Once and For All, Why I Don't Think We Can Risk Tom Knox

I want to go into my rationale a little bit more about Knox, and why I feel strongly about him. I have never met him, though we did exchange emails a while back. But, anyway, what I want to make clear is that I don't necessarily think he is a bad person. Susan Madrak, for example, his press secretary, is someone I do know a little bit, and I don't think she would work for Dr. Evil.

But, here is my basic take on Knox, after reading everything, watching him, and why I really, strongly do not think he is a good idea.

First of all, what do we really know about the way Knox will govern? Not much. The record of public service that other candidates have is important for a number of reasons, including showing what they care about. But especially wrapped up in that is that public service is... public. Ray is a big fan of Chaka Fattah. Someone like Gaetano, for example, is not. But, at least in some of his critiques of Fattah, we get something that comes effectively down to this: I have not seen him do things as Congressman, I have not seen him in my neighborhood, etc. In other words, he is criticizing him for his record or his performance as a Congressman. When Stan criticizes Nutter, it is for Nutter’s time as a City Councilman, and the bills he introduced, or helped stop. We can do that, because it was done largely in the public view.

That does not mean that all Mayoral candidates need to have been politicians, because there are things that non-traditional candidates can offer. (For example, maybe Paul Levy should get on the green party ticket if Knox wins?) But, still, we do not have that record for Knox, which brings me to point 2.

Except for his stint as one of many deputy mayors, where he saved the City money by renegotiating leases, Knox has no record of public service that we know of. He has been a big donor to a lot of Democrats throughout the years (as well as Rick Santorum, and PAS). But that is about it. He has not been vocal on any issue, at all. He has no signature cause, or anything like that. He has nothing that really shows us his instincts for how he will lead. Except...

This brings us to the payday lending thing. Knox is running as a businessman who has done well, and who will bring those skills to the City. So then, since that is effectively his only record, that is how we have to judge him, right?. And, frankly, given how much poverty wracks Philadelphia, someone who has the instincts to put into place payday payday lending is someone I think is potentially dangerous. In terms of legislation, we will still have City Council to act as some sort of protector, but, a lot goes on without legislation. So, the payday lending thing scares me for what he thinks “helps” poor people. And then when he reacted by deriding government regulators who did exactly what government should do, and protected poor Americans, I became increasingy skeptical of his idea of what government should be.

Which brings me to my final point: I think Knox is running a fundamentally dishonest campaign. First, he is not an outsider. He is a rich, connected, Center City businessman. Again, it does not make him evil. But considering that he, for example, donated 5,000 to Vince Fumo in 2000, and asked Vince Fumo to run him as "PorkKnox, the other White candidate" in 1999, his railing against Fumo seems hollow. The things that Fumo are being indicted for, while mildly surprising in their extent and largesse, are not particularly new, especially if you read the Inquirer over the past ten years or so. Yet Knox now rails against Fumo, and his system of patronage and favors. Well, Knox, in fact, was part of that system, or at least a supporter of it. Now, he is running against it. Maybe it is a change of heart, or a change in outlook, or whatever. But, again, it just seems dishonest.

Or, he now says he did not realize that payday loans would be continuously rolled into new loans, trapping people in debt. Again, I can only say that I think he is not telling the truth. Why? Because before Knox got into the business, he supposedly consulted Advance America, one of PA's big payday lenders, on the payday business. Presumably, when talking to Advance America, as the CEO of his bank, don't you think he asked them about their business model, ie, how they made money on these things? Well, assuming he did, he would have heard that much of Advance America's entire plan was centered around... rolling people into loan after loan. When the payday lenders, led by Advance America, were trying to get payday lending legalized here, a proposal to limit people to something like three consecutive loans was laughed at by their industry. Why? Because, again, repeat loans were fundamental to their entire business model. It is far too unbelievable to me to consider that Knox did not know that, or that was not mentioned to him when he went into the business. So, again, it just seems to be yet more dishonesty.

There are other things, too. I asked him over email if, given the money he was pouring in to "take the sale sign off City Hall," he thought we should have public funding of elections, so non-rich people could similarly get rid of the stench of moneyed interests. He basically ignored the question. Now, he supports public funding, according to a comment from Susie. Maybe not a big deal. But again, it just seems like he adopts what he thinks he needs to at a particular moment.

There were also his strange answers about those studious gays.

So, all that said, does it mean Knox will be a bad Mayor? No, I guess not. He, like any Mayor, could do great things, surround himself with great people, and give us good policies. In fact, a couple of his policies (like the health center thing) have already been good. And, seriously, this could be the old, rich guy who will save us all.

But given what we know about him, is he a risk I think we can take? No. That, in a nutshell, is why I strongly oppose Tom Knox for Mayor.

A differing definition of "outsider"

"First, he is not an outsider."

There's been a fair amount of discussion, mostly criticism, over whether Candidate Knox is truly an "outsider" or not. As it relates to the notion of an "outsider" in political terms, I fully agree - no way. Given that (I think?) this is the definition Candidate Knox seems to be referring to in his ads and speeches, your comment/criticism and those of others are right on.

However, I tend to also think about the notion of an "outsider" with respect to one's resume as well. Under this lens, while I don't support or not support Candidate Knox, my sense is that he is, in fact, an outsider. Of the five candidates, which candidate has not spent his entire life in the public sector? Stated differently, of the five candidates, who's life has not been marked by a race to the top of the public sector? (Note: Speaking here in a general sense - not going year by year through the resumes.)

A survey of the YPP population would likely reveal that a strong proportion either worked in some capacity in the public sector, or aspire to in some way, shape, or form in the future. So, the resume definition of "outsider" might not hold much weight. And given that the candidate does not seem to be speaking of himself in this sense only, the criticisms makes sense. But for those of us not impressed by resumes marked foremost by political ambition, Tom Knox truly does represent "something different." And while "different" is not necessarily a value judgment on the experience itself, it certainly is something to be considered.

City Hall Forclosure

Ok, I promised myself that I wasn't going to jump on this anti-Knox boat (Dan seems to be driving that pretty well anyway... again, and again, and one last time, and again.)

BUT, if Knox plans on taking the for sale sign off city hall, AND he is loaning (not giving) his campaign all this money; then really, Knox is going to have to sell even MORE of City Hall when he starts raising funds to pay off his campaign. I mean if he's spending multiple times as much as the other candidates, he's going to have to raise from interest groups multiple times as much.

Really, by spending SOO much money on the campaign, he's even MORE beholden to interest groups than any of the other candidates (maybe even all of them combined).

Charles Barkley raised a point that I will never understand

Charles Barkley once stated before a NBA game that he didn't understand why candidates spend so much money (MILLIONS) on campaigns for a job only paying a couple hundred thousand a year. Can someone truly answer that one for me???

Make me understand???

Junior Williams

Holding a High-Ranking Public Position Is A Rare Opportunity

Holding a high-ranking public position is a rare opportunity that thousands of people now have spent millions of dollars of their own money to achieve. It brings with it many millions of dollars worth of free publicity and prestige among many people who otherwise would not have heard of them.

The problem is that many of the multimillionaires who get elected are handicapped by a lack of relevant experience, and are therefore quite limited in what they actually achieve.


Mark, can you write more about your last point?


I want to agree with Mr.

I want to agree with Mr. Waxman here, sir.

When you make a vast societal generalization such as this...

"The problem is that many of the multimillionaires who get elected are handicapped by a lack of relevant experience, and are therefore quite limited in what they actually achieve."

you better back it up with some highly relevant examples - past, present, and prospective.

Seems to me we need more self-maders and less self-takers like Mr. Cohen.

Dan and Ray do we really need this kind of vile language

on this site? I'm no prude, but it's just pathetically useless to any reasoned dialogue.

You are right, Stan. I would

You are right, Stan. I would rather have vast, unsubstantiated generalizations go un-challenged. Particularly when they come from individuals who spend $28,200 of our tax dollars on books, which is entirely appropriate and most certainly how a good executive or entrepreneur would spend his or her company's money.

Dan/Ray - show the poster the door.

What's that got to do with using civilized language?

Don't you understand that simple point?

When someone spends $28,200

When someone spends $28,200 of taxpayer funds on books, and then criticizes "multimillionaires," who often come from the ranks of our country's entrepreneurs and executives, for lacking "relevant" experience, you throw civilized language out the door.

Relevant Experience

What I'd like to know is, what "relevant experience" did you have Rep. Cohen when you were elected? Weren't you in your 20's? I did not have to drop the f-bomb to ask that question :)

Another relevant question.

Treat the pigs who feed from the public trough as disrespectfully as possible.

Another relevant

Another relevant question.
Submitted by fran9480 on Tue, 04/10/2007 - 8:40pm.

Treat the pigs who feed from the public trough as disrespectfully as possible.

Doesn't the place you work for recieve public funds?

No, I am a research analyst

No, I am a research analyst at brightyard, and we do not receive public funds. Might make my ability to purchase books a bit easier, however.

OK - but you used to work as

OK - but you used to work as an analyst for an economic development group that does receive them & you currently serve on the board of another that does.

Federal, State, City, Community, Political, and Educational

I had federal government experience as an intern for Congressman William J. Green and U.S. Senator Joseph S. Clark. As an intern for Congressman Green, I did extensive research for Congressman Green on federal programs affecting Philadelphia. As an intern for Senator Clark, chosen by a foundation operating out of Franklin and Marshall College, I compiled every bill Senator Clark had ever introduced or co-sponsored, and summarized his record in numerous areas for the use of he and his staff. I also contributed facts, paragraphs, and pages to speeches he delivered and did some constituent service work.

As a Penn student, I was active in the planning for the White House Conference on Children and Youth that was held in 1970. That led me to meet with various state officials and led to my appointment as a member of Governor Raymond P. Shafer's Youth Advisory Council.

My father began his service in the Philadelphia City Council in 1968. Throughout his first term in City Council, I did extensive volunteer research for him on numerous topics. At that time City Council members had virtually no staff, and my research for him was helpful to his efforts to reform Philadelphia zoning laws and procedures, to fight Philadelphia corruption, to make City Council the advocate on national issues that it is today, and to help with some constituent service requests.

At the University of Pennsylvania, I was one of the first 14 students elected to the University Council, the top advisory committee to President Gaylord P. Harnwell.

I was treasurer of the Penn Young Democrats, co-Chairman of Philadelphia Students for Robert Kennedy during his Presidential campaign, and President of the Penn chapter of the New Democratic Coalition, a national reform Democratic organization.

I brought Robert Kennedy to Penn, where he spoke to 10,000 people, one of his largest audiences in his campaign. I also brought Jackie Robinson to Penn and corresponded with Martin Luther King about coming: shortly before his assassination he telegraphed me with his regrets.

I initiated the successful efforts to get graduate and faculty involved in the 27th Ward, the ward then covering almost all of the Penn Campus. As a result of my efforts, the University community took over the 27th Ward Democratic Executive Committee for the first time. I was also active in the recruitment of Democratic candidates for committee persons around the city in 1970, 1972, and 1974.

As a high school student at Central High School, I had been a leader of a book drive for Mississippi African American students, who had virtually no public school system. Mississippi did not then even make the pretense of having an equal system for blacks separate from its educational system for whites. I was also an elected leader of the Political Union of Central High School.

I participated in community drives for desegregation of the Philadelphia public schools, for the development of a branch of the Philadelphia library system near the elementary school I attended, and for the encouragement of minority students in our community to attend college. I will never forget an organizing meeting for parents and students--black and white--where a speaker asked whether the young people in attendance intended to go college: virtually every white kid said yes and virtually every black kid said no.

I graduated from Penn in 1970 with a B.A. in political science. I also took extensive credits in education, history, and sociology. Before running for the legislature, I had also spent a year at Temple Law School, where I narrowly missed the cutoff for promotion to the second year after they dramtically raised the cutoff point in what appeared to be an effort to eliminate almost all the school's black students. I declined Temple's subsequent offer of re-admission, and later graduated from Widener University School of Law and the MBA program of Lebanon Valley College.

At the time of my initial election, my father had lost two of his three candidacies for public office and was a former City Councilman. I was supported by political reform organizations such as the ADA and the New Democratic Coalition. Daily News columnist Chuck Stone placed me on his list of non-machine candidates to be supported.

In electing me, the voters backed a 24 year old man who already had some experience at the city, state, and federal levels, who was supportive of the civil rights movement, who had been active in neighborhood concerns, and who had opposed politics as usual in various wards around the city. They cast a vote against the racial polarization surrounding the Rizzo Administration, and voted for a candidate with support in both the black and white communities.

I am now, after Frank Oliver, the senior elected official in the city of Philadelphia. I am grateful to the people who put me in office, and I have worked constantly over the last 33 years to prove myself worthy of their trust and the trust of the many people who have since been added to my district.

Fran, I deleted that part of

Fran, I deleted that part of your comment. That just isn't how we do things here. If you can't deal with that, then go elsewhere.

You can censor the

You can censor the messenger, but you can't censor the message and you can't censor the rage. I will wear the badge of martyr proudly.

This might be the first sign

This might be the first sign that you take yourself a little too seriously.


Might also be the first sign

Might also be the first sign that you don't understand sarcasm.

That may be true. As others

That may be true. As others have pointed out, I pretty much have no online sense of humor. It's a bummer, because I am at least moderately funny in person.


I can see the business cards now

Fran9480: Entrepeneur and Martyr (or is it Martyr and Enrepreneur?)

Seriously, as Dan points out, Mark is remarkably tone deaf on this and some other issues, but his buying those books doesn't define him as a politician - and is totally unrelated to the topic of the thread.

It's not necessarily

It's not necessarily "totally unrelated to the topic of the thread" by any means. It also is most certainly not "totally unrelated" to Mr. Cohen's comment to the post, which was interesting and deserved a response.

Mr. Cohen criticized "multimillionaires," in a tangential reference to Candidate Knox, for lacking "relevant experience."

I, in turn, questioned Mr. Cohen's questioning of "multimillionaire" candidates lack of "relevant experience" by referencing the fact that he might not be such a good judge of executive potential, given his poor use of taxpayer funds.

In fact, it is executive-type candidates such as Candidate Knox who might just change the environment by which folks like Mr. Cohen feel like spending $28,200 on books is ok. Obviously he's not running for governor, but what I mean is that perhaps voters will see what it's like to have someone with Candidate Knox's perspective in an executive level position. Maybe not, but maybe so.

How do we know what Knox

How do we know what Knox will do? Do you think if we looked at everything he wrote off as an expense at Crusader or the Healthcare company would pass a similar smell test?

We found out about Mark because it is our right to know through record requests, etc. We don't know very much about Knox's business skills, or what kind of leader he was, or whether he had a Tyco type approach to spending shareholder's cash.

Your comments about "relevant experience"

are related to Mark's comments. Your martyring yourself in the name of ethical politics (through your self-sacrificing insults of Mark) are totally unrelated.

Is Knox's executive experience a qualification to be a mayor? You tell me. I could come up with reasons why just about any job could be "relevant" experience. I see no reason to necessarily assume that Knox's executive experience would make him a good mayor; Kenneth Lay was a very successful executive before he landed in jail. I don't think a crook like Lay would have made a very good mayor.

On the other hand, Knox seems to have absolutely no history of advocacy on progressive issues. Mark does. So, do you really have any point other than to attack Mark? I think not.

Mr. Cohen made a fairly vast

Mr. Cohen made a fairly vast generalization about "multimillionaires" not making for such good candidates due to a lack of "relevant" experience, which I found unfair. I called him on both his generalization and his ability to evaluate (and thus comment on) executive candidates given his own apparent lack of insight as it relates to the best use of public money (a problem one would hope that an executive in government does not have). Why you seem to think that is not related to the post and/or Mr. Cohen's comment is interesting.

If you have problems with candidate Knox and/or any other multimillionaire candidate for whatever public office, fine. However, I love that every time you try and respond to something I have to say, Enron and/or Ken Lay come up. Are you capable of saying anything about the private sector that does not, in fact, involve Enron? If not, there are millions of people and trillions of dollars worth of wonderful transactions that I'd like to introduce you to.

Ken Lay

is just one of many, many, many examples of successful executives who are entirely unqualified, and totally inappropriate, to be a mayor of this City (not in the least because he's dead). The only reason why I choose him to point out poor argumentation on your part he is so well known. If it'd make you feel better, I'll use names of other executives in the future.

As for Mark's "vast generalization."

The problem is that many of the multimillionaires who get elected are handicapped by a lack of relevant experience, and are therefore quite limited in what they actually achieve.

Do you care to give us some names of some elected multimillionaires who prove Mark's "vast generalization" to be inaccurate? What about Bernard Ebbers, the CEO of WorldCom - would he have made a good mayor of Philly due to his executive experience?

I think that Mark was

I think that Mark was talking about a fairly small group-- multimillionaires who spend enormous amounts of their own money to win elected office. That's not a broad generalization in any way. I asked for more details because I suspect he'll provide some interesting examples.


The term multimillionaires

The term multimillionaires to me explains something about the size of a person's wealth, hardly saying anything about their upbringing, their work experience, their personality, or the fight in their heart. Whether they spend enormous amounts of money to win office says nothing about the fact that each of us as individuals bring a unique set of skills and experience to the table. Mark shouldn't be grouping "multimillionaires" together just as I should not be lumping public sector lifers and/or the politically ambitious together, but I will do it anyway so feel free to call me on it.

Yeah, those poor

Yeah, those poor much-maligned multimillionaires.

There are no words to capture the injustice.

(sorry Dan, I couldn't help myself)


I wrote that because Mark usually writes great posts that tie historical and national trends to current events. He has a great perspective and an almost encyclopedic knowledge of Philadelphia political history. I wanted him to write a little bit more about bit more because I bet it would be incredibly interesting.

Maybe he has so many insights because he reads so many books. I have really never understood why people endlessly attack Mark for being intellectually curious. As a taxpayer, I want lawmakers to spend a little more money on reading materials and less on, I dunno, the war?

Elected officials spend thousands of dollars on subscribing to newspapers, magazines, and lot's of other publications. Is that money wasted as well? What about the hundreds of thousands of dollars that is spent on research staff for the state legislature?


Ugh. Seriously, can we not

Ugh. Seriously, can we not get back into this? Mark bought things like "The Zen of Gambling." There is no real excuse for it, and I am stunned that he doesn't get how this type of thing interferes with larger goals and desires he has to do good.

Maybe we should get back to this...

"It passed the commission, 23-1, with the lone "no" vote cast by Rep. Mark Cohen (D., Phila.). He argued that disclosing every detail about legislative spending amounts to exposing legislators to harassment."

This comes from a post Larry Farnese added a few months ago. You can read the rest here.

How anyone can not be outraged at the sheer sight of this gentleman's name is stratospherically enraging.

Then write a post. Write a

Then write a post. Write a column for a newspaper. Use free blogger tools to start a Mark Cohen blog. Whatever. But, if your response is that anything that Mark writes or says will be responded to by you cursing him out, or hijacking the thread, then again, just do it elsewhere.

Again, Fran, we have done this dance before. You either deal with community norms here, or start your own blog. But, the types of stuff you are doing are the examples that are given to Ray and I offline, of why more people don't want to comment and participate here.

Yes, but the rage

you exhibit over these book purchases sounds like the level usually displayed for axe murderers and pedophiles. I have just the slightest suspicion that a good deal of it comes from the fact that you fundamentally disagree with Mr. Cohen's relentless advocacy for the poor and dispossessed, something I haven't seen you evidence the slightest concern with. Indeed, I would characterize most of your posts as being proudly unconcerned with such people except to the extent that their lot may be improved by the magic of the market place.

Actually I think the very notion of government is what gets you the most overheated. I suppose you do support the usefulness of government in raising armies. Do I overstate just a trifle here? Perhaps. But not too much.

Seriously, lets just move

Seriously, lets just move on.

I Am Not A Gambler

I have never bet at a casino.

I bought a few lottery tickets after the lottery was established in Pennsylvania, and then stopped.

My personal belief is that if 100 gamblers start with $1000, and 100 non-gamblers start with $1000, over time virtually all the non-gamblers will have significantly more money than do virtually all the gamblers.

I spent $10 or $15 or so on a paperback version of the Zen of Gambling to gain insights into why so many people enjoy an activity that is so foreign to me.

I bought it around the time the House was voting on legislation to legalize casino gambling in Pennsylvania. It was a completely legitimate governmental expenditure approved by non-partisan auditors of the House Bi-Partisan Management Committee.

Actually, you know it turns

Actually, that makes a ton of sense. See, I was so(!!) mad at you when Dan mentioned the Zen of Gambling in his comment, but seeing your justification here (not to mention the fact that it was paperback) puts me at ease.

Actually, wait a second. At $15 a pop, I'd like to know about the other 1,879 books. Since I don't want to hijack the post, would you mind sending me an email with a list and the justifications for each? Pointing me in the direction of the list somewhere would also be fine. Just, you know, curious.

"Maybe he has so many

"Maybe he has so many insights because he reads so many books. I have really never understood why people endlessly attack Mark for being intellectually curious."

Just off the top of my head, I can think of 20 or so non-profit organizations who could have put $28,200 to work in communities in places like Allentown, Kensington, Frankford and West Philadelphia. I can think of a few small businesses struggling to stay alive who would have benefited from a $28,200 grant earmarked for workforce development, perhaps an HTML or MS Access class for a secretary who'd become quite familiar with use of a computer, despite not having much prior experience.

Equating reading $28,200 worth of reading with "intellectually curious" seems to me to be a bit too accommodating of Mr. Cohen.


Kinda like Fumo, right?

What is it you don't understand about campaign finance?

Anyone who gives money after an election is over is limited to the same restrictions as before the campaign. In fact, (at least for the general election) it's likely that the millionaire exemption will no longer apply and contributions would be limited to $2,500 - just as they would have been if Tom wasn't running a self-funded campaign. (I just checked with a staff attorney.)

So why is this somehow more dastardly than getting contributions before the election?

I understand that many of you have decided you don't like Tom, you don't trust him and you don't want him as mayor under any circumstances. As a result, you interpret every single fact through that emotional filter.

But that doesn't change facts. The fact is, lending the money to the campaign is not unusual or nefarious.

Maybe not, but

it certainly takes away from the purity of a campaign which incessantly brags that it doesn't owe anyone anything because the only one paying for it is the candidate.

And if no one contributes...

Or he loses, the loss is all his. Apparently that doesn't matter to you, but it does to a lot of voters.

I don't think too many people vote for a candidate based on

what happens if he loses. If they think good things happen if he loses, then they'll probably vote to help him lose.

If Your Candidate Loses We All Might Pay


If candidate who has loaned his campaign loses, an unscrupulous person might then write it off as a bad loan against other loan profits and the tax payers may end up paying. BTW, most of us on this blog are tax payers.

Actually, having your candidate lose might be worth the price.

Thanks, Dan

This is a great post. I couldn't agree more. Tom Knox could be the greatest thing to ever happen to Philadelphia or he could be the worst. More likely, he'd be somewhere in between if elected mayor. He has such a small record of public service that it's almost impossible to know for sure. Additionally, his record as deputy mayor is mixed at best. According to an article in the Philadelphia Daily News, many of the people who worked with Knox found him very difficult to deal with. If we've learned one thing from the Street Administration, it's that having a mayor who can actually engage citizens, unions, businesses, and community organizations is vitally important for moving the city forward.


Ben, you keep quoting that story...

About Tom being difficult to deal with, and yet you always forget to include the people in the article who said he wasn't. I not only work for the guy and like him, I know he has many friends who also worked for him. (And by the way, the Daily News interviewed people who worked for him 15 years ago. He says he's mellowed a lot since then, as do most people with age.)

A few days ago, a young attorney from one of the large firms came into our office to volunteer, and she told me she'd worked as Tom's executive assistant right out of college. She said he was great to work for, and that the experience was invaluable because he was very good about explaining his decisions.

She said she also liked him a lot, and that was why she wanted to work for him.

Fair point. You can't reach

Fair point. You can't reach that level of success if you are completely horrible with people. Still, I think some of the descriptions of his management style should give people pause. It would be different if everyone had provided glowing reviews.

That said, there are a number of other reasons that I am concerned about Tom Knox. The whole predatory lending issue is a huge deal to me. It's been covered a lot on this blog, but I think it pretty much disqualifies him from being mayor. I don't care that he got out of the business. It was a horrible misjudgment to ever try t make money ripping off poor people. This is a critical time for Philadelphia. As a city, we can't afford those kinds of mistakes.

Second, what about his time at Fidelity Mutual Insurance Company? He was forced to resign after two years because of a major conflict of interest. Basically, he used insider information to make money in the stock market. It wasn't a ton, given his net worth, but again it speaks to his judgment.


You're wrong on Fidelity.

It was not insider trading. Absolutely not. It wasn't even ruled a conflict of interest - they said it had the APPEARANCE of conflict (which is always a concern regardless of the reality), and that's why he was asked to resign his post. I know, I've read all the documentation.

Please remember: Tom was operating then as a businessman. His goal was to make money. The goals in public office are very different and he's certainly aware of that.

It sounds like a lot of your judgment about his skills is grounded in your age and relative inexperience. I have the impression you went directly from school into politics, which means your perspective is only theoretical.

Organizations are complex organisms. The fact that you think all his reviews should have been glowing speaks to your inexperience. If the first thing people said was how much they love him, it would tell me, as an experienced manager, that all his managerial energies went to pleasing the wide array of personalities under him instead of reaching his organizational goals. It's a balancing act - if you do please everyone, you probably haven't accomplished much. Again, what's the ultimate goal here?

Competent, talented people are usually more than happy to work for an occasionally cranky boss because they learn so much and get to accomplish things. Not-so-talented people are much more concerned with "niceness." Don't take my word for it - ask some people who've had a long corporate career.

Some of the worst bosses I've ever had were the "nicest." They couldn't make good decisions because they were much more worried about someone being mad at them then they were about getting things done. (As a result, they usually ended up pissing everyone off, anyway.) Their decisions changed according to whoever they spoke to last - which is always a workplace nightmare.

A Well Done And Cogent Response


A well done job in responding to the concerns of folks on the Blog, as I've criticised you for not doing so, previously.

I still have a concern as to your candidate's character. Philadelphia has too many poor people and I personally would never have gotten into the payday loan business. I think that what he did was morally indefensable, even if it was good business. I just question his judgement.

For someone who claims to be a Democrat,I was surprissed to hear that he contributed to the Santorum campaign. I'm just not sure I agree with your candidate's values.

By the way, did he pay for signitures? Inquiring minds want to know.

It sounds like a lot of your

It sounds like a lot of your judgment about his skills is grounded in your age and relative inexperience. I have the impression you went directly from school into politics, which means your perspective is only theoretical

Actually, I haven't graduated yet (May 12th!) and I am actually planning to go into the private sector after school. Still, I am not sure how my age and/or inexperience is connected to my criticism of Knox. I have talked with a lot of older folks, from a variety of backgrounds, who share my concerns about Knox.


It has to do with your specific criticism...

That he was difficult to work for. How many of the older people you consulted about his managerial skills worked in a corporate environment for a significant length of time? (By the way, I wouldn't include law firms, which are an entire world unto themselves.)

I can attest, about 90% of

I can attest, about 90% of the managers our there are difficult to work for. And, until you've been dragged into a partner's office because the "law" doesn't come out his/her way or because you just have too much to do to take anymore on and mowed down, you have no idea what it is like working for someone who is tough to work for.

Difficult managers are the norm. I fail to see why the public sector shouldn't have them too.

From what my friends tell me...

Working in a law firm can be akin to indentured servitude. The reason I didn't include them is, law firms are often run on personality and whim. Corporations tend to have a much more structured, predictable environment.

You're right again, I

You're right again, I haven't talked with anyone who has directly worked for him in a corporate setting.

However, I think your point actually underscores my problems with Knox. Besides his brief time as a deputy mayor, he has almost no experience in public service. Voters really have no way of knowing if he can do the job or not. If he had a record, like all of the other candidates, we could make a judgment. Assurances that he would do a good job from his campaign spokesperson are not enough.


Seriously though, to what

Seriously though, to what extent can we ever assure ourselves entirely any of these guys can do a good job. There are too many externalities that are involved. Street was, at best, a mediocre mayor and it was not because he wasn't smart or capable.

The only actual executives in the bunch are Knox and Brady (DCC). The rest have all been career legislators. How do we know if they can lead? I say, it's kind of a crap shoot.

Can you quantify?

There has been so much rhetoric swirling around that I lose track. I say this seriously and want to call a halt to this debate and declare a no-bait zone (a great term coined by Friedman:

Gaetano, when you say Street has been a mediocre Mayor, what specifically do you mean? Can you compare Street to Rendell to Goode and tell us what you think are objective standards that define a good or bad Mayor?

[I am asking this seriously, and I am not up for pissing matches today--it's an innocent and serious question.]

Rendell vs. Street

Ray, while I can't talk about Goode (I'm too young to remember), I can certainly compare and contrast Rendell & Street. In my opinion, the biggest difference is management skills.

When Rendell took office, he inherited a city on the brink of bankruptcy. He nursed it back to health and left it with a $200+ million surplus. John Street had an opportunity to capitilize on Rendell's accomplishments. He failed miserably.

I believe Street had good intentions entering office. But his mismanagement of government has left Philadelphia in a worst position than Rendell left it. Morale is down, and we are again fiscally unstable. I could go into a bunch of things that Street has done wrong, but it is not my intent to rip him.

However, Street's poor management skills is one characteristic that makes him different and not as good of a mayor than Rendell.


Street has been just as good a mayor. The cronyism is something that happened under Rendell, i.e. Cohen's law firm and Comcast. Rove's justice dept is responsible for exposing the dem pol machine. If Street was white he would be america's mayor. Street has been fiscally responsible by not allowing big biz to control the tax debate and continuing to be fiscally responsible by not lowering taxes to the point of becoming fiscally irresponsible. Look at the bond ratings for the city from Rendell to Street. Clearly Street wins hands down. He has kept center city moving forward while also focsuing on neighborhoods. WiFi in philly is going to be huge. Corruption needs to be reigned in but that has been part of the Dem machine, Street happened to be Mayor and black so he was exposed for it. Bond ratings for philly: http://www.philadelphiacontroller.org/bonds.aspx

Explain how street was fiscally irresponsible? Quit listening to the lies.

Good post, eraske;

pay to play was alive and well under Rendell who probably taught Street everything he knew about it. And Rendell's economic miracle had mostly to do with the fact that Mayor Goode negotiated the state rescue at the end of his term, and Rendell was the beneficiary. The deficit was done away with in a bond issue, plus the City was given a new source of revenue, a 1% sales tax, all of which were in place when Rendell came into office.

Or maybe also the fact that

Or maybe also the fact that most American cities (except Detroit) saw a turnaround in the mid to late 1990s due to a strong national economy.

Rendell was no "mayoral god"--but I think there is a saying that goes "the man does not make the times, the times make the man." You get the point. Notice, in 8 years, what improvements did Rendell make for public education--crickets.


Rendell was an excellent Mayor who attracted amazing people to work with him and run his departments. Just go ask a few 20-30 year civil servants who've worked for different Mayors over the years and ask them which administration they were proudest to work in.

Brady and the City Commitee

I don't count that as executive experience. Running a political party is nothing like running a city.


Relatively speaking Ben, it

Relatively speaking Ben, it is something compared to pure legislative experience. That is the point.

Again, as I said before...

That Daily News article also included favorable quotes from several people who worked with and for him. That was my point - that you were ignoring the positive statements and focusing on the negative ones. I don't know if you noticed, but the negative ones were all anonymous. I usually discount unnamed sources, they almost always have their own agenda.

Now that's all I asked for...

a little bit of honesty. So your principles don't stand above politics. You don't want Knox as mayor and anyone else's actual law breaking are worse than what you perceive of Knox. Brady committed fraud, OK as long as we "stop knox". Did he piss your soup? This almost sounds personal.

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