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Former Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz speaks with AL DÍA reporter Lee Nentwig on his candidacy for mayor in the Democratic primary election.
Former Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz speaks with AL DÍA reporter Lee Nentwig on his candidacy for mayor in the Democratic primary election. Photo: Manuel Flores / AL DÍA News

Former Philadelphia City Controller Alan Butkovitz’ challenge to Jim Kenney in the Democratic primary election

Alan Butkovitz is running against Jim Kenney in the Democratic primary election because he believes the mayor has demonstrated a “very limited” vision for the…

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Former City Controller Alan Butkovitz says he is running for mayor because he believes Jim Kenney is detached from the everyday realities and problems facing many Philadelphians.

The candidate feels that Kenney is limited by his own personal experiences, coming from a “tightly knit white clique from South Philadelphia and Center City,” and has failed to connect with the rest of the city, particularly Black and Latino communities, since taking office.

Butkovtiz points to a lack of diversity in the mayor’s cabinet as a result of this problem.

Podcast produced by Lee Nentwig / AL DÍA News.

“In Center City, people might have theoretical abstractions or complaints [...] but in the minority communities of Philadelphia, there is real stuff happening,” said Butkovtiz. “There is real life and death happening, there’s real shootings, there’s real long-term poverty, there’s real opioid addiction.”

Butkovtiz also said that Kenney is guided by politics of the moment and fails to adhere to his decisions once they are made. He pointed out the mayor’s recent change in stance on supervised injection sites as an example of this behavior.

Kenney recently pulled the reins on the proposal of constructing a supervised injection site in Philadelphia, primarily due to public safety concerns raised by the Kensington community.

Family counsel over supervised injection sites

Butkovitz told AL DÍA that supervised injection sites promote danger because drug vendors always want to be near users; he suggested that the proposed site would make nearby corners “extremely valuable real estate” for these sellers.

The candidate also said that the 351 homicides that occurred in Philadelphia last year are a crisis the Mayor should be handling with more urgency. Focused deterrence, crisis intervention, and proactive police patrolling are strategies he suggests to tackle the violence.

Building confident relations between neighborhood communities and the police will also be key, according to Butkovtiz. The candidate promised an immediate end to stop-and-frisk policy as a step in establishing that trusting relationship.

Photo: Manuel Flores / AL DÍA News
In assessing the opioid epidemic, Butkovitz emphasized that the city must do more to provide support to the families and loved ones of those who suffer from drug addiction. He believes that family members will have the “ultimate success” in helping victims recognize their problem and take steps towards healing, but acknowledges the strenuous burden of that task.
 
“It’s completely maddening to have someone in that kind of condition,” said Butkovitz. “You can’t make sense to them, you can’t get them to change, you can’t get them to acknowledge that they’re destroying themselves, and you get overwrought.”

Family members are often willing to help do the work of paramedics and therapists themselves, Butkovtiz pointed out, but added that they are often unprepared and left to their own devices in excruciatingly difficult circumstances.

The candidate related to this sort of family experience in a personal way. He was a caregiver to his mother when she experienced kidney failure. He was also raised on welfare in a household with an unstable father who ultimately took his own life.

“Despite what I look like,” Butkovtiz told AL DÍA. “I came out of a dysfunctional family.”

The experiences of his youth led him to become a lawyer and eventually enter politics.

“I wanted to protect people and to be able to use my intelligence as a shield for them in the system,” he said.

Long-term economic strategy

Butkovitz believes the City’s economic plan should be “laser focused” on port expansion and the generation of more transportation and distribution jobs. He said this plan will provide higher paying jobs to Philadelphians that do not have a high school or college diploma.

From the proposed DisneyQuest theme park project of the late 1990’s to more recent bids by Philadelphia to welcome an Amazon headquarters, Butkovitz criticizes the City for inconsistent economic planning in recent decades.

“When Philadelphia thinks about economic development, they don’t have a particular picture in their mind,” he said. 

The candidate said he wants to focus on port expansion because the Port of Philadelphia has historically been an important asset to the economy. He believes the City should focus on its historic strengths in assessing its future trajectory.

Butkovitz also insists that more robust transportation and distribution industries will make for more inclusive economic growth.

He asserts that an increase in cargo handling would lead to 25,000 longshoreman jobs. Workers in these positions would start their careers making $55,000 without a diploma, and within five years make upwards of $100,000. According to Butkovitz, 125,000 other jobs would also emerge from advancements in the transportation and distribution industry.

Sweetened-beverage tax & Local 98

Butkovitz opposes Mayor Kenney’s sweetened-beverage tax, which was implemented to fund pre-K programming, community school development, and the Rebuild initiative. He insists that such programs should instead be funded by a broad base tax.

“Everybody in the city should be pitching in to pay for those programs through the wage tax, through the real estate tax, and through the sales tax,” said Butkovitz.

He also questioned why it seems the Mayor is more interested in the sweetened-beverage tax itself than the programs it intends to fund; aligning his suspicions to the influence of indicted Local 98 business manager John “Johnny Doc” Dougherty.

Allegations in the federal indictment against Dougherty, Councilman Bobby Henon, and six other Local 98 leaders, claimed the sweetened-beverage tax was introduced by Henon in retaliation against the Teamsters Union for sponsoring a political commercial that portrayed Dougherty in a negative light. The tax intended to “cost the Teamsters 100 jobs in Philly.”

“The established powers want to put the mayor under their thumb and that’s the last place that he should be,” said Butkovitz.

Despite his criticisms of Mayor Kenney for ties to Local 98, an analysis of campaign finance reports by the Inquirer found that the candidate has accepted a total of $202,151 from Local 98 since 2000, compared to $152,336 by Kenney. Anthony H. Williams, the third candidate in this year’s mayoral Democratic primary, has received $447,128 in support from the electricians union.

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