Less than two weeks until the race for Philadelphia’s 100th mayor is decided, the two remaining nominees met for what’s likely to be the only live debate of this election season.
Democrat Cherelle Parker and Republican David Oh met on stage at KYW Newsradio Thursday morning for a rare morning rush-hour debate. The two addressed issues ranging from violent crime and police accountability to school choice and the 76ers’ arena proposal – and even asked each other direct questions about previous comments and commitments.
Parker doubled down on many of her campaign focal points and even pushed back against recent media coverage regarding her comments on using the National Guard to address ongoing issues in Kensington.
In one of the two portions when candidates had the opportunity to pose a question to the other, Oh asked Parker to clarify her comments and how she sees the National Guard being utilized in the city.
Parker said it’s “narrow-minded” to picture only guard members with guns in the streets, noting that the National Guard has provided aid in the past, such as in the aftermath of Hurricane Katrina.
“It can deliver food, it can assist in protecting property,” Parker said. “I fully know that you have to work in partnership with the General Assembly, along with the governor’s office, in order to get that done … I employ the use of the National Guard and any other agency at the local, state and/or federal level who can have a role in helping to make Philadelphia’s public health and safety our No. 1 priority.”
Parker took the offensive in asking Oh how he could be a “convener” as mayor if he continually points fingers at the likes of District Attorney Larry Krasner for violent crime occurring in the city.
Oh responded that he’s spoken to Krasner both publicly and privately and that the mayor should let elected officials know about their work.
“I will use the weight of my office to ensure that we have prosecution in the city so that people are protected. I will look at the attorney general’s office,” Oh said. “I will look at deputizing my own attorneys under concurrent jurisdiction and I will look at using the federal prosecutors if (the DA) does not prosecute violent offenders.”
Parker’s idea of instituting year-round school, as well as the candidates’ differing views of the 76ers’ Center City arena proposal, were also major points of contention.
Oh argued that children need time outside the classroom to develop other social and artistic skills, as well as spend time with family and friends. Parker said year-round school wouldn’t entail classroom instruction every day but would allow for “creative scheduling” to offer students opportunities in the building trades, life sciences and more.
“I think it’s a great opportunity to figure out a way to fund – in a sustainable way – access to year-round education for the children who are not all growing up, quite frankly, in perfect familial environments like me,” Parker said.
The two also sparred during the Center City arena discussion. Parker, who is noncommittal on greenlighting the project, doubled down that a city in need of economic development cannot have “knee-jerk” reactions to new opportunities.
Oh vehemently disagreed, stating that if the arena plans were to move forward, “it would probably be the end of Chinatown.”
“Chinatown is 152 years in the making. It has gone through a lot and it is also a cultural and economic engine,” he said. “I don’t know what kind of concessions we’re going to make (to Chinatown residents and businesses, but) we shall see a completely new area of franchises and high taxes – and it will probably be a place of luxury housing.”
The moderators were KYW reporters Pat Loeb, Mike DeNardo and Racquel Williams.