Kenney tackles nepotism and graft in his first policy paper
Mayoral candidate Jim Kenney released his first comprehensive policy agenda on Monday. The 11-page paper, titled “An Ethical, Accessible and Transparent Government for the 21st Century,” was drafted by Kenney and his policy board, headed by former city Human Services Commissioner Alba Martinez. It draws from other city practices across the country and tackles issues from pay-to-play politics to nepotism among city personnel.
The main thrust of the policy is to check corruption on the ground-level. With nods to Mayor Michael Nutter’s ethics-reforming administration, Kenney proposes to expand on as well as implement new investigations into the city’s political body. The policy says he would start right away with small things like ensuring government officials are in compliance with the ban on cash gifts, and move on to behemoths like controlling “dark money” influence.
For larger reform, he wants to expand of the city’s existing ethics board.
“The board of ethics does not have enough money to conduct robust investigations as they should,” Kenney said, specifically pointing to the loopholes in the campaign finance laws that are currently being abused.
When asked if he would sign the pledge proposed two weeks ago against dark money in campaigning by his competitor Lynne Abraham, Kenney did not explicitly say yes. He encouraged Abraham to “release all her tax returns before she condemns anything,” and that stated that he couldn’t “ban dark money” completely, as it’s a federal issue.
One of the more unique bullet points that separates Kenney’s policy from his competitors’ is his promise to stifle nepotism in personnel decisions.
“I think the general public views [nepotism] as something that is not appropriate,” Kenney told AL DIA. “I can only control the departments within my purview...but I think that the appearance is as bad as anything. It doesn’t mean that the person isn’t competent or qualified for the position, it just means there is some hint that they got there [outside of] the fair process.”
He added that more diversity in City Hall would be an upside of cracking down on such nepotism, but first and foremost, “the optics are bad.”
In a similarly defining vein, the policy includes a stipulation to protect whistleblowers on the local government level, modernize procurement procedures, and implement a zero-base budget.
“There’s no reason in the world that every department every year will come in with a budget request that’s two or three percent higher than the last year without explaining the need,” Kenney said. “So if build our budgets from zero up, we will find savings.”
Kenney cited the success of Montgomery County’s zero-base budget that they have used since 2013. If Philadelphia could save anywhere near 18 percent like its neighbor to the north, Kenney would channel the money into education and updating the ethics board.
The Kenney campaign is expected to release three or four more similar agenda policies in the coming weeks.