Oct 27, 2023 - Politics

Mayoral candidates clash on crime, Sixers arena

Photo illustration of David Oh and Cherelle Parker.

Photo illustration: Axios Visuals. Photos: City Council Philadelphia, Gilbert Carrasquillo/Getty Images

Mayoral candidates Cherelle Parker and David Oh remained cordial even when they disagreed with each other during their first — and likely only — debate Thursday on KYW Newsradio.

Driving the news: The candidates, both considered moderates within their respective parties, agreed public safety is a pressing issue but disagreed over how best to tackle it.

  • They also were at odds over the Philadelphia 76ers' proposal to construct a $1.5 billion stadium near Chinatown.

The big picture: The candidates' charted different paths to the general election. Parker won a crowded and contentious Democratic primary while Oh, a Republican, ran unopposed.

Details: Parker has embraced the controversial stop-and-frisk policy to deter crime in Philadelphia, which logged more than 500 murders each in 2021 and 2022.

  • Oh said during the debate the tactic was regressive and further divides police and communities of color that are disproportionately impacted by the policy: "It is historically an invitation to failure."

The intrigue: Parker couched her support for the policy by saying she wouldn't tolerate officers caught abusing their power.

  • "You will be fired, and we will then see you in court or in arbitration," she said.

They also sparred over an idea that Parker floated this week of bringing in the National Guard to crack down on the open-air drug market in Kensington – a tactic current mayor Jim Kenney has rejected.

Parker said it's "myopic" to view the National Guard as an occupying force since they also provide medical support, food and property protection during emergencies.

Yes, but: Oh said he was concerned about the perception of having heavily armed, uniformed military members who aren't trained in policing in a city where residents already distrust law enforcement.

  • Instead, he advocated for appointing a police commissioner "who knows the city" and reemphasized enforcement of low-level offenses as part of a "broken windows" crime-fighting strategy.
  • Oh blamed much of the city's current predicament on progressive prosecutor Larry Krasner while Parker refused to attack another "independently elected official."

Zoom in: He said he'd consider trimming Krasner's budget, deputizing city attorneys and tapping federal prosecutors to handle more cases.

  • "I will certainly encourage him and incentivize him that the more you fight crime the more money you get," Oh said.

Meanwhile, Parker said she'd take a more "comprehensive approach" including the police adopting CompStat360, a data collection tool developed by the National Policing Institute.

  • "It's sexy for some, salacious for others, to point fingers and talk about who is not doing what, but that's not how I've gotten things done in my career."

When the topic turned to the 76ers arena, Oh said he opposed a project that many fear will disrupt life for residents of Chinatown — even if it meant the Sixers possibly leaving Philly.

The bottom line: Oh said the Sixers' plan lacked detail and was "a bad idea in that location."

  • Parker reiterated her wait-and-see stance, saying the city doesn't "have the luxury of giving knee-jerk reactions to proposed economic development."
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