Jan 12, 2023 - News

Mayor Jim Kenney's last chance to prove he's committed to Philly

Photo illustration of Philadelphia Mayor Jim Kenney with lines radiating from him.

Photo illustration: Allie Carl/Axios. Photo: Pacific Press/Getty Images

With homicides soaring in the city, Mayor Jim Kenney has pledged that reducing gun violence remains the top priority for his last year in office.

Driving the news: The Democrat released a report yesterday that serves as a prelude to what he hopes to accomplish before his second term expires in 2024.

  • Kenney's main three goals, mostly built on initiatives implemented throughout his tenure, focus on ways to improve public safety, neighborhoods and education.

Why it matters: This is Kenney's last chance to punch back at his detractors, including those who question his commitment following last year's infamous remarks that he'd "be happy" when he's no longer mayor.

  • Kenney reaffirmed his love of being mayor during Wednesday's news conference, and vowed to "continue to work until my last day in office."

Zoom in: Kenney's administration has already poured $340 million into anti-violence initiatives in the last two years, the most of any mayor, but critics have questioned whether the interventions are working.

  • To help improve crime clearance rates and reach those most impacted by gun violence, the administration hopes to add another 150 police officers, according to Kenney's final year priorities.
  • They're also focusing on the Police Department's plan to redeploy more than 100 officers to crime hotspots in four districts, which commissioner Danielle Outlaw said Wednesday has already started.

On neighborhoods: The administration also hopes to deliver on another goal of ensuring 80% of low-income families live within a mile of newly renovated recreation centers, libraries or playgrounds.

  • The administration said improvements have already been made to more than a dozen facilities, while other buildings are ready for construction or in public engagement and design phases.
  • City officials also pledged to provide financial support to 900 first-time home buyers, repair another 4,500 homes and add another 2,000 affordable housing units in 2023.

What he's saying: During a sitdown interview with Axios, Kenney reflected on navigating the city through the pandemic and civil unrest, which he said put Philadelphia's issues "on steroids."

  • "We were trying to keep the house from burning down," Kenney said of leadership over the past three years.

Kenney acknowledged his tenure has not been without "screw-ups," including the Vine Street Expressway incident, when police tear-gassed protesters amid racial justice demonstrations. But the mayor said his legacy is for others to judge.

  • "There's a spectrum of people who think I did a terrific job, and then there's that cranky, older white man who thinks everyone sucks," Kenney said.

The other side: Josh Kruger, who spent several years working on Kenney's communications team and wrote a candid piece about the mayor last year for Philadelphia Magazine, said the city leader still has time to shape how he's remembered.

  • "In 40 years, history's going to be very kind to him," he said. "At the end of the day, people don't remember what you said; they remember how you made them feel."

What's next: Kenney said he hasn't sorted out his next step yet, and he didn't rule out a future return to politics. He also wouldn't say whether he plans to endorse someone in the upcoming race to replace him.

Go deeper: Read Kenney's final year priorities report


Get more local stories in your inbox with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more

More Philadelphia stories

No stories could be found


Get a free daily digest of the most important news in your backyard with Axios Philadelphia.


Support local journalism by becoming a member.

Learn more