The first woman to run as a Republican for mayor of the city of Philadelphia, Karen Brown, threw up her hands and walked away in shame at her beloved Democratic Party and fell into the arms of the GOP. What she observed that night, at City Committee, a political round table where potential candidates were endorsed, collided against everything she wanted children to be taught. This reverse was facilitated by the go-ahead given to a would-be mayoral candidate, the brother of a former mayor, and recently released from a mandatory stay facility to run. Brown aspired to win either the at-large or the First District City Council position. The incumbent councilman, Frank DiCicco, was retiring. She quickly became the favorite of the GOP and after collecting enough signatures to get put on the ballot, Brown became the endorsed candidate for Mayor.
I shadowed Brown during her first few public speaking engagements and ward leader meetings. I asked questions. I took pictures. At her first major fund raiser at the Pennsport restaurant, The Witch, Karen Brown was smart and confident. She’s bringing the city a fresh approach and a different perspective. Having been a math educator, community activist and civic leader for many years, Brown knows what the citizens of our city need and want— budget and fiscal responsibility, quality of life through development and removal of eyesores, fixing the School Board, keeping firehouses, police stations, libraries and recreation centers open every day, reform of burdensome business taxes, growth of job opportunities and term limits. To see where all our tax money went, a 12 year audit of the city finances is first on her agenda.
Vito Canuso, Chairman of the Republican Party was very enthusiastic about Brown. “She’s building bridges and heading in the right direction. Look around and you will see she has a very diverse following. She is very positive and the more she is exposed to the people, the more we feel we made the right decision. I know a lot of people refer to her as a former Democrat but let me remind them that President Regan was a former Democrat. We will have legitimate debates with legitimate organizations so that the comparison can be clearly distinguished. She is willing to go anywhere to meet with anyone and ready for anyone’s motivation to be seen and heard”
With a far off Center City gleaming brightly against a clear blue sky, Point Breeze, a no-frills neighborhood bounded by Washington Avenue to Moore Street, and Broad Street to 25th Street, was one of the stops made by Brown last Saturday morning. Hosted by the 36th Republican Ward, she stood in front of a crowd of neighbors and civic leaders and spoke honestly, right from her heart. “I’m a working class person. I still live in my house, up a little street. Your problems are my problems. I know what it’s like to get up every day and go to work to feed my family. I know what it’s like to lose a job. I’m very familiar with this neighborhood. The Performing Arts Center is a shining star. I’ve worked with them. The dilemma is that the kids have no facilities. I remember walking through the streets with Byron Johnson and Michael Nutter. He promised the people there would be facilities for the kids, and opportunities for the business district. Three years passed and he hasn’t been back and nothing changed. And there are maybe even more problems now. Where are the resources for the youth? Nobody cares. It’s the Forgotten Breeze. It’s the same in my neighborhood of Southwark, so I do understand the dilemma and crisis.”
Committeeman Conrad Fuller said it perfectly. “It’s time for a genuine change. Karen is a self-starter. She’s making history and we want to be a part of it.” Activist Kathy Morris told me, “She’s just what we need. She has the answers to what we’re questioning.” Byron Morris, another committeeperson took me aside and let me know that “every politician comes here, from Federal, State and local. They want our votes and
then forget about Point Breeze. We at the 36th relate to Karen Brown and her sincere desires to get us remembered again.”
Brown ended her speech with some thought provoking ideas. “I’m a Republican now. I don’t owe anyone anything. I can swing a big stick at those Dems. I don’t owe favors. I’m not in anyone’s pocket. Money is traceable. I am transparent. My platform has three major planks. I’m going to audit the books starting from 12 years ago when Mayor Ed Rendell left a surplus. Where’s the money? We want to know where our tax money is. My next two priorities are kids and jobs. We need to get away from a welfare state and put people back to work, open up all the firehouses and police stations 24-7 everyday, and make sure there are clean safe facilities, like gyms and recreation centers open so that kids are off the street. I can’t wait to get into office to hold a big sale of the 26,000 empty lots and houses. That’s not going on the backburner. Prospective buyers must submit a plan. By 2016, the city will be free of all that blight.”
I’m at the studios of Fox 29 with Brown. She’s looking very feminine and business-like in a tan suit and heels. Speaking extemporaneously, she begins to tell me what made her do a complete 180. “I’ve been a Democrat all my life. I’m ashamed of the party now because of what it’s sliding into. I knew I had to make a difference and it wasn’t with that party. The awakening moment was when I went to City Committee, looking for an endorsement and saw Milton Street there. I felt like we were sending the wrong message to our youth. We shouldn’t be encouraging convicted politicos to run. It sends the wrong message. We should aspire to a higher class of politician”. Brown who is the third generation of a union family says her feeling toward the unions will not change. “I told the Chairman that I back the unions and he no problem with it. The Republicans in this city work with the unions.” The DROP Program is another issue she wants to tackle. “This program, The Deferred Retirement Plan, was never meant for people with a six figure salary. It was meant for the five figured salaried. We let the elected officials who make the laws get greedy. They made a mockery of it. That’s why it’s in such bankruptcy. “
After dinner, when the dishes are washed and put away, I like to watch Seinfeld, one of the greatest comedies ever made for TV. There are so many hilarious episodes: The Fusilli Jerry, The Rye and The Opposite. The Opposite was on the other night. It’s the one where George returns from the beach and decides that every decision that he has ever made has been wrong, and that his life is the total opposite of what it should be. He sits down with Jerry at Monk’s and says “My life is the opposite of everything I want it to be. Every instinct I have, in every aspect of life, be it something to wear, something to eat … It’s all been wrong.” When George is applying for a job, he tells Steinbrenner “I must say, with all due respect, I find it very hard to see the logic behind some of the moves you have made with this fine organization. In the past twenty years, you have caused myself, and the city of New York, a good deal of distress as we have watched you take our beloved Yankees and reduced them to a laughing stock, all for the glorification of your massive ego.” People of Philadelphia, we are George! Instead of voting for a Democratic Man for Mayor, let’s do the opposite and elect a Republican Woman.
My fellow citizens, if you always vote the same party, remember what George said,” I always have tuna on toast. Nothing’s ever worked out for me with tuna on toast. I want the complete opposite of tuna on toast. I’ll have chicken salad, on rye, untoasted … and a cup of tea.”
I have photographed Karen Brown in many various locations with many different people. Here are a few pictures with captions: