Let’s just say this up front: Former Mayor Michael Nutter asked civic-minded grocery store owner and philanthropist Jeff Brown some hard questions at The Citizen’s second Ultimate Job Interview event this week. And Brown did not know the answers.
Some of those questions included: What is the Sinking Fund (money to pay off pension debt)? What is the Administrative Board (the mayor, managing director and finance director, overseeing the city’s organizational and procedural policies)? Brown also admitted, in answer to another of Nutter’s questions, that he has never read the city’s Home Rule Charter (Philadelphia’s governing document) — though he did say former Mayor John Street and others have walked him through it.
Should he have read it? And should Brown already know the minutiae of city government? He is, after all, a businessman, not a politician — which some may consider an asset, not a fault. Those questions are up to the voters to answer this primary season.
You can see Nutter’s and Brown’s exchange yourself here:
Nutter’s grilling came near the end of Brown’s interview, after the candidate fielded other interview-style questions from Ken Hirshman, managing director in the Private Equity, Industrial, and CEO Practices division of Diversified Search Group, a sponsor of the Ultimate Job Interview; and Dr. Keith Leaphart, founder of Philanthropi.
Tuesday night’s standing room-only event was the second in the series that began with The Citizen’s soliciting feedback from residents to create an official job description for the role of Mayor, to which all candidates will be held. (You can read the full, publicly-created job description here.) Two weeks ago, former Councilmember Derek Green appeared on stage for an interview. Next Tuesday, we’ll host former Councilmember Allan Domb and former Controller Rebecca Rhynhart. (The event is free, but you must register here.)
The interviews were held at Fitler Club and broadcast live on WURD, the state’s only Black-owned talk radio station. Host of WURD’s Reality Check and EcoWURD Charles Ellison hosted the event, and ended each interview with questions from the audience (and his own).
The series will conclude in January, 2025, when we submit the winner — our Mayor — to a one-year review. So far, all of the candidates have agreed to participate if elected.
See below for photos from the event.
Through the hour-long conversation, Brown highlighted his success as a CEO and manager of 2,300 unionized employees through his ShopRites; a philanthropist who has started several nonprofits and has hired some 500 returning citizens to help “solve the problem of mass incarceration and recidivism in our communities;” and a cheerleader who “loves everybody” and is passionate about “bringing the most joy to the most people.”
Watch Brown’s entire interview here:
Once Brown left the stage, he was replaced by former Councilmember Maria Quiñones Sánchez, along with new interviewers: Jasmine Sessoms, senior vice president of corporate affairs in the Philadelphia office of HRP; Dan Kempson, principal at ghSMART, a leadership advisory and analytics firm; and Nutter.
Quiñones Sánchez, who would be the first woman to hold the seat if elected Mayor, pulled from her 15-plus years on City Council to illustrate her experience with solving city problems, including as head of Council’s appropriations committee for the last several years. She said that every legislation she has introduced in Council has passed 17-0 — something Nutter noted, from his own experience, does not necessarily translate to an easy relationship with Council if she is elected Mayor.
Nutter’s exchange with Quiñones Sánchez was less combative than his with Brown. He did ask her, though, what may be be front of many voters’ minds: How can we expect her to clean up and make safe an entire city — a cornerstone of her campaign — when her district includes Kensington, which Nutter noted is “kind of a mess”?
“Kensington is a creation of bad policy with a containment strategy that hasn’t worked and the lack of leadership to say this is not acceptable, anywhere,” the former Councilwoman said — though she herself has been part of city leadership for more than a decade. Quiñones Sánchez then referred to a 14-point strategy called Restore Kensington that includes family reunification, housing, social services and law enforcement that she intends to launch if elected mayor.
Watch Quiñones Sánchez’s entire interview here:
Check out last month’s interview with Derek Green here:
Photos from Tuesday night’s event:
The Ultimate Job Interview 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, the Wyncote Foundation, and the John S. and James L. Knight Foundation, among others. To learn more about the project and view a full list of supporters, visit www.everyvoice-everyvote.org. Editorial content is created independently of the project’s donors.
This project is also made possible by the support of Diversified Search Group.Mayoral candidates Jeff Brown and Maria Quiñones Sánchez at Ultimate Job Interview January 31, 2023.