Jim Kenney

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Jim Kenney
James F. Kenney 2009.jpg
Kenney in 2009
99th Mayor of Philadelphia
Assumed office
January 4, 2016
Preceded by Michael Nutter
Member of the Philadelphia City Council from the At-Large District
In office
January 6, 1992 – January 29, 2015
Preceded by George Burrell
Succeeded by Helen Gym
Personal details
Born James Francis Kenney
(1958-08-07) August 7, 1958 (age 58)
Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, U.S.
Political party Democratic
Alma mater La Salle University
Website Government website

James Francis "Jim" Kenney (born August 7, 1958) is an American Democratic politician who is the current mayor of the city of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania and a former member of the City Council. He was the Democratic nominee for mayor of Philadelphia in the 2015 election, having won the crowded primary election by a landslide on May 19, 2015.[1] On November 3, 2015 he was elected mayor of Philadelphia, defeating his Republican rival Melissa Murray Bailey.[1]

Kenney, who was first elected to the Philadelphia City Council in 1991, held his At-Large Council seat for 23 years from January 1992 until January 29, 2015, when he resigned from the City Council to launch his candidacy for mayor of Philadelphia.[2][3][4]

Early life[edit]

Jim Kenney grew up the oldest of four in the Whitman neighborhood of South Philadelphia. His father was a firefighter and his mother was a homemaker. His parents both worked second jobs to put Jim and his four siblings through private Catholic schools. In high school, Kenney was a newspaper deliveryman and busboy.[5] Kenney graduated from Saint Joseph's Preparatory School in 1976 and in 1980 received a political science bachelor's degree from La Salle University in Philadelphia.[3] He was the first in his family to graduate from college.

Philadelphia City Council[edit]

Kenney was elected to his first term in 1991 when he was just 32 years old. During his time on Philadelphia's City Council, Kenney served as Chairman of the Council Committee on Labor and Civil Service. He was also Vice-Chairman of the Committee on Rules, Committee on the Environment, and Committee on Law and Government, and was a member of the Committee on Public Safety, Technology and Information Services, Public Property and Public Works, Fiscal Stability and Intergovernmental Cooperation, Public Health and Human Services, and the Legislative Oversight Committee.[6]

In 2010, Kenney sided with the local firefighters’ union when Mayor Nutter took action to remove the collective bargaining rights of paramedics.[7]

In 2014, Kenney successfully introduced legislation that ended arrests for possession of small amounts of marijuana. The bill replaced incarceration with the requirement to pay a fine. In advocating for the bill, Kenney had cited the disproportionate effect of arrests for small amounts of marijuana on African-Americans.[8]

Kenney garnered criticism from local and national economic commentators when he proposed bonus pension payments, distributing funds when pension plans exceed target returns in any given year even though solvency depends on retaining above-average earnings to prepare for years with below-average earnings.[9][10]

While on the Philadelphia City Council, Kenney worked as a consultant at Vitetta Architects and Engineers, served on the Independence Blue Cross board, and was an adjunct professor at the University of Pennsylvania.[11] He gave up these positions when he was elected Mayor in 2015.

Mayor of Philadelphia[edit]

2015 Election[edit]

Incumbent Democratic party Mayor Michael Nutter could not run for re-election to a third consecutive term due to term limits in the city's home rule charter. Registered Democrats hold a formidable 7-to-1 ratio over registered Republicans in Philadelphia, giving Democratic candidates a distinct advantage in citywide elections. The mayoral primary elections were held on May 19, 2015. Democrats nominated Jim Kenney as their party's nominee. Kenney won the primary in a landslide with 55.83% of the vote, defeating a crowded field of five other Democratic candidates, including Anthony H. Williams and former District Attorney Lynn Abraham. Republican Melissa Murray Bailey, a business executive, ran unopposed for the Republican nomination. Kenney won a whopping 85.1% of the vote.[12] Kenney was inaugurated as the 99th Mayor of Philadelphia on January 4, 2016.

Jim Kenney speaks at the 2016 budget address

Sugary drinks tax[edit]

Kenney proposed the a citywide soda tax that would raise the price of soda at three cents per ounce.[13] At the time, it was the biggest soda tax proposal in the United States. Kenney promoted using tax revenue to fund universal pre-K, jobs, and development projects, which he expected would raise $400 million over five years, all the while reducing sugar intake by decreasing the demand for sugary beverages[14] Kenney's soda tax proposal was brought to the national spotlight and divided key members of the Democratic Party. The idea of a soda tax quickly became a national issue. Candidates in the 2016 United States presidential election gave their take. Senator Bernie Sanders said that the tax would hurt the poor.[15] Hillary Clinton, on the other hand, said that she was "very supportive" of the idea.[16] The lobbying organization American Beverage Association took a stand against Kenney's proposal. The trade organization, funded by soda companies and distributors, ran local television, radio, and newspaper advertisements against the idea, claiming that the tax would disproportionately hurt the poor. The American Heart Association, on the other hand, has supported Kenney's efforts. On June 16, 2016, the soda tax passed with a 13-4 vote from City Council. The initial proposal of three cents per ounce was lowered to 1.5 cents per ounce. The tax was implemented at the start of the 2017 calendar year.[17]

After the tax took effect, Kenney said it was "wrong" and "misleading" for businesses to pass the tax on to their customers in the form of higher soda prices.[18] In February 2017, soda manufacturers and retailers announced sales declines of 30-50% in Philadelphia and announced job cuts and layoffs, while the tax was projected to raise about $2.7 million per month, far below the estimate of $7.6 million per month. Kenny characterized the layoffs as evidence of greed among manufacturers.[19]

In March 2017, Pepsi announced plans to lay off between 80 and 100 employees, and blamed this on the tax. The Philadelphia Inquirer quoted city spokeswoman Lauren Hitt as saying, "The soda industry sunk to a new low today... They are literally holding hostage the jobs of hard-working people in their battle to overturn the tax. Pepsi reported nearly $35 billion in gross income and $6 billion in profit last year.... The idea that they can afford to do that but ‘must lay off workers’ should make every Philadelphian very skeptical of whether these layoffs are actually due to the tax." However, the same article countered Hitt's comment about Pepsi's $6 billion in profit by reporting, "The layoffs will occur at plants in North Philadelphia, South Philadelphia, and Wilmington. The plants are run as independent businesses required to report profits and losses to the company."[20]

Opposition to Donald Trump[edit]

Before and after Donald Trump's election as United States President in 2016, Kenney has taken a vocal stand against President Trump and his policies. Kenney has maintained that Philadelphia will continue to act as a sanctuary city despite threats that cities would stop receiving federal funding.[21] Kenney has also contended claims about Philadelphia's murder rate, which has been steadily decreasing and remaining stagnant in some instances. Trump said, "Here in Philadelphia, murder has been steady — I mean — just terribly increasing."[22]

Kenney, along with Democratic colleagues Dwight Evans, Bob Casey, Jr., Helen Gym, and Tom Wolf, joined protesters at Philadelphia International Airport after Trump signed an executive order to ban travel from seven majority-Muslim countries.[23]

Personal life[edit]

Kenney has two adult-aged children, Nora and Brendan, with his wife Maureen. Kenney and Maureen have been separated since 2010.[24]


  1. ^ a b Hepp, Chris (2015-05-20). "Landslide: Kenney romps in Philly mayor's race". Philadelphia Inquirer. Retrieved 2015-11-02. 
  2. ^ Spinelli, Dan (2015-01-29). "Jim Kenney resigns from City Council, eyes mayoral bid". The Daily Pennsylvanian. Retrieved 2015-11-02. 
  3. ^ a b Blumenthal, Jeff (2015-01-27). "Jim Kenney to resign from City Council; mayoral bid looms". Philadelphia Business Journal. Retrieved 2015-11-02. 
  4. ^ Dunn, Mike (2015-01-29). "Jim Kenney Ends 23-Year Career as Councilman, Ahead of Mayoral Run". KYW-TV. Retrieved 2015-11-02. 
  5. ^ "Kenney for Philadelphia". Kenney for Philadelphia. 2015-11-03. Retrieved 2016-11-25. 
  6. ^ "James F. Kenney - Councilman-At-Large". City of Philadelphia official website. City Council, City of Philadelphia. 2010-02-15. Retrieved 2010-02-15. 
  7. ^ "Kenney vs. Nutter on Paramedics". Philly.com. Philly.com. 2010-10-08. Retrieved 2015-05-24. 
  8. ^ "Small Amount of Marijuana Is Not Worth an Arrest". Metro. Metro. 2015-01-21. Retrieved 2015-05-24. 
  9. ^ "Why Would Anyone Follow Detroit's Pension Plan?". Bloomberg View. Retrieved 2016-11-25. 
  10. ^ "Archives - Philly.com". Articles.philly.com. Retrieved 2016-11-25. 
  11. ^ "City Council side jobs: All the totally legal ways Philly's electeds supplement income". Billypenn.com. 2016-05-31. Retrieved 2016-11-25. 
  12. ^ "Archives - Philly.com". Articles.philly.com. Retrieved 2016-11-25. 
  13. ^ https://www.nytimes.com/2016/05/25/opinion/taxing-sugar-to-fund-a-city.html?_r=0
  14. ^ "Archives - Philly.com". Articles.philly.com. Retrieved 2016-11-25. 
  15. ^ Sanders, Bernie (2016-04-24). "Bernie Sanders Op-Ed: A Soda Tax Would Hurt Philly's Poor". Phillymag.com. Retrieved 2016-11-25. 
  16. ^ Wright, David (2016-04-21). "Clinton 'very supportive' of Philadelphia soda tax - CNNPolitics.com". Cnn.com. Retrieved 2016-11-25. 
  17. ^ "Philadelphia soda tax: How City Council voted, and why". Billypenn.com. 2016-06-17. Retrieved 2016-11-25. 
  18. ^ Retailers Blame Soda Tax; Mayor Kenney Responds With Harsh Words, CBS News Philadelphia, January 10, 2017
  19. ^ Julia Terruso (2017). "Soda companies, supermarkets report 30-50 pct. sales drop from soda tax" Philly.com, 21 Feb 2017.
  20. ^ Pepsi to lay off 80 to 100, blames soda tax , Philadelphia Inquirer, March 1, 2017
  21. ^ http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/presidential/Trumps-expected-border-wall-order-alarms-immigrant-groups.html
  22. ^ http://www.politifact.com/pennsylvania/statements/2017/jan/26/donald-trump/donald-trump-falsely-tells-gop-philly-homicides-ar/
  23. ^ http://www.phillyvoice.com/kenney-gym-casey-and-brady-join-demonstrators-phl-following-trumps-executive-order/
  24. ^ http://www.philly.com/philly/news/politics/20160513_Philly_Clout__Kenney_s_wife_hired__fired_.html

External links[edit]

Political offices
Preceded by
Michael Nutter
Mayor of Philadelphia
Succeeded by