Campaigning out on Alabama Avenue on Thursday afternoon Jeffery Jones, incumbent mayor, said during his second term in office, he will shed all the current department heads to appoint new directors.
“None of the directors are coming back,” said Jones while knocking on doors in the former Christopher Columbus Projects site where residential developments have emerged.
“Directors, first of all, they got beat up badly, unnecessarily,” said Jones referring to the overtime scandal. In 2011, weeks following hurricane Irene, the city council hounded administrators from the newly inaugurated administration.
Jones said he will not bring back Donna Nelson-Ivy, director of the city’s health department, who is also running against Jones in the eight-person mayoral race.
“I’m not bringing back Health and Human Services director,” said Jones. “I think there’s opportunity for somebody else.”
When Nelson-Ivy first announced her run for mayor, Jones avoided making comments on her candidacy.
“Many of them have had it,” said Jones mentioning Lanisha Makle, director of the Community Development department. “CD doesn’t want to come back,” said Jones.
Jones said most of his directors are close friends — the mayor mentioned Charles Thomas, the city’s business administrator.
Jones said Makle was not a close friend when he appointed her, she was well thought of by others. It was after making the appointment did he learn that she was his frat sister.
Jones said Thomas has no intentions of coming back during a second term. “The BA will be somebody different, he doesn’t have a desire to come back,” said the mayor.
Domenick Stampone, the city’s law department director, will also be absent in a new Jones administration. “Legal will be somebody different,” said Jones.
“Public works, would love to keep him — first time the city ever has an engineer and they put him through hell because of politics,” said Jones speaking about Christopher Coke, the city’s public works director.
“We went through hell for four years, unnecessarily, and mainly because it was political,” said Jones.
The man who put the mayor’s administration through hell was behind one of the closed doors in the newly developed residential area that resembles a gated community in the site of the notorious drug den that was the Alabama Projects.
As the mayor walked meeting and greeting residents while his team stuffed mailboxes with campaign literature a young man shouted, “Jones! What you gonna do about crime.”
Three boys stood on the porch wanting an answer.
“Last Sunday, I got jumped on by some juveniles,” shared Beldison Jimenez, a freshman in Rosa Parks High School.
Jimenez said a group of Black teenagers jumped him and took his bike. “It was like a group of six,” said Jimenez.
During his time in office Jones was forced by the state to lay off well over 100 police officers resulting in a skyrocketing number of robberies. “Crime is a challenge,” said Jones. “I’m the one that introduced the Class One specials,” said Jones, referring to special police officers who would be inexpensive to hire to handle mundane police tasks.
The mayor said special officers can handle blocked driveways and other matters while regular officers work the assaults and robberies and murders.
“We’re going to continue to do walking patrols,” said Jones of a practice that has reduced crime in Philadelphia. Officers can often be spotted doing walking patrols near Broadway. Jones said, that was his plan when he first took office, but that plan was hampered when the forced layoff of a large number of officers left the department without anybody to do the foot patrols.
During his four years, Jones said he did the best he could do with what he was given. Despite scant resources the city managed to bring in state, county, and federal authorities to join in on law enforcement operations, said Jones. “We engaged the DEA, the ATF, the FBI, US Marshalls, the Sheriff’s Department, the State Police,” Jones, referring to a crackdown on the Bloods street gang.
A woman outside with her kids complained she has to walk through the road because drivers park their vehicles on the sidewalk. “They parked their cars on the sidewalk, and I have to walk my children right out on the street,” complained Sandra Drysdal, a resident.
“We’ll send out an inspector,” responded Jones fully utilizing the benefit that comes with being an incumbent.
When asked if she would vote for him come next week Drysdal said she would. “I’ve always liked him,” said Drysdal.
Not everyone on the street liked the mayor. One woman, who had a poster of his opponent on her front yard, responded “Did I say I want to talk to you?” after Jones greeted her. “We just crossed the street to say hello,” said Jones.
The woman said when the streets were not plowed during the heavy snowfall in February she fell near the curb injuring her lower body. “I fell on my knee, and I might now need another operation.” said the woman.
“I had people tell me they were frustrated, and I understand,” said Jones.
“Jeff Jones! Hey!” came a shout from a second floor window of one of the homes.
“How you doing? I can’t see you, but I love you anyway,” replied Jones.
“I love you too. Put a sign over there,” requested the woman wanting a lawn sign. Jones knocked on a door, Kenneth Morris, councilman at-large, stood on the other side.
“It’s the honorable,” remarked Jones seeing Morris.
“Looks like I’m in the right place,” replied Morris while displaying his characteristic laughter.
Jones reflected back to the witch hunt of 2011. “I learned you don’t know jack until you get out here,” said Jones. “The best laid plan got nothing to do with reality.”
The mayor said, “Soon as I got in, the plan failed because none of the council members supported me going there.”
When questioned about the ethnic makeup of his current administration – Dominican-Americans, for example, despite being the largest community in the city do not have a department head – Jones said next time around it will be different.
“I have multi-ethnic friends,” said Jones. “Next time I’m going to look for that rainbow coalition.”