“I want them to have the American dream,” Jeff Brown lays out his mayoral platform for Philadelphians
Brown addressed being the outlier candidate, a target for attacks, crime and poverty, plans for Philly, and responded to Inquirer articles in his AL DÍA Talk.
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Jeff Brown — the founder and former Chairman and CEO of supermarket chain, Brown’s Super Stores, Inc. — is one of 12 candidates vying to be Philadelphia’s next mayor. The businessman is one of two non-politicians on the ballot who has more than three decades of experience serving the community.
The city’s homicide issue, gun violence, structural and individual poverty, and lack of affordable housing and city services have never been worse. And that is what Brown would inherit on day one.
He thinks it’s time for an outsider to come in and “question things and push harder to turn the city around.”
Brown is a private citizen who’s looking to swap it out for a chance to lead the city in a bigger way that was often blocked to him because he wasn’t a local official.
“A lot of the things I've done have been limited by the mayor and the city council,” said Brown. “They've been a frustration to me over my career, that they haven't allowed us to solve the kind of problems we've had in this city.”
He cited excessive structural poverty as the city's biggest problem, telling Al DÍA that it has only deteriorated over the course of his lifetime.
“I feel we need a bolder mayor that is going to push through the politics of things that tend not to like changes, that they have their own deals, their special interests and the things that aren't necessarily helpful to the citizens,” Brown said.
Being a target
As one of the only candidates that isn’t a former public official, Brown is an outlier among the group of seasoned veteran politicians. Because of it, he’s been a target for the press and his fellow candidates, which include jabs from fellow candidates Allan Domb, Derek Green, Rebecca Rhynhart, and more.
Following news from the Philadelphia Inquirer that the Philadelphia Board of Ethics is investigating campaign finance activities related to Brown, Green called on the Board of Ethics to release the results of its investigation ahead of the May 16 primary.
Domb also launched an anti-Jeff Brown website, and grocer magnate also felt some heat from fellow candidate Cherelle Parker at the Convention Center for a forum on tourism and hospitality.
“I'm a target because I'm leading, and all the polls show that I have quite a substantial lead over the rest of the candidates. What happens in a race like this, the leader gets attacked,” Brown said.
“And people that haven't achieved much in their career, that don't have much to offer. So they can't stand up and say, ‘this is what I did for the citizens of Philadelphia,’ because they didn't do much,” he added. “What they had to do instead is to try to diminish everyone else.”
Crime and poverty
Brown said the city’s biggest issues are tied to longstanding, generational poverty that because of lack of leadership, has been allowed to exist. He called the extreme lack of economic opportunity, especially in communities of color across the city, one of Philly’s biggest failures.
He then tied it directly to the rise in crime the city has seen in the last three to four years, amplified by the COVID-19 pandemic. The crisis has also demanded a different approach from the Philadelphia Police Department — one that’s short staffed and often overstretched.
One of the solutions Brown discussed with AL DÍA involved looking at different ways the police can respond to calls and build better rapport with communities.
“I want to train our officers to have a service mentality, protect and serve. And service is a big part of it, serve people and serve them fairly, and, and have a mindset to de-escalate tensions,” he said.
He also talked about his crime plan for Philly, which includes 11 points of actions starting with putting more police on the streets to address the police shortage — over 1,500 more officers — changing training policies, investing in crime-stopping technology, cracking down on guns and drugs, among other measures.
“We need investments in forensics. We have about 1,700 violent offenders that are still roaming the street because we didn't have the evidence to prosecute them,” said Brown. “And that's a problem because those are the people that are killing our citizens.”
He addressed these issues specifically to the Kensington neighborhood where an open air drug market and violence has persisted.
“We have to pinpoint where the violence is. You'll see upgraded services through the whole city, but a dramatic increase in the neighborhoods that have the biggest problem. And when you talk about Kensington, you'll also have to address the drug epidemic,” he said.
“And I don't think that we're doing everything we can to address that.” Brown added.
Helping small Black and Latino businesses
Before running for mayor, Brown also founded and is the Chairman of the PA30 Day Fund, assisting small minority businesses with financial support.
With that, he said he’s aware of what it takes to open and successfully run an operation in Philly, and more importantly, understands the systemic and fiscal obstacles Black and Brown small business owners face.
“I think my family's story is so much like so many Philadelphians' family stories. When you first come here, there are so many obstacles, or if you live in poverty, there's a lot of obstacles,” he said.
With the lack of Black and Brown entrepreneurship, he said the city needs investments in three areas. The first is to make it easier to start and operate a business — Brown specifically addressed simplifying the complicated paperwork and approval processes — technical assistance for those who are not familiar with setting up their business properly, and access to capital.
“We need more equity available either in grants, small micro grants to help people get their businesses started, or larger equity investments. The city should invest in a social equity fund that will help finance,” Brown said on the third point of access to capital.
Responding to the noise
On the morning of AL DÍA’s conversation with Brown, the Philadelphia Inquirer published a piece that reported Brown’s ShopRite stores have received around $18.7 million in public subsidies, according to state records and news releases announcing the openings of his stores.
It revealed the stores also benefited from other government support — over $300,000 in reimbursement for personal protective equipment during the COVID-19 pandemic and indirect help securing $28.9 million in loans.
When asked about the Inquirer’s piece, he mentioned the necessity in the situation “to use public-private partnerships.”
“I couldn't be more proud of what I did,” Brown responded, “The Inquirer article took a beautiful, successful program that helped people in a significant way, and tried to make it look like it's not a good thing.”
He added that the article did not show the “human side” of the situation.
“This is a case where I did not take public dollars and put it into my pocket, I used it to finance stores, it couldn't be done any other way. I did the right thing. Many other business people should follow my example,” Brown said.
The Democratic primary for mayor in Philadelphia is May 16.
This content is a part of Every Voice, Every Vote, a collaborative project managed by The Lenfest Institute for Journalism. Lead support is provided by the William Penn Foundation with additional funding from The Lenfest Institute, Peter and Judy Leone, the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, Harriet and Larry Weiss, and the Wyncote Foundation, among others. To learn more about the project and view a full list of supporters, visit www.every voice-every vote.org. Editorial content is created independently of the project’s donors.
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