Our immigration policy will be different. Citing his own Irish lineage, Kenney reminded the auditorium that ours is city built on the backs of immigrants (and slaves) and is because of this rich in tradition and culture. Our immigration conversation should not mirror the national conversation, but be more understanding and rational. Said Kenney, “there will be no wall built around Philly.” Using East Passyunk as an example, Kenney said he will look to his Chief Diversity Officer Nolan Atkinson, Jr. to support small, immigrant and mom & pop businesses and help diversify the workforce.

Were you at the meeting? What did you take away? Feel free to sound off in the comments.

14 thoughts on “5 takeaways from Jim Kenney’s town hall at South Philly High

  • December 7, 2015 at 11:31 am

    please bring back street cleaning!

    • December 7, 2015 at 3:59 pm

      Yes, this. And fine people for putting out unbagged trash on trash day.

    • December 11, 2015 at 11:58 am

      Kenny is stupid. He wants to end “stop and frisk”

  • December 7, 2015 at 12:45 pm

    Please enforce parking laws in South Philly!

  • December 7, 2015 at 4:54 pm

    Yes, Mayor Elect Kenney, trash does not come from the sky but it does get blown in the wind. Why? Because people throw it in the street when there is no trash can to put it in. There is no accountability for the people that litter randomly, how can there be? How can the people of the neighborhood police the litter without support from our city? Why is it so hard to put a few cans around South Philadelphia and have the streets department collect that trash on regular days. Put on a fancy lid that doesn’t allow for large items. I think a beautiful neighborhood, trash tree, is a positive image for children and residents that may have a broader effect on life in that neighborhood.

    • December 8, 2015 at 2:37 pm

      Those people that are throwing trash in the street aren’t doing so because there’s no trash can. How easy is it to just hold onto that empty cigarette pack until you get home, or you pass a trash can outside of a business? It’s a huge behavioral issue in South Philly. People litter because they don’t care. Same reason they throw trash into the storm drains. And if you ask them not to, you’ll get an earful about how things have always been this way, and you can like it or leave.

      • December 10, 2015 at 2:29 pm

        This a hundred times. I’ve asked kids to stop throwing bottles and cans down the storm drains, and each time it winds up being a colossal waste of time on my part. We work hard on our block to keep it picked up, and it shows, but why people can’t just hold onto that damn Tastykake wrapper another block to a trash can is insane.

  • December 8, 2015 at 10:03 am

    I completely agree with Stefi and Nik. I love my South Philly block but the one thing that I absolutely cannot handle is the amount of trash that is blown all throughout the streets. We clean our sidewalk and some of our neighbors sidewalks as well and it lasts for about 5 minutes – this trash issue is not going to go away unless people properly bag their trash for pick up so it doesn’t fly everywhere. Big Belly trashcans on smaller streets other than Broad, Snyder, and Passyunk (e.g. Jackson and Wolf) would make a significant difference. I totally agree with Kenney that it is a behavioral problem but the City could help with some small initiatives to minimize the issue.

  • December 8, 2015 at 3:31 pm

    Litter is definitely a behavioral problem, but it goes beyond that now. It’s a systematic issue. From the top to the bottom. The law doesn’t apply in South Philly. Just look at the parking situation. It literally is not enforced.

  • December 10, 2015 at 4:36 pm

    I was at the town hall and found it very informative. I am enthusiastic about the community schools concept.

    However, I was disappointed in Kenney’s responses to queries about litter. Seemed like a cop out. He is a seasoned politician with absolutely no solutions to the litter problem, which really holds us back from being a respected city. Telling us that the solution to litter is for people to stop littering is really passing the buck. I cannot believe that he has no new ideas on the matter.

    Although, on the other hand, he is being transparent. At least he is not pretending that he has a solution.

    If Philly has better schools and people stop moving to the burbs, maybe people will have more pride and stop littering? Maybe???

  • December 11, 2015 at 11:48 am

    Every week when the trash truck comes up my street the compactor spills trash into the street , which the trash collectors just leave there!!! The recycle truck is about the same. I remember when I was a kid the trash men had brooms and shovels to clean us what spilled out of the truck or clean up from a broken trash bag. Residents are responsible for properly putting out their trash and not littering however the streets department is giving us more work to do.

  • December 11, 2015 at 11:46 pm

    Super market circulars should not be distributed in urban areas. The stacks of circulars sit on the corner waiting for some young person to distributed them to row homes and often blow all over the neighborhood. If they do not blow away before they are distributed they blow all over the neighborhood after they are delivered to homes. The majority of trash seems to be circulars and newspapers. If the super markets want to distribute circulars they should put them in closed bags and not distribute them in stacks that young people are expected to bag and distribute. This is only one part of the problem but it’s a bug one.

  • December 12, 2015 at 2:28 pm

    Kenny the idiot wants to abolish “stop and frisk” to let the rotten thugs take back the streets, and he wants to maintain Philly as a “Sanctuary City” to allow more Muslim Jihadists here. I hope that moron Kenny is the first one to be decapitated.


  • December 18, 2015 at 11:17 am

    Hey Jim, we get it. You don’t like him – but “elevate the conversation” and be respectful… maybe talk about alternative solutions inside of lashing out (…and tamp down the xenophobia while you’re at it).

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