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April 18, 2023

Philadelphia candidates for mayor in 2023: Rebecca Rhynhart

The former city controller is a vocal critic of inefficient government spending; she advocates police reforms and she wants a citywide street sweeping program

2023 Election Mayoral Race
rebecca rhynhart.jpeg @rebeccaforphiladelphia/Facebook

Rebecca Rhynhart frequently critiqued the Kenney administration as city controller, conducting audits that revealed expensive bookkeeping errors and inefficiencies in the police department.

During her time as Philadelphia city controller, Rebecca Rhynhart advocated for police reform and better government spending, critiquing numerous city institutions with her thorough audits.

Rhynhart was appointed city treasurer and budget director by Mayor Michael Nutter and then chief administrative officer for Mayor Jim Kenney before winning her election for city controller in 2017, becoming the first woman to hold that position. She resigned to run for mayor in October 2022, shortly after releasing a damning audit of the Philadelphia Police Department.

The 85-page report found "outdated systems and operational inefficiencies" across the department, disparities in 911 response times among neighborhoods and "extremely limited" use of body cameras. It suggested too many cops were assigned to administrative work that could be delegated to civilians, while only 2,500 out of the 6,000 officers in the department were out on patrol. It also described the tracking of Philadelphia police officers out on disability leave as "limited and disorganized," and called for reform after extensive reporting in the Inquirer revealed many cops were abusing the benefit. 

Rhynhart previously had released a report criticizing the police response to the summer 2020 George Floyd protests.

Rhynhart's other audits as city controller pointed to overstaffing in the Philadelphia Parking Authority, $924 million in bookkeeping errors and a missing $33 million in taxpayer funds. She launched an audit of the city's sexual harassment and misconduct policy that led to reforms, including an online portal for filing complaints. Her reports also revealed most of the city's gun violence prevention funding was going toward long-term strategies, rather than more immediate solutions.

Rhynhart preached greater transparency and dialogue with the public, releasing a searchable database of the city's soda tax revenue and spending, as well as an interactive map of asbestos abatement projects at Philadelphia schools. She created an advisory council of residents to help review police funding, and opened a hotline for city employees to report incidents of sexual harassment.

As mayor, she has pledged to end the "open-air drug market" in Kensington by increasing police foot patrols in the area, use the LEAD program to divert low-level offenders into treatment or transitional housing programs and says she would appoint an opioid czar to help implement her strategy. She also has promised to enact her recommendations for reforming the police department, increasing civilianization of the force and tackling disparities in 911 response times.

Rhynhart's platform also includes improving timeliness of the city's trash collection and implementing a citywide street sweeping program, ending Philadelphia's status as "the only major city without regular citywide street sweeping." She wants to add compost to the city's waste removal services, after improving recycling collection.

Better career and technical education training and apprenticeship programs are also priorities for Rhynhart, along with plans to increase diversity in the city workforce by boosting minority contractor participation. She says she would also require city workers to come into the office two days a week, in an effort to improve SEPTA ridership.

Rhynhart grew up in Abington, earning her undergraduate degree from Middlebury College and a masters in public administration from Columbia. She now lives in Center City.

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