Nelson Diaz photo by Gene Smirnov
Two months ago, no mayoral candidate was the presumptive choice for voters whose main concern is a sustainable Philadelphia. As we went through the process of asking candidates questions directly, looking at public records, examining other local reporting, and consulting with sustainability leaders in the field, one candidate stood apart from the field. Grid is pleased to announce our endorsement of Judge Nelson Diaz for Mayor.
Each of the candidates had positives. Doug Oliver proved a charismatic candidate, and we wouldn’t be surprised if he is one day the mayor of Philadelphia. We hope as his executive experience deepens and his views evolve, he’ll rely less heavily on his natural gas-centric view of sustainability and think about the long game for the city.
Lynne Abraham is a sharp-minded, dedicated public servant, and by all accounts a fierce prosecutor. Her policy recommendations when it comes to the environment are mostly sound, but she lacks a comprehensive vision for how a commitment to sustainability could make or break our future, and she has not challenged the prevailing wisdom that bringing a petrochemical hub to the city should be a central part of our economic development strategy.
Anthony Williams is a seasoned politician, and is most compelling when he’s speaking about the nuances of social justice as they relate to the sustainability community, but his relationship with the natural gas industry is troubling. He was one of a handful of Democratic State Senators to vote for Act 13, a bill—now law—that stripped communities of their right to protect themselves from fracking, instituted a gag order against doctors, and repealed existing environmental protections. Fortunately, the Pennsylvania State Supreme Court intervened, and some of the worst pieces of the law were overturned.
Jim Kenney has proven himself a friend to progressives and has been a strong leader on the environment and LGBTQ rights, among other issues, he knows well the dynamic between City Council and the Mayor, and he won the official support of some in the environmental community. Though he was first to add the environment to his campaign platform, it was disturbing to hear a staffer say that clean air didn’t do people much good if they couln’t afford to live here. It was an undisciplined gaffe that would have faded away had Kenney not appointed Phil Rinaldi, CEO of Philadelphia Energy Solutions, responsible for 72 percent of the air pollution in Philadelphia, to his economic development team.
Nelson Diaz, a candidate we knew little about at the beginning of this race, has surprised and heartened us. We were initially intrigued that he was the only candidate who seemed to want to voluntarily put the brakes on the discussion of making Philadelphia a petrochemical hub. The more we learned about his experience and vision, the more we came to believe in his ability to lead Philadelphia into the next phase of becoming a world-class city. His experience growing up poor (and sick from poor air quality) in New York City, his time as a public housing administrator in Washington, D.C., his experience as a judge, and in private practice at a law firm have given him a regional and national perspective on urban sustainability that would serve Philadelphia well. He was the only candidate to tackle Grid’s questions on climate change, resilience and adaptation, and he lays out a compelling vision for the City in “Principles for a Greener Philadelphia,” his new environmental policy platform. It’s aspirational, articulate and uncompromising. Nelson Diaz should be the next Mayor of Philadelphia.