Green means go and Derek is trying

There’s a truism around City Hall, that Allan Domb was the only member of City Council with experience at running a business.

Like many other political truisms, it is false.

Derek Green talks about the Mayor’s race (Photo: Stu Bykofsky)

Well, it was false until Derek Green resigned from Council to run for mayor. 

Before running for Council, Green and his wife Sheila opened a ladies shoe store on Germantown Avenue in 2006. By his account, it was doing well until it ran into the buzzsaw of the Great Recession, and it went under in 2009. “But what was interesting about that experience was learning how difficult it was to open a business in the city of Philadelphia,” he says with a frown. 

Prior to that, after graduating from Bensalem High, he earned  a degree in philosophy and communications at the University of Virginia, then was a Meridian Bank assistant branch manager and lender while earning his law degree at Temple.

Both of these experiences left him with an understanding of, and a heart for, small businesses. 

He’s also been president of the Pennsylvania Municipal League, been on the executive committee of the National League of Cities, plus various nonprofit boards.

After graduation, he switched from banking to law and was a prosecutor for the Delaware Department of Justice, then an  assistant district attorney in Philadelphia, and a solicitor in Philly’s Law Department.

Because he has been in the D.A.’s office — under Lynne Abraham — he knows what D.A.s are supposed to do, and finds D.A. Larry Krasner is lacking.

“We need to hold people accountable” for crimes, and Krasner doesn’t do that, Green says. 

Weapons offenses get rewritten into offenses involving “an instrument of crime,” which could be a screwdriver, with much lower jail time than for guns. He says the criminals don’t fear the cops because there will be no consequences.

“You can’t have a situation where someone has a gun on them and they’re being charged with possession of an instrument of crime as opposed to a violation of the Uniform Firearms Act,” says Green, who also has an issue with the mass firing Krasner used to clear out the office after he was elected. “When Larry came in, you know, he dismissed decades, decades of institutional knowledge in the D.A.’s office that had a real impact.” 

In a curious way, Jim Kenney played a role in Green’s political aspirations.

But first — the Inside Politics stuff.

Both he and Cherelle Parker, another ex-Council person, have their roots in the powerful Northwest Coalition, which is based in Black, middle-class neighborhoods like Germantown, Mount Airy, and West Oak Lane. It is given credit (maybe now blame) for electing Jim Kenney in 2015, turning their backs on long-time African-American state senator Anthony Hardy Williams.

The conventional wisdom is that Green and Parker have the same base and will cancel each other out.

Green, 52, has an answer for that: As an At-Large Councilman, he got votes from all over the city, whereas Parker was a District Councilwoman, and was known only in her district. Despite that, she has raised more money and endorsements than Green. [Parker did not respond to invitations to be interviewed.] 

District Councilwoman Maria Quinones Sanchez’s exit from the race a few days ago underlined the reality that District Council people are seldom known beyond their base.

There are two notable exceptions.

Both John Street and Michael Nutter were District Councilmen who were elected mayor. Kenney was At-Large, and won with the strong support of the Northwest Coalition. 

Green is sanguine about competing with Parker, even though she has attracted a lot of union endorsements, which translates to money and campaign volunteers.

I hear that Parker forces are pressuring people to unite behind Parker, to elect a Black woman as Philly’s 100th mayor.

The book on Green is that he is even-tempered, a hard worker, team player and wonk, without much flash. 

He expresses his ideas with words, but also with expressive gestures. His hands are in constant motion, which allows me to see a touch of color — his cufflinks are Septa tokens.

Derek Green’s Septa cufflinks can be seen here (Photo: Stu Bykofsky)

That’s a callback to his father, who advised him to always carry tokens — just in case. For years he carried a two-pack in his briefcases. 

Everyone agrees the No. 1 issue is crime/public safety, and most of the candidates have plans for combating crime. Green’s plan for that and other issues can be found on his website 

As previously noted, alone among the Democratic candidates, Green has law-enforcement experience and has been a prosecutor in Delaware and Philly.

He will replace Police Commissioner Danielle Outlaw. He said it took him some time to arrive there, but “We need to have a new vision and new perspective in reference to how we move the city forward.” He is open to hiring from within, or outside, the department.

His gun reduction plan calls for a joint city/federal task force with a goal of reducing homicides by 25% in the first year of a Green Administration. That would be an enormous accomplishment, and he is ready to circumvent Krasner’s office, if necessary. He also wants to hire 1,000 more cops, and will offer bonuses to recruit them, because, let’s be real, who wants to be a cop today? 

As to Kenney opening doors, Green decided to run for Council for a second time in 2015, when Kenney quit Council to run for mayor. And this year, with Kenney term-limited and saddled with unpopularity, Green decided to give it a go.

Or, as he says, “You never want to have a “what if,’” meaning “what if I failed to try to do something.”

That could sound like failure is an option, and, truthfully, when you take on a big task, it might result in failure, but that’s no reason not to try. In 2015, he “decided to run with a perspective that if I win, that would be great, but if I don’t, I’ll be OK.”

In 2023, it’s the same dynamic. “It was time to think about the leadership of the city of Philadelphia,” which is lacking, he says, along with the rest of the Democratic field. Ain’t nobody is promising to carry out Kenney’s legacy. 

Citing a very recent example, Green points to the city’s confused response to the possible contamination of Philadelphia drinking water that comes from the Delaware.

Pittsburgh had a similar problem a while back, which was handled smoothly and without panicking citizens, which happened in Philly.

Lack of leadership here, he says.

As for some hot-button issues:

76ers Chinatown arena? “I’m not there yet.”

Sanctuary City? Needs more information on Kenney’s policy of no cooperation with the feds.

So-called safe injection sites? He opposes them. Not because he doesn’t care about people trapped by addiction. He does, but prefers treatment.

His empathy for others might have been heightened by what he describes as a life-changing event — learning his 2-year-old son, an only child, was on the autism spectrum.

It rocked his world. 

“And we were like, we didn’t even know what autism was and what does this mean?”

Any parent can imagine the shock.

“As a parent you have certain projections. Like, my son’s gonna join the same fraternity that I went into,” he says. “He’s gonna go to [my university]. He may become a lawyer or may become a doctor like my sister.”

His wife Sheila “being strong, said ‘Listen, we gotta just kind of snap out of this.”

And they did.

And their son Julian, 22, is featured in a Green TV commercial. 

“Now when I look at Julian, if he did not have autism, he would not be Julian,” says Green.

The Julian who says, “Hi, Daddy,” every time he comes home, and that reminds Green of what is truly important.

13 thoughts on “Green means go and Derek is trying”

  1. Derek can win if he goes door to door in North East Philly and S Philly to gets the ethnic rowhouse vote.

    1. Given his lack of resources, he’s an also-ran. Also keep in mind that South Philly has a lot of millinelials in the Passyunk corridor — and they vote! South Philly is losing its mojo as a blue collar stronghold.

  2. I believe this man has the plan, just getting the people to VOTE is the most important thing. Ingecting life into Philadelphia is what the city really needs. Throw out the race , and ethnic rowhouse fingerpointing, it’s useless to try to sell a party, now it’s time to sell the person. If he can bring this city back from the good old boy politics, then let him run with it. All of these names that have been in the system for years and years, leave us with the same outcome. A bigger whole. Give somebody new a chance!

      1. There needs to be a 2nd relevant party in Philly. Nobody is there to create friction between Dems and their bad ideas.

  3. Thank you for interviewing the candidates for us.
    You can’t believe a word of their platform from their tv
    It’s hard to pick a candidate based on what they say on
    TV. Even the Democrats who vote only for democrats
    must be having a hard time figuring out who to vote for.
    I’m sure you’re asking tough questions that are hard for them to dance around

  4. Thanks for this in depth interview with Mayoral candidate Derek Green. He is dedicated, educated, reliable, experienced, & knowledgeable, thus, well prepared to be the next Mayor of Phila. He is campaigning all over Philadelphia to convince people to VOTE for Derekformayor. Derek Green is the best choice.

  5. Thank you for these FANTASTIC candidate interviews. I live just outside the border of Philadelphia, so these interviews are purely informational for me. Your interviewing & reporting styles leave me with the feeling I have gotten to know the candidates on a personal level. Contrast that to other media outlets that seem to be selling one candidate or selling against another. Very refreshing. I am looking forward to your next interview. Thanks, again.

  6. Anyone but Gym! Unfortunately, too many candidates are running for mayor. Gym could win the primary with 30,000 votes in a low turnout, which would be a disaster for the city (look at what “let ’em loose” Larry has wrought).

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