The disappointment left by the sugary beverages tax, the growth of crime, insecurity, poverty and the lack of housing for the poor are the issues that mark the apparent reluctance of African-American voters to support Jim Kenney for Mayor at the May 21 primaries.
African Americans are the largest ethnic group in Philadelphia and their concerns are taken into consideration during election times by the Democratic structures.
Some African Americans leaders believe that enthusiasm for Kenney has faded, because the unpopular payment of the “soda tax,” which had to be used for the creation of more pre-K, reconstruction of libraries, recreation centers, and public spaces, has not been a tangible reality.
The weak ground for Kenney’s re-election aspirations can be seen in the Pew Charitable Trust survey, which asked residents about the main concerns of the city, among other things, 71% of African Americans lost interest in the 1.5 cents per ounce sugary beverages tax.
This tax was passed in 2016 by the City Council with 13-4 vote. This fact places an interesting fact within the current panorama, because on the preliminary contest to remove Jim Kenney, state Sen. Anthony Williams and Alan Butkovitz, former Philadelphia City Controller, have pledged to end the soda tax.
According to the cited survey, African American disappointment with the weak impact of the tax tool is nothing compared to the increase in crime, public safety and drugs.
In an open question, the 600 residents surveyed mentioned education and schools as their second main concern (17%), followed by a link between poverty and gentrification (12%), then jobs (11%) and taxes (9%).
City life and the African American issues have fractured the support for Jim Kenney´s re-election. Some opinion leaders, mostly church pastors, have highlighted Kenney’s disconnect with the needs of the African American community.
They remain the same
One voice to highlight is that of Leslie Callahan, pastor of St. Paul’s Baptist Church, who said that in 2015, Kenney seduced African American voters by promising to eliminate the Philadelphia police procedure to stop-and-frisk, which disproportionately affects that community.
Four years later, the police continue to use the detention and search system; the majority of the mayor’s cabinet is white; homicides have reached their highest level in 10 years; the poverty rate remains at 26%; and affordable housing options are deplorable, say some African American leaders.
Translated by: José Espinoza