As Dante wrote sometime in the 13th century, the darkest places in hell are reserved for those who try to preserve their neutrality in a time of great moral crisis. Time to take a stand.
I’ll make this simple. Lynne Abraham should be the next mayor of Philadelphia.
First, a little about my perspective. I have been in public service since 1991, first for the City of Philadelphia in the District Attorney’s Office, second, for the Commonwealth as the architect of the Pennsylvania Weed and Seed Program, and third, through a nonprofit organization that I founded with Lynne back in 1995 called I-LEAD (the Institute for Leadership Education, Advancement & Development).
During my career I have worked closely with numerous public officials, business leaders and community leaders. I have participated in prominent national and international leadership programs, including Eisenhower Fellowships, the Kellogg National Fellowship Program and, most recently, Ashoka’s Fellowship Program (an international association of leading social entrepreneurs). I have studied a broad spectrum of leaders and public officials close up, including those in the governor’s office. In addition to running successful businesses (with multiple employees, grants, viable business models and multiple locations), I have taught and practiced leadership development for more than 15 years.
I have worked for both Republicans and Democrats. During my life I have been registered to the both parties at different times. From 1991 through 1995, I worked closely with Lynne in the Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office, and also in conjunction with our philanthropic work since that time. I have also worked for prominent Republicans in the Ridge Administration.
I am not commenting from the perspective of reading about Lynne Abraham in the newspaper, but rather from personal, direct, daily experience over many years, along with the ability to draw comparisons. No one can fake or put a costume on her character over such a long time frame in so many different situations.
Lynne demonstrates three critical qualities that no other candidate in the field possesses in sufficient measure.
First, and most importantly, she has absolute unwavering integrity, a powerful moral compass unequaled in public life. She does not cut corners and cannot be bought or influenced by the root of all evil in politics: the private economic interests of the corrupt and powerful. Lynne does not have a slippery or slick bone in her body. To anyone who suggests that her long tenure in politics means that she practices cronyism or is part of the corrupt system, I say, frankly, you are misinformed. In fact, the number-one problem that she presents as a candidate to the entrenched powerful forces surrounding Philadelphia politics is this: her titanium backbone and independence. Remember her legendary refusal to accept Rizzo’s hacks within the Redevelopment Authority? Fire me, she said. That is grit and character. During her career she has stood up to the political machine again and again. Lynne Abraham is not for sale and never will be.
Second, Lynne thinks big and is willing to take smart risks. Lynne is the best-informed politician whom I have ever encountered, and I have interacted with many. She reads broadly and voraciously; she is in constant dialogue with many diverse policy experts; and she is willing to think outside the box to tackle the difficult, entrenched problems facing the Philadelphia community. She is the rare brilliant, highly educated and learned person who also keeps her feet squarely on the ground. Lynne can talk current science and classical music while eating a hotdog and discussing the Flyers in the same conversation. She is both book smart and street smart, while also retaining real humility and a deep connection to the streets. She is and will always be a native Philadelphian who really cares about the daily quality of life of each person.
Third, Lynne is an inspiring and experienced leader and manager; the list of her awards and actual accomplishments as a leader dwarfs those of all the other candidates combined. Perhaps her best quality is the willingness to engage smart, hard-working, creative and ethical people in the mission of government. Many of the problems we face in Philadelphia result from shoddy ethics combined with day-to-day lack of diligence and competence. Lynne knows how to build a public culture with high ethics, excellence, accountability, strong work ethic and professionalism. Name a single competitor with such a long and ethically unblemished career in public life today. At the Redevelopment Authority and later as District Attorney, Lynne led a highly diverse staff (in terms of race, ethnicity and gender) that demonstrated day in and day out for more than two decadesÂ the highest commitment to ethics, professionalism and competence.
In these three categories, Lynne Abraham is unmatched as a candidate, and they are the most critical qualities that the next mayor of Philadelphia must possess.
Finally, let me address those who say that she is too old for the job. Look again. Lynne has terrific health along with enormous energy and passion for this work, more than most people half her age, and she will combine that with something no other person in the field has in the same plentiful measure: real wisdom born of long experience. Her age also entails a powerful asset. She is not looking to line her pockets or build her resume for the next big thing. She will be 100 percent focused on serving the people of Philadelphia, and on doing the right things for the right reasons.
The only question remaining is whether Philadelphians have the wisdom to select the best candidate from the field or whether they will they settle for second best. Unfortunately, in this field, second best presents the significant risk of settling for politics as usual with its disheartening suitcase of cronyism, pay-to-play, substandard ethics and selling communities down the river in the interest of personal financial or political gain. You know I am telling the truth. Philadelphia, just say no to all that, and vote for Lynne Abraham.
See, I told you it would be simple.
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